Today I'm going to play catch-up and post about the main thing we did this summer: camping! We went 4 times, only 3 of those were successful, though. I'll talk about the major differences I've noticed between camping in the US and camping in Japan, and then tell you a bit about the places we went this year.
Growing up, my family were big campers. We weren't 'nature survivalist' types that go out into the wilderness with only a knife, but we weren't the 'we own every space-age camping gadget known to man' types either. When I was young we were poor as dirt and went camping in a little tent with an air mattress 2 or 3 weekends each year during the summer. When I got older, my parents were both working and we were doing a bit better financially, so my parents invested in a used camper, and we upgraded to 3 or 4 weekend trips every summer. When I was in university, my parents got divorced and for a year or two we didn't go camping at all. Then we got into the habit of taking one big week-long trip each year, until I moved to Japan. Now, my mom (who got custody of the camper) rents a 'seasonal' campsite and goes camping almost every weekend.
Campgrounds in the US (at least in New England, where I grew up) almost always have a pool, and if they don't, there is at least a lake, pond or river for swimming in. Most campgrounds have a few 'field sites' (mostly undivided campsites in the middle of a field with no shade or trees) but the majority of the campsites are bare dirt lots surrounded by trees and there are bushes and whatnot dividing the sites. Overall, it gives a feeling of being 'in the forest' and there is a certain degree of privacy. Most campgrounds have fire pits, electric outlets and water faucets installed in every single site, and there are communal toilets and showers in multiple locations around the campground. The smallest campground I've ever stayed in in the US had about 45 sites.
In Japan, 'field sites' are the only kind of sites there are. The ground is planted with grass, and in most cases there is absolutely no division between sites; there are just stakes in the ground holding up a sign with the site number written on it, and you set up your tent in the area between your stake and the one for the next site. Campers are all but non-existant and none of the campgrounds I've been to had sites that could accommodate them, though I saw some online that did. Japanese campgrounds generally do not have electricity available in each campsite, or if they do it's only available in around 20% of the sites and there's an extra fee to use it. Also, there aren't fire pits in Japanese campgrounds, you have to bring a charcoal barbecue grill with you, and setting a wood fire on the ground is prohibited. Some campgrounds have one 'communal area' where you can have a bonfire, if you pay an extra fee. The amount of 'nature' you can enjoy depends on the campground, but it's generally much less than what you'd expect in America. I think that the communal bathroom facilities in Japanese campgrounds are superior to those in America, however: the toilets are cleaner, there are huge rows of giant sinks and countertop space for washing dishes, and all the campgrounds I've been to were withing 5-15 minutes drive of an onsen. Size wise, Japanese campgrounds tend to be much smaller than american ones, with only about 15-40 sites.
Now a bit about the campgrounds we visited this year...
1. Shibamasa World Campground （芝政ワールドキャンプ場）
|Trying to cook on the disposable barbecue grills we bought.|
|Me teaching Kazu how to roast marshmallows.|
2. Juunibou Onsen Yurara Auto-camp Campground (十二坊温泉ゆららオートキャンプ場)
|Kazu uses an electric fan to get the fire going.|
|Enjoying beer and barbecue!|
3. Kuzuryuu Kokumin Kyuuyouchi (九頭竜国民休養地キャンプ場)
|Setting out with high hopes, and a full trunk.|
|A picture from their website, since we weren't there long enough to take any.|
4. Takayama Campground (高山キャンプ場)
|Kazu's "creative" fire-starting technique: using a blow torch and electric fan.|
|Enjoying a cold one (that my dad brought from America) while waiting for the fire to get going enough to grill on.|
|The river running through the campground.|
|Kazu (right) playing in the river.|
As for our camping gear, we had to invest a bit of money to scrape together the bare minimum. In the US my family has everything a person could possibly need for camping, so when I would go camping with my (then) boyfriend or my friends, I'd just borrow what I needed, but Kazu's family doesn't really camp, so we had to buy almost everything. His parents did give us a portable picnic table and two camp chairs that they had, and we also got a small "cooler" (not a hard-sided one, but the insulated lunchbox type) and a small barbecue grill as wedding presents. Out of pocket we had to buy a tent, air-mattress and canopy, as well as little stuff like charcoal tongs, an outdoor-safe extension cord, a gadget to blow up the air-mattress, and sheets for it. It cost about 150$ for everything, and we got the smallest and cheapest that we could find of everything we bought. Even so, we had no difficulties with the gear we purchased and can easily enjoy camping with just this for the next few years until Kazu-Tori baby(ies) join the family.