If I asked you: “How would you want to celebrate spring in Japan?”, I believe that majority of the people would answer: “ To see cherry blossom (Hanami).”
Spring in Japan, particularly in April, is considered to be the month to start a new life. This time, which is also coined as “sakuradoki” (the time of cherry blossom), is the time which the entire nation is painted in the color of pink.
Japan has four distinct seasons and you can relish each of them in different ways. The number of people camping during spring time is relatively less than summer time due to variable temperature and weather throughout the day. Thus if you are ill-prepared for keeping yourself warm at night, sleeping in the tent can be miserably freezing. But if you are well-prepared, camping in spring can be very pleasant and enjoyable. It is definitely an unique way you got to experience at least once to celebrate spring.
I heard that it already has been 2 years since Breathe TOKYO had had its last camping event in spring. After I joined the team and have participated in many camping events, I’d like to share my thoughts on the biggest difference between camping in spring and summer.
① Scenery: The view of cherry blossom (sakura) is undoubtedly breathtaking. Yet the view of Mountain Fuji donned with snow cap in spring also wins out other sceneries you could find in other seasons (during summer time around July and August, there won’t be snow at the peak of the mountain). The air humidity in spring and autumn is usually low, making star gazing and scenery viewing much easier.
② Food: With everything flourishing in spring, it is said to be the best season to detox your body with foods. So besides local cuisine, many other unique, healthy and in-season vegetables are included in the dish.
③ Accommodation: You get to experience the ever-changing nature at the foot of the mountain within a day. You also can embrace the warmth of the sun without getting sun-burnt during the day.
④ Activities: You can go fishing and enjoy sakura viewing (O-Hanami) with Jubako (tiered square wooden boxes with a cover); sipping coffee under the warm sun and leisurely lying on hammock while enjoying the view of Mt. Fuji. These are one of the few ways recommended strongly by both our staffs and guests to enjoy camping.
Next, we would like to share how our staffs prepared for the Mt.Fuji Sakura camping event in Shizuoka.
1 Day before the camping day
To ensure the smooth-running of the event, the staffs of Breathe TOKYO went to the camping site one day ahead in order to purchase the freshest local food ingredients.
Look at how fleshy and juicy this meat looks!
In order to get the best camping spot for our guests, we did some location scouting in advance and decided on the best time and day to arrive. The tents were right at the entrance where we could enjoy the majestic view of Mt.Fuji at a close distance. On the left was Lake Tanuki with water glistening in the sun; on the right were the budding of Yamazakura and Fuji Cherry flowers. And the most important thing was that the bathrooms and sinks are less than a minute-walk away from the tents.
Once we got to the camping site, offloading stuffs, setting up tents and cleaning had took us the whole afternoon to finish. But all these hard works were definitely worthwhile!
When the sun sets, the angle of the sun ray made the entire Mt. Fuji glowed in bright red and then slowly shrouding in darkness as the sun descended behind the horizon. We got to witness the gradual transition of the color of the sky and the landscape at the camp site. It was a magical moment!
First day of the camp
As the day broke, we were woken up by the chirping of the birds and the warmth of the sun rays. We then freshened up a bit and went for a walk to take a photo of the Tanuki Lake. We then got ouselves ready to meet up our camping guests arriving at the Shin Fuji Station at 12:45pm to start our 2 days and 1 night camping event.
After getting our guests from the station, we arrived at the camping site and checked in. We took a brief rest by having some coffee and snacks next to the cherry trees.
After the break, we went fishing at arguably Japan’s number one breeding place of rainbow trout (Nijimasu) in the City of Fujinomiya. The farmed rainbow trout are raised in fresh spring water coming from Mt. Fuji, making their meat tasty and healthy to eat!
The trouts look so irrestably delicious that even this cat was constantly pacing up and down eyeing its prey.
Fishing was the hobby of our two guests from Hong Kong and they had caught five fish for all of us without breaking a sweat! Thanks to them we had something for our snack time!
The fish were then gutted, cleaned and rubbed with salts by the staff there for us to take home. She was so skillful and quick at it that we didn’t even have enough time to take pictures.
We stored our fish in the cooler box and went back to the camping site to learn how to char-grill the fish on skewers.
Having Mt. Fuji as the backdrop, the food seemed to taste even better!
And of course, camera eats first! How could we miss this insta-worthy moment with Mt. Fuji!
As the night approached, we headed to “Kazenoyu” in the Asagiri Highland to soak ourselves in the nice warm onsen water. After we warmed ourselves up to prepare for the cold night, we stopped by a convenience store to get snacks and drinks. Once we came back to our camping site, a sumptuous dinner was ready for us to feast on.
The frying pan wrapped up in tin foil got me curious, so I asked our chef Bob what he is cooking. He mysteriously replied: “It is Spring!”
Later I found out that it was Japanese sansai (spring vegetable) sautéed in butter. This special way of cooking helps to remove the slight bitterness of the vegetables and instead replaced it with rich aroma diffusing in your mouth; and at the same time retained nutrients that help to detoxify your body.
Ashitaka Gyu (cattle) growing up in a natural environment around Mt.Fuji has made it a premium Wagyu with a flavorful taste and tender texture. Ashitaka Gyu together with the local vegetables were slowly stewed in the Dutch Oven. The beef broth combining with the sweetness of the vegetables resulted in a hearty and savory dish, making everyone exclaimed in excitement as the lid opened!
For people who love Japanese stir fried noodles (yakisoba), you cannot miss this local specialty: Fujinomiya yakisoba, a quintessential form of “B-class cuisine” that has won the B-1 Grand Prix regional food competition. The noodle is characterized with a chewy texture. It was stir fried together with pork scraps and sardine extract powder (usually yakisoba is stir-fried with bonito stock powder). Fujinomiya yakisoba was soon wiped out once it was served on the table!
Our organizer Kiwi, flexed her girl’s prowess by preparing and garnishing this dessert for everyone: Asagiri yoghurt topped with Shizuoka strawberries! She also drizzled sweet Japanese honey on it. After our stomach got satisfied with savoury foods, this dessert ended everyone’s evening with a refreshing and delightful sweetness.
While we were waiting for the campfire to start, we went star gazing and tried to recognize the star signs in the sky. One guest took out his iPad and showed us an app that helps people to spot the star signs in the sky. He also took an amazing photo of star-studded night sky on that night. We all then went asking him to show us how to take a photo of the starry night sky using his camera and tripod.
(Photo credit: our camp buddy from Hong Kong)
The last activity for the night was roasting marshmallows and making s’more. Our camping buddy also shared the white wine that he bought at the convenience store with us. The night ended with us talking, and drinking next to the campfire under the starry sky.
Second day of camping
In the morning, we made some coffee and took a stroll around the area. For breakfast we enjoyed our hand-made Japanese rice ball (onigiri) and miso soup with Suruga Bay’s whitebait fish in it.
After we checked out, we went to Ryuganbuchi, a popular cherry blossom viewing place highly recommended by the locals. At this scenic spot, we could see one side of the Urui river was lined up with fully bloomed cherry trees and the majestic view of Mt. Fuji with clear blue sky as the background at far end of the river. As the wind blew, the tiny pink petals of sakura fell off like pink rain drops falling on the river. We were in awe as we saw this picturesque view of Mt. Fuji and blooming sakura.
This scenic spot surely attracted a lot of tourists too; a scene that one get to experience if you are in a popular spot.
We found a perfect spot to picnic under the sakura tree. The Jubako we brought with us had dishes made of seasonal ingredients in it: salt-pickled cherry blossom rice ball, Japanese sansai pan-fried with sesame oil, grilled salmon, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) and bamboo shoots etc. We also enjoyed the drinks and snacks we brought with us. The whole afternoon for us was just about soaking up the dreamy ambience created by the blooming pink sakura and the flowing river.
Watching the glistening river and raining petals, we had a great feast for our eyes and stomach. It was truly an unforgettable memory we had!
The picnic marked the end of our camping event for the weekend. After we saw off our guests, we went back to the camp site to pack up and tidy up things. And of course, we also packed away the precious memories we had in the camp.
Although for this camp, the actual camping only lasted for 2 days for the guests, but as for the staffs, we were able to experience camping for 3 days. From my perspective, 3 days of camping is better than 2 days as people will have more time to experience more wonders and beauty of nature. Usually on the first day of arrival, people will be quite occupied settling down and getting to know the environment; and only on the second day will people get to slow down their pace and take time to enjoy the beautiful sceneries and nature around them leisurely. And then finally mark a perfect ending for the camp on the third day.
In the future, Breathe TOKYO will bring you more in-depth and rich camping experiences in Japan under the theme of “SPORT&OUTDOOR・FOOD・LOCAL CULTURE” during the 3 days and 2 nights adventure. Please look forward to it!