It’s summer, it’s hot. It’s 35.5 degrees for heaven’s sake. No plans for a holiday yet. Mum’s too fuzzy-headed to plan for one. Kid’s are beginning to rebel, “it’s too hot to do anything. Do I have to do my division homework?” Dad comes home and decides on the spot, we are going down to the water. When? Tomorrow! What just like that? Beginning last year, we started a new holiday lifestyle – as autocampers. We hit the road when we feel like it, whenever it’s the right time – so we evade the long highway jams. And there were three typhoons ongoing just yesterday, nevermind, we always travel right on the tail of the typhoons. The weather will clear, just you see, says Dad. And Dad says, everyone pack your sketchbooks, this is a sketching art camp. I head out to grab some grub for the grills to pack into the ice-box. We have our travel list always ready at hand and our camp gear packed in the closet ready for loading. Destination… Hakone’s Ashinoko here we go! Our stopover – is Odawara city (an hour away from our destination) for a look at the castle Odawara Jo, especially the donjon. Not one of the best that we’ve seen since it’s a reconstruction and reinforced concrete mostly since it fell in battle and burned in fires, still worth a look on the outside (a few interesting exhibits, though you’re not allowed to photograph these… and there’s a very touristy shop at the top, no sign of the usually elegant timbered rooms found in untouched castles). And there’s a very incongruous elephant on the castle grounds. The gates beautiful to look at, quieter than other castles’. The moats too, are famous for the lotuses, I think we’d just missed the blooms. Castle shots aren’t complete without a suit of armour! Well, on we went in our stuffed WISH car and after a last easy leg, we reached the Ashinoko Camp-Mura, a very pleasant and comfortable site with accommodations from cabins to autocampers with individual light and electricity and water utilities to basic tent and communal facilities. There’s a very decent communal bath facility(men and women segregated). Toilets were basic and clean, though concrete floors could get muddy with traffic and on wetter days I imagine. All of the tent sites and cabins are but a few metres away from the lapping waters of the lake. Cook your own (small shop sells some useful snacks and drinks, sauces, but no meats) or use their restaurant. Hydrangea-hedged path leading to the restaurant Campsite is excellent for groups – for great wood bonfires, we had our fireworks going too. Rules are you must get the quieter sort of fireworks without all the bangs and whistles. Drying umeboshi in the communal area Campsite is nestled by trees and a small wood. Mostly maples, red pine and some beech trees I think. Generally, summer shows up very green and boring…there’s not much colour in terms of wildflowers, still we did see these… Golden-rayed lilies Oenothera Wispy Dianthus (nadeshiko) Bee among the blooms Lily I think someone said orchid of the woods The lake is accessible within minutes of any point of the campsite. This is where we fished and sketched mostly, strangely, never a soul came within sight. We did see a snake though. And a toad watched us suspiciously while we brushed our teeth. And beware of the Lakeside Leeches that made us think of Lake Lachrymose’s leeches(reference Lemony Snickett “Most Unfortunate …” There’s no way my son was going home without some bugs in his box (mushikago) – he’s not nicknamed the Bug Boy for nothing…cicadas, beetles, moths, mantises, grasshoppers… And some really hard to photograph Black Admirals fleeting about the Silk Tree (nemunoki). Which brings us to the lake Ashi. Lake Ashi is one of the more heavily trafficked lakes by tourists, so it’s hard to find a quiet spot. We’d been to this lake several times before this trip, yet we’d never discovered this nicely secluded campsite before, quite sheltered from the busy main road and yet just a pleasant short walk from the pier and a short drive to other attractions of Hakone. The main reason you’d want to go to the pier would be to ride the Pirate’s Ship or to go on one of the paddle boats or like most serious fishers, to hire a boat and rods out to the middle of the lake (best done shortly at dawn). Since we’d been around before, we don’t many photos of attractions to post here. We were there to leisurely fish-a-bit, sketch-a-bit, row-a-bit and catch a lot of bugs, but we do recommend the Hakone Shitsugen Park (the Hakone Wetland Park) if you are going in the fall for the beautiful marshland flowers and plants – wildflowers and berries – lots of colour which we saw last autumn plus maples of course. And the Hakone Open Air Museum if you haven’t been there before which is well-known for the Rodin and Henry Moore sculptures. We got a lot of sketching here. Many nudes so the kids will be giggling, but playgrounds abound too, a tiny maze, stained-glass tower, art exhibits aplenty. After a great deal of walking (a full day would be nice here) and climbing the tower you might want to finally rest your sore feet at the footspa. On our way out, the kids were arrested by a skinny skinhead flame-throwers (cum-tightrope walk-cum-juggling) act which was actually quite good and comical. You might also like to try the clay-dough craft classes (above far right) though we didn’t. We don’t recommend that you go near the 3D Dinosaur & Space Museum which is frightfully dilapidated and dingy, and a rip off on the high ticket price. Rusty chairs inside a rundown amusement park, screens which might be nostalgic for those born before the sixties, but the dinosaur films aren’t of any quality with all dinosaurs and asteroids looking stiff and exactly the same. Kids under 7 aren’t likely to mind though. And that’s the end of our report!

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