When we moved to Japan, we really didn’t think we’d be spending much time outdoors. So we shipped most of our camping stuff back to America. We kept sleeping bags, since they see more use as sleds down the stairs than as actual sleeping accommodations anyway, but we got rid of the dutch ovens, the tents, and I don’t even remember what else you normally have on hand for pretending you’re part of a civilization that hasn’t developed power tools and insulation. Whatever it is, we’re about out of it. But I am a big believer in rope. You really can’t have too much rope. Or line–line being a thinner version of rope. I usually have three or four different lengths of line on me at any given time, because you never know when you’re going to think, “Dang, if I only had a bit of line…” Well, I rarely think that. I learned a long time ago that if you carry a bit of line around you find a use for it most days. (We’ll come back to the rope in a bit.)
Imagine our surprise when camping turns out to be a fairly common practice for the Tokyo 1st ward! God Bless the USA, because the Air Force base at Yokota has a pile of land for the airmen to enjoy getting in touch with nature. It’s got campsites, ball fields, even a bit of a putt-putt course. And best of all, it’s free to military and something like $2.50 for families they invite. We camped there quite often. On the flipside, camping is also surprisingly popular for Japanese residents of Tokyo, but it’s a bit different. It starts with the gear. I’m used to going to target or walmart and seeing some pretty cheap camping gear. I know that there are high-end camping stores but I’ve certainly never bothered with them–why should I when I’m generally driving to my campsite? Well, not the Tokyo crowd. There are no $35 tents or all-purpose tarps to use as groundcloths. Only $3,000 tents and custom fitted groundcloths for them. I feel like you can get a Lodge dutch-oven in the US for less than $50, but the only dutch oven I could find in Tokyo was too small to feed six and cost $200. And having the best technical gear is part of the experience for them, and when people on my team at work heard that I was taking my family camping, I saw some seriously shocked folks. When we got down to the reason for the shock, it was primarily around what they imagined we had shelled out to equip the whole family with the thousands of dollars worth of camping gear. When I explained that most of our camping cost us $2.50 plus a bag of marshmallows, they really didn’t believe me.
So, when Bishop Linder invited us to join with a number of other families to go camping Japanese-style, we said sure, having experienced only the Tama Hills Recreation area style prior to that. It wasn’t quite the same. The site was a lot more expensive, and you camped pretty much on top of the other campers, could have fire only in special metal cages, and even then, only with charcoal. There was a convenience store at the camp manager station, and the site was much more like camping in a park than in the wild. Quite luckily, I had a bit of rope and was able to rig up a tire-swing with an old motorcycle tire we found lying around. We got a few angry looks for the happy child noises, but nobody fell and everybody came home with all their limbs. It was actually really fun, and we got to know several families better than we would otherwise have, like Chloe Anderson, the Robisons, the Humphries, and of course, the Kartchners. And we did a fun hike to the top of a foggy hill and go row-boating on Lake Motosuko.
The very next day, it was Canadian Thanksgiving and our great friends, the Aufderheides, invited us over to celebrate. So we all put on our Team Canada hockey jerseys and had a fun time with them and the Farnsworths. (Nate Farnsworth, by the way, is famous on youtube for eating disgusting foods and talking about how awful it is. I can’t even play Beanboozled without losing my lunch, and he videos himself eating peppers that make your innards flee and Japanese delicacies that exist only to torment diplomats when negotiations are going poorly.)
Oh, and Porter hates his hair buzzed like this. He is reluctant to get a haircut of any sort because he is concerned it will end up looking like this again.