Where you would take a camper van beyond Tokyo for 4 days?? Let me know what you thought below.
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Ride with us in Japan:
Day Trips –
Bike – Cannondale Synapse 105 Hydraulic Disc 2019
Saddle Bags – Ortlieb Seat Pack
Shoes – Shimano XC7
Like many of you I have seen the build videos, read the lifestyle blogs, and browsed far too many used car sites for sprinter vans getting sucked down the rabbit hole of “vanlife”.
That’s why I was thrilled when I connected with Jared of Dream Drive to take one of their custom camper vans out for a few days here in Japan.
We had a great 3 days planned around our Prefecture here in the mountains of Gunma but as you will see the weather had other ideas. Luckily, vanlife came to the rescue, and with a little extra driving we found a whole new adventure ahead.
First up was to pick up the van in Tokyo. A short bike ride to our nearby station and I was off to the big city.
I met up with Jared and he showed me all the ins and outs of our new rolling apartment for the next few days.
Then back home to load up. We are used to bikepacking and camping trips so we may have gone a little overboard on packing for these three days with all the extra space and no worries about too much weight.
It was getting late in the day so we decided to head up to Lake Umeda just outside of Kiryu to setup for the night. Umeda is a beautiful dam lake about 10km from Kiryu city center and at about 300m above sea it is known by locals for its crystal clear spring water that feeds the lake, and the cool temperatures during the hot summer months.
One of our favorite local soba shops is located on the lake so we decided to head over for dinner before setting up camp by the lakeside for the night.
The next morning we woke up to a, well, downpour. The rain can often come in waves in the summertime in Japan so we stuck with our plan and headed up Mt Akagi the local volcano for our planned hike and camp spot by the caldera lake.
Mt Akagi, a stratovolcano, is thought to have erupted over 30,000yrs ago creating the now ridged caldera with two Lakes, Oonuma and Konuma, within. With the base of the mountain in the Kanto plains at around 100m above sea level and the highest peak called Kurobi at over 1,800m or 6,000ft high there is hardly a spot in the Kanto region that Akagi can’t be seen on a clear day.
But today was far from that, so we ditched our plans for the hike up to the Kurobi peak and decided to stop at the Akagi Miyozawa Shrine to offer a prayer for a safe drive to the top.
From there we decided to take a much gentler walk along the elevated wooden pathways of the Kakumanbuchi Marsh between the two lakes. This is a great hike rain or shine as on a clear day you get great views of the caldera reflecting in the marshes, and, on a soupy-er day like today you get the misty mythical side of Japan that can be equally as beautiful.
There are some nice Teishoku restaurants by the lakeside and after the walk we got some warm food and relished in the fact that we had a warm dry bed to take an afternoon nap in and enjoy the quiet by the lake.
Though we had originally planned to camp at the free campsite by the lake like our friend here (show other camper), we had brought our bikes with the hopes of getting a decent ride in the next two days and the forecast had taken a turn for the worst.
Michelle has always wanted to check out a town in Niigata called Echigo-Tsumari that is home to an Art Triennial Festival. Though the festival is just every 3 years the art is a collection of large installations scattered around the town and rice fields so you can visit any time.
So we packed up shop and began the drive down the backside of Mt Akagi to pass through the huge 11km tunnel that separates Gunma and Niigata Prefectures.
And just like that, as is often the case with Japan’s huge mountains, on one side is torrential rain, and the other, beautiful clear skies.
It was getting late so as we drove we looked up some places for dinner and came across this beautiful restaurant in the center of Toukamachi called Ikote. Unfortunately they were booked for the night, but we decided it looked too good to pass up so we put in a reservation for the following night.