May 5, 2019
Gallery - Scenic Tone River
The unofficial camping season of Japan is from the first week in April until the end of October. Of course, you can camp outside of this period in campsites that are open all year, but several of the campsites work to the informal period. Early April is still quite cold at night, so the real kick off to the season tends to be Golden Week.
Golden Week is a great time of the year to go camping. The weather is that bit warmer and the nights not so fresh. Spring is still in the air with a hint of summer as the trees don fresh new green and flowers come into bloom. There aren't that many bugs out and about yet. And of course, the schools are off and workers have a well deserved break from the daily humdrum.
However, due to all of this, it is a very popular and common time of the year for camping. Families and groups of friends get to air (literally and figuratively) their sleeping bags and take to the great outdoors for the first time in the new year. People book weeks in advance to secure a good location for their first camping trip of the year.
So when we were booking just two weeks before Golden Week and for a party of 19 (four families), our only aim was to get somewhere with an opening for the four families. Located in rural Shibukawa, the campsite we secured turned out to be along a particularly beautiful stretch of the Tone River in Gunma. We went for the camping, but were spoilt by the scenery.
A waterfall peaking out from behind rock and foliage
All year round no matter what the weather the area is alluring with its vigorous river. A lot of the area is backdropped by a fierce cliff sprouting lush trees not only on top, but along the front of the cliff too in bonsai-esque magnificence. You can find concealed waterfalls peaking through the rock front at different points along the cliff front. And there are other hidden gems either side of the riverbed in the woods and / or hills that flank it.
Rafters coming down the Tone river in Shibukawa, Gunma
On one small segment there is a river beach of white sand that leads to a naturally formed stone beach with unusual shaped and colourful rocks. The colour of the river changes from an hypnotic aquamarine by the white sand beach to a fresh blue by the stone beach. By the side of this, the latter, section there are mesmerising torrents in the river ideal for rafting - a popular leisure activity in the area. The torrents blast splashes of frothy white against the crisp blue. And all of this framed by a high railway bridge with attractive arches.
"Degotchi" Steam Locomotive, Tone River and yaezakura
As if all of this wasn't enough, the piece de resistance for me personally was the scene of the famed and beloved "Degotchi", a class D51 steam locomotive, chugging masterfully over the quaint bridge and formidable Tone River. On our third day at the campsite the owner recommended a picture perfect viewpoint from where I could frame (with my eye) the river, bridge, steam locomotive and a yaezakura all at once. I did try to frame it with the camera too, but regrettably although I love taking photos I am neither a photographer nor am I anyway as good as I would like at capturing scenes.
We go camping quite a lot in spring and in Golden Week. In my experience, it is one of the most scenic times to pitch a tent in the great outdoors. Autumn is particularly beautiful too, but you have to contend with severer weather. Golden week really is the golden period. I enjoy all the seasons in Japan for various reasons. But in spring, one thing I look forward more than anything else is, pitching our tent for the first time of the year in the fresh green and vibrant colours of late spring in Japan.
Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.