Week two of the Hokkaido summer camp
August 7, 2011 Leave a comment
As usual, I cant have pictures of the kids on the blog, complicated reasons, so it will be landscape shots mostly.
This week has been a mixture, it started off quite well for me, but unfortunately it didn’t end all that well. Due to a fever I missed one of the camps that look really amazing, but according to the Japanese staff here I needed to rest for next week, what they are calling the ‘challenge week’.
After the 40km walk most of the kids and many of the staff were all limping around, either because of blisters (I had some impressive blisters on the soles of my feet) or because of muscle pain or ache. It took everyone a couple of days to fully recover, and in that time we had several of the kids leave and some new ones arrive.
The first day of the new week was quite a relaxing one actually. We made our lunch of onigiri and then visited a café in the middle of nowhere. The café owner seems to be an acquaintance of the people who run these summer camps and we were shown around some vegetable fields that he owns as well as a goat farm that makes various goats cheese. The cheese that we tasted was lovely; there was a mozzarella like cheese, very mild, and a harder cheese that had a much stronger taste, both very nice. We were also shown some of the goats and cows that produce the milk.
Most of the day however was spent playing in a grassy field above the café; the grass was amazing, coming as high as my knees in places. Wrestling, shoe stealing, phone losing, all kinds of madness took place; all the while a gentle breeze was blowing, keeping us all nice and cool. This was a wonderful experience for everyone I think, and also quite a relaxing one, compared to the constant preparations and preparing different bits of kit for days out such as to the sea or the river.
The next day was another sea day to show the new kids rock pools and sea life. There was much jumping from breakwaters, splashing and madness of course, all good fun, although afterwards we were all very, very tired. Unfortunately in the afternoon we had to get ready for a one night camp up on top of a mountain.
The camp site was amazing, we were right next to a guesthouse which I think will have the most amazing views in the winter, before us there was another large grassy field, with a spectacular view of mountains in the distance, there were also loads of bugs. As soon as we pitched our tents and started preparing dinner though some other people turned up. Apparently the guesthouse had been double-booked, so the staff, who were meant to be sleeping there had to share the kids tents, this lead to a pretty cramped night actually, not much sleep was had.
The dinner for the group I was in took ages, there were many reason for this; burners that didn’t want to light, kids who had little to no interest in anything to do with the camp, the usual basically. In the end it wasn’t the best meal, but we ate it anyway, hunger tends to do that to a person. As usual I have been amazed at the planning and preparation of the Japanese.
We had a hour long demonstration on how to use the little kerosene burners that they had for cooking. We had a demonstration by the staff and then each group had to practice with the burners, this was all conducted in the gym. In England we would have had the demonstration, but it would have been when we were at the camp, and then everyone would be expected to simply learn how to use them while they are cooking dinner. A completely different mindset when it comes to camping, and one that I am not sure I will ever get used to.
We woke up to rain the next day, the tents were all pretty old and many of them leaked, more importantly though, there were very few people who brought raincoats or water-proof trousers with them, after all we had bright sunshine the day before.
After all the tents and other stuff had been packed away we then went for a walk in the forest near our camp site, a very interesting forest, much like those found in Europe, except the massive bugs of course. And then I was ill, had a fever that night and decided to miss the ‘adventure camp’ that had been planned for the next day. I don’t have any pictures of the forest, it was too wet to bring out the camera since it isn’t waterproof.
This week has been filled with many different and exciting things, my favorite has to be the café and the grassy field, it was just so peaceful there, and following it up with a trip to the onsen was pure genius.
Everyday I am in Japan I learn new things about the Japanese people, the society and culture. They are at one and the same time quite stoic, and potentially harsh, but also love a joke and really know how to have fun. This is something I know I wouldn’t have found out if I had not come here to work instead of as a simple tourist, visiting well-known tourist sites.
Also, after three weeks here I seem to have at least been accepted by the people here, well in part anyway. I do feel however that there are times when I am simply a curiosity, someone completely different from everyone else, this is the most obvious when visiting the onsen, the stares there are the most obvious, and of course even when I look around the people don’t always stop and continue to stare. This is something I have gotten used to, although I would be lying if I said I didn’t find it a little strange, and sometimes annoying.
Overall, the week has been fun, and I continue to learn new things about Japan that make me want to return and see different areas in different seasons.