Family Trip

S gave me some pamphlets early in the summer with lists of hotels with swimming pools and said we should take the kids somewhere for 2 nights and take it easy. He pointed to the great prices advertised and told me to find someplace, giving me the dates of our English school's summer vacation: August 14-24. I circled all the cheapest places but, of course, none were at the advertised prices S expected because we weren't planning a mid-June or early September holiday. Still, 10,000 yen a night per person wasn't too bad for hot springs, a pool, proximity to the beach (in Izu) smorgasbord (all you can eat) dinner and breakfast.

S rejected the places I had circled saying that it would be too tiring and expensive getting all the way to Izu and back and not wanting to spend even more money on daytime entertainment (amusement parks, alligator zoo etc.) when the kids got bored of swimming. He asked me to find out if our Co-op (a delivery shopping club we belong to ) had any discount tickets for the camping place we visited last year, Sagamiko Picnicland.

This place is a city slicker campsite with 4-person dome tents already set up on wooden platforms (with 2 blankets per occupant and a flashlight) or small 4-person cabins, simple (futons, a light, running water, no toilet) or deluxe (futons, a toilet, A/C, a sink, and a TV), a pool, a petting farm, an amusement park and other attractions all rolled into one. For one price, dinner (all you can eat grilled vegetables, meat and fried noodles), overnight facilities, unlimited one day use of the amusement park rides, unlimited use of the pool, petting farm rabbits, sheep, goats, ponies and other animals), buffet breakfast, a campfire service (with sexy guys leading the songs and activities), a pack of fireworks for each child, a craft project for everyone and hot showers are rolled into one package deal.

I was able to find discount prices (5,200 yen per night per child, 5,600 yen per night per adult) in our Co-op leaflet and make internet reservations for a tent and a cabin. S said he needed a futon and that 2000 yen extra for 2 of us in a DELUXE cabin and 4 people at the tent price wouldn't break the bank. Unfortunately, the deluxe cabins were all reserved and S had to accept the cheaper (only 1,000 yen extra) cabin with no toilet. We made reservations, received confirmation by mail with a bill and remitted our money directly to Sagamiko Picnicland's account.

The tents and cabins are in different sites so I immediately sent an e-mail explaining that I had made 2 separate reservations for 2 and for 4 people as we wanted a cabin for my husband and young son but that the girls wanted to sleep in a tent and that I hoped they would try to find a tent as close as possible to the cabin. I got a reply saying that it might be difficult but that they would try, so I sent a gushing thank you e-mail, not forgetting to say how much we enjoyed our stay the previous year and that whatever they could come up with would be fine.

You can see more details at http://www.picnicland.co.jp . It is one stop past Takao on the Chuo Line and then a 10 minute bus ride so we took our train line to Takao and transferred to the Chuo Line. Most people pack all sorts of cooler boxes and other gear in their cars and just drive there but some folks do take the train with a bare minimum of luggage. It only took us about an hour to get there.

Each person in our family had a medium sized daypack with two changes of clothes, a swimsuit, a small and a large towel, a pack of instant ramen (bulky but light) and an amusement to share with siblings in case of rain (a pack of cards, a pack of hanafuda cards (traditional Japanese game), a book about bugs and a small rubber ball respectively from top to bottom). I had a tote back with a big box of onigiri (rice packed into balls and wrapped in nori seaweed sheets) and a Tupperware box with tamagoyaki (a sliced square soy flavored omelet to use up the eggs in the fridge), sweet potato chunks, cherry tomatoes and leftover yakitori (grilled bite-sized pieces of chicken and leeks on skewers with sweet soy flavored sauce) for lunch the first day and lots of snacks for all 3 days. S had the video and digital cameras and a small electric hotpot so we wouldn't have to spend extra money renting the fireplace area and pots and pans to heat water for our ramen lunch the 2nd day.

We arrived safely and were micro-bus chauffeured halfway to the top of the "mountain" where the camp facilities are located. When I checked in, they gave me a map to locate the cabin, but no tent...UH OH! But wait, I have another confirmation number...The receptionist looked relieved, punched the second number into her computer and came up with a map to our tent as well. It was right across a small path from the cabin. Hurray! And what do we find when we arrive at our cabin/tent site? They've upgraded us to DELUXE! S was ever so pleased at the free upgrade and the air-conditioning. L and N were
happy about the private toilet which was even a WASHLET type (Check out the TOTO website at http://www.washlet.com/default.asp , L enjoyed that more than the mini-roller coaster!).

It was cool enough for 3 of us to stay in the tent the first night, but we all opted for the cabin the second night, 2 of us on blankets on the floor, the other 4 in the bunk beds with futons.

The place is set up on a ridge and we did a lot of walking up and down hills to do anything. The rides are a little tame; just right for L and N. J and M would probably enjoy a little more excitement next year. Everybody seemed to have a good time so I think it was a success. City slicker camping worked well for us as we don't own any camping gear or a car.

We arrived home just before a typhoon headed toward Tokyo and it began to rain last night. After 2 nights of grilled veggies and meat, we were ready for sushi for dinner last night and the girls had fun playing sushi chef and assembling nigiri sushi and maki (rolled) sushi for us at the table at home.

Today and tomorrow are definitely indoor days with all the wind and rain. The second term of school starts a week from today.