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Camping in Ibaraki

My usual camping companions who live in Kanagawa and Chiba both requested to eat something new for this trip. Before, we mainly ate pork and beef so we planned to eat fish. We researched for a seaside restaurant that serves delicious hot pot dishes. We decided on somewhere special to dine on angler hot pot because most of us have not tried it yet. We were all so excited.

I stayed in one of my friend’s house for the night prior to the ride. We went out for calorie-packed ramen which we considered a rehearsal for this sort of food-adventure we were embarking on. Of course that is was a poor excuse but the ramen was worth it. 

We went to the Naritake Ramen Shop which is famous for using back fat in their broth. It was in a way, “greasing our stomach lining” so the food we planned on indulging in would slide down easily, we joked. In case you did not know, Naritake Ramen Shops have branches all over Chiba prefecture but there franchisees in Paris. The taste is almost same as in their main restaurant in Tsudanuma so I recommend you try it! The food was so good, we ordered extra back fat soup with fat noodles to “grease our bodies”. Don’t worry, we’ll be burning the calories on the ride!

Day 1

As usual, two of them rode in the car to take care of the essentials like purchasing food and I mounted my trusty gravel bike. We took the route towards Inzai, then headed north along the Tone river to get to Oarai which is famous for anglerfish.

The weather was a bit cloudy and windy.

I’ve been to the Inzai area before so I knew the way. The problem would be after Inzai city but I am fortunately gifted with navigation skills, plus my handy equipments for directions.

In the middle of the ride, I was exhausted from the drag by the strong wind so I took a break which was longer than planned. However, there were a lot of other cyclists around here and it was good to meet some of them and catch up with old friends. We went up north to Kasumigaura.  The road leads directly to the camp site. I had a flat tire so I needed to change the tube and arrived right before sunset.

My two friends in the car were on route 51 but there was nowhere to shop at so it took them 3 hours to get there largely due to a bit of sightseeing. Later on, they revealed that they went to the Oarai Isosaki Shrine to see a historic anchor and a floating torii gate that stood on a rock at a beach in Kamiiso which is famous for sightseeing. They both expressed how emotional they felt as they watched the waves crash into the formation. I wish I saw it too.

Anyway, when I arrived, they already pitched the tent so I helped chop some wood to build a camp fire. We lounged in the luxurious warmth until the staff came over to check everything and it reminded us of our dinner reservations. 

Here is the homepage of the restaurant where we had the angler hotpot.

http://gochisou-aoyagi.com/

I highly recommend this place since the chefs made the angler pot in front of us so you leave everything to them, they are the professionals afterall. What’s more, the deep fried angler and monkfish liver were so delicious too so everybody love it!

We were stuffed so we paid the bill and went back to the camp site.

We kindled the bonfire again and chatted a lot, laughing about funny memories and talking about our random thoughts. A few yawns between us and off to bed we crawled. 

By the way, this place is close to a national road so you might hear the sound of trucks passing by. I couldn’t sleep well because I am a bit sensitive to noise. I think earplugs would come in handy if you want to stay there.

Day 2

The next day, I got out of the tent but still felt exhausted only to discover that it was raining. I suggested for us to take the car for a bit of sightseeing. We went to Kairakuen in Mito city to check out a famous garden but it rained cats and dogs so we stayed in the car, at the parking lot and just took a glance in the distance. We should have checked the weather forecast!

After that, we did some quick shopping, bathed at a local onsen then headed back to the campsite.  The downpour meant there was nothing much to do.

We went to Ryokan Yamadaya by car. Here is the homepage.

The day spa costs ¥500. Luckily, there were no other customers. This onsen uses water from a  mineral spring that goes through their heating systems.

You might wonder what mineral spring is so I looked it up on Wikipedia.

*Mineral springs are naturally occurring springs that produce water containing minerals, or other dissolved substances, that alter its taste or give it a purported therapeutic value. Salts, sulfur compounds, and gases are among the substances that can be dissolved in the spring water during its passage underground.

It’s good for beautiful skin and addressing body pains. It was a bit too hot for my liking so I mixed it with water from the faucet. I was still too exhausted from the lack of sleep; I really don’t want to move much.

But we needed to go to the camp site so we said thanks to the owner. By the way, time seems to pass very slowly in Ibaraki compared to urban cities like Tokyo, so I really recommend you drop by this ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel).

It took us an hour and half to get to the camp site for the night. Here is the homepage of Otakizawa camp site.

This place is particularly recommended since the toilets are new and there is a single flush option.

There was only one other small group of campers so we were able to follow the guidelines on “social distancing ” which was really good. We set up the tent and tarp for the rain but it was really chilly outside. We hurried to make the bonfire. A note, there is a clear stream right below the camp site so it should be great to wade around in and cool off during the summer time!

Since it was cold outside,  we grilled some steaks and made tomato soup which are quick to make for some lazy prep work, we were in some sort of vacation after all.  The rain got stronger and there was nothing to do so we went to sleep early.

Day 3

Unfortunately, it was a rainy day too so I made breakfast in the tent. I soaked some rice which we bought yesterday and added some canned Pacific Saury, carrots, ginger, kombu-dashi (soup stock) and soy sauce to make seasoned rice. I made a pot of tea on the other burner to warm ourselves with.

When breakfast was ready, the other got up, perhaps from the great aroma of the rice, I reckon. They loved it even though it was my first time making it, not requiring much technique nor thought.

Sadly, the rain didn’t stop so folded up the tent and tarp and heated the car up until the engine was ready. There were a lot of signboards along the mountain paths warning drivers to beware of icy roads so went down with extreme care.

We arrived downtown and looked for sightseeing spot we could while the time with even though we could have fun in the rain like little kids. Someone, the one from Kanagawa, wanted to go somewhere so we drove over for 3 hours.

The huge building gradually came in sight as we approached.

This is Ushiku Daibutsu. Here is a homepage of it.

It stands a total of 120 meters (390 ft) tall, including the 10 m (33 ft) base and 10m lotus platform. It’s really huge up close. Our other companion, from Ibaraki, remarked that the figure could transform into a robot, and I believe it too! I took a picture from a distance to include everything, all the way to the feet. Here’s an idea of just how massive it is.

You can go inside this Buddha figure to see the view – if it was sunny. I strongly recommend you to come here on a sunny day.

Inside, there is place below the main area where you can place a person’s ashes in a tomb. We were surprised to learn that Buddhists all the way from Tibet came here to do it.

After that, we wanted to eat Ramen since we saw a lot of franchise ramen shops called “Nintame” so we decided to go to one.

The taste was ok but the interesting thing is they offer “All-you-can-eat garlic” – grated, fried and so on. Don’t consume too much or you’ll smell like garlic. We needed to open the car windows on the way home because we were overwhelmed by the pungent smell.  

I unloaded my bike at my friend’s place in Chiba then we called it a day.

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