Now, our train ride takes a good 90 minutes, so in addition to our performance hiking boots, designer backpacks brimming with gear, and a hell yeah let’s do this attitude, we came prepared with the cheapest snacks and drinks Japan’s fine kombini establishments offer for the honestly not-so-long ride into the sticks.
This is where we would stay, and had 2 Japanese-style rooms complete with tatami and futon on the 3rd floor of the massive residence, both of which open up to a spacious veranda perfect for barbecues overlooking the city and the bay.
But we arrived after 11PM and were ourselves somewhat tired, so the barbecuing would have to wait for later and we retired to our rooms in the the solitude of Yugawara’s hills.
Driving in Tokyo isn’t great, though that’s hardly exclusive to Tokyo alone. City driving world-wide is, in my personal opinion that I assume is also widely held, veritably intolerable. Traffic, construction, concrete closing in on you from every corner, it can be a supremely uncomfortable experience. This is one reason I vie for bicycles over cars: while not a perfect solution, they sure make moving around much easier.
Driving in inaka is another story. Japan’s natural beauty — attributable to the confluence of mountains, forests, and beaches that makes up so much of the country — really opens up once you’re sufficiently outside the city limits, and more often than not you’ll find yourself cruising through luscious dreamscapes swirling with the colors of the natural world with no other humans in sight. Sure, there can be construction and assholes there, too, but inaka driving at least offers you a reprieve from the never-ending barrage of anxiety that city driving so easily provides.
So off we went, heading south towards the extremely isolated reaches of Izu City, the Amagi Mountain Range.
I thought he meant that this was a massive vacant ghost hotel that he’s been secretly renovating, but alas, I was wrong; this was a functional hotel (the Hotel Harvest Amagi Kogen, in fact), and it had a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji (claimed by both Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures) he wanted to show us.
He was right — it was a striking view. But the fog was too heavy and we could just barely make out Mt. Fuji’s peak. So we tried to take pictures with the deer and explored the premises a bit, and then got back into the car and continued on our way.
To the right and past the air conditioning unit, there is a path around back that gets a little hairy, not for any overgrowth but for the dilapidated stairs down the steep incline the structure was built on which reveals the exposed concrete foundation. This overlooks a good portion of the woodlands behind it, as well as 2 of the cabins near it, only one of which is inhabited. It’s hard to not think that this is actually a very interesting setup as it could easily be used for a picnicking area or something of the sort with a wonderful expansive view of the flora and occasional fauna, provided the stairs were tended to first. From experience this shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve got a mallet or sledge, axe or wedge, and bamboo or wood — all you need to make tiny reinforcement walls down an incline, aka dirt stairs.
Each and every one of these experiences have multiple people and places involved, all of whom interact with each other in a wonderfully dynamic manner. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to explore these properties in the first place, but to do so with old and new friends alike really takes this ongoing adventure to an entirely higher level.
Speaking of which, I’m putting together a multi-day bike trek across Chiba to check out some properties there while getting in some good camping. We’ve got other opportunities, too, including Shizuoka coming up. Lemme know if that sounds interesting — would love to get a troupe of explorers together for an Inaka Club experience!