Camping at Lake Motosuko

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.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

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.)

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

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.

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Of Course We Did…

Betsy tends to plug in to social groups wherever we move–whether it’s a group of runners or a facebook association that she stalks without comment. This has helped her twig to some pretty amazing things for our family to do. One of them, of course, was to dress up like Mario Brothers and drive street-legal go-karts around Tokyo for a date. It was awesome, and reasonably priced. We ordered some pretty cheap Mario-Kart costumes off amazon and went over. The employees were a bit surprised to see that we brought our own costumes, and they had a great selection if we had wanted to use theirs. (We had to go with the two brothers, because the cheap options were Mario & Luigi, or Mario and risque Princess Peach. Of course I thought Betsy would look great in the Princess Peach outfit, but she wasn’t comfortable flashing that much skin around town.) The Karts went pretty fast, but didn’t have speedometers, so we couldn’t be too sure exactly how fast. We drove them to our house, to say hi to the kids, swung by the Wares’ house, and of course, buzzed Shibuya crossing and Omotesando and Harajuku. It was pretty awesome, and to top it off, when we went to church the next day, Nate Farnsworth had been in Shibuya and caught us on video!

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

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Typhoon? What Typhoon?

Japan is a land that is plagued by natural disasters. It is literally the result of volcanos and earthquakes pushing rocks up from the bottom of the ocean. On top of that, it is subject to some of the worst natural disasters available. Tsunamis, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions are all common enough that you have to layer Godzilla on top to bother watching the news. While we lived there, we had to cancel church in parts of our stake twice due to volcanic eruptions that made it unsafe to breathe outside for a bit. We commonly had minor earthquakes, and a couple that lasted long enough for Betsy and me to wake up, wait a bit, realize it wasn’t stopping, and then decide to go to the kids rooms and be prepared to evacuate. Of course the kids slept right through those. Typhoons came through a couple of times, most often further south than us, but they always brought fun wind and water. (For clarity, a typhoon is a hurricane that originates in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Don’t ask me why–I don’t know. The same swirling vortex of wind and water in the south pacific is called a cyclone.)

Typhoons, and their slightly weaker cousins, monsoons, were great fun for the kids, and both really allowed the marvel of civil engineering that is Tokyo city to shine. During a serious storm, water would be dropping in bucketloads, and the streets would fill up, but quite literally within minutes of cessation, the streets were drained and passable again. Luckily, with my dad being a civil engineer, I was able to pause to gawk at the amazing systems that must exist beneath Tokyo streets to move that much water that efficiently.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;
I still rode my bike to work, but had to don the yellow crabbing outfit that Tim Hershey gave us at an offsite he held back when I worked in North America.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;
And of course, it was all a game to the kids, who are blessed with solid walls and the great engineering I mentioned above. May they never know otherwise.

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Comic-Con

Our bishop in Toronto was Hector Garcia. He was an amazingly humble man, with three or four kids, and was a lot of fun to be in the bishopric with. When he heard we were going to Japan, he got all excited and said we needed to go to a comic con. So we did.

Sadly, we didn’t recognize most of the folks all done up in cosplay, and some of them were not appropriate to photograph, and all the activities were (oddly enough) in Japanese, but it was still fun to do once. (Porter was apparently going through a “roll his arms up in the bottom of his t-shirt” phase.)

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;
We recognized this one. He’s the main protagonist in the Pokemon cartoon. I forget his name, though.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;
Lea wasn’t sure what to think of this guy’s dragon hand.

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Mount Fuji

Each year the Boy Scouts in the Tokyo 1st ward hike up Mount Fuji. Google refuses to answer the question of the actual distance you cover, preferring to give insufficient comments about time expectations (5-7 hours)and altitude (12,000 feet).

The scouts open the invitation to the whole ward and we decided to go, because it seems like the thing to do in Japan-eat sushi and hike Mt. Fuji. We figured we’d start out with the scouts, let them rush ahead and we’d go as fast as our kids would allow and stop when we had gone far enough. Don’t forget, Lea was only recently three years old.

The hike was pleasant for the first five or ten minutes. Nice wooded trail through foresty space. One unfortunate drawback is the common challenge in Japan—a million people trying to do something at the same time, but that was not unexpected. After the first five or ten minutes, we left the forest and moved on to lava gravel. If you’ve never hiked up a hill through something like that, let me tell you, it sucks. You slide back half a foot for every foot forward. And you just signed up to do this evil stairmaster for 5-7 hours.

So we did it. We hiked up switchbacks in a gigantic pile of gravel for hours. And our kids were so tough they amazed all of us. We caught up to the flagging scouts around lunch time and finally turned around after station 8. If you ever have a chance to hike Mt. Fuji, I highly recommend you just charter a helicopter and photoshop something. Reid wrote about it when he got back to school and I think he pretty much nailed it.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

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Fun Foods

One thing that Tokyo is famous for is amazing food. Particularly if you are one of those people who enjoy food. Sadly, Betsy and I are more the “eat for sustenance” type, rather than the “eat for enjoyment” types, and haven’t quite gotten the hang of food appreciation. Combine that with a Japanese tendency to offer the oddest foods to the newest guests and you have a recipe for some rough meals. For at least the first six months, it didn’t seem that you could even purchase cooked food in Japanese restaurants. It was all raw. The other sad part is that no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to build an appreciation for seafoods, which, of course, Japan is famous for. (I can already hear what you’re saying in your mind, “what about…?” And the answer is “NO. Not even…” Feel free to insert whatever relatively innocuous seafood option you personally love and can’t imagine someone hating: shrimp, salmon, crab, whatever. If it could ever call the water home, we do not like it.)

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;
Seemingly friendly names like “Taco Yaki” are malicious deceivers.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;
That beautiful rose is a very recently deceased horse.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;
When you bread and deep fry it, it’s called Tempura, and I will admit that with enough deep frying, most things are far more edible.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;
Crystal was more willing to pretend to enjoy the odd foods.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;
Yes–those are weird little white wormy things, not rice.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

I got this when I tried to order the “American Hamburger” option off the menu. Close, but not quite.

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