Saturday, June 1, 2024

May 2024 recap - Canyons rafting, Miura peninsula run, Minamiboso Bike x Kayak, LEAVING JAPAN

This was our last month of living in Japan! Expect lots of recap posts from my time here in the following month (or two?) because we did a lot (in my opinion) and I don't want to forget any of it. But for now...what did May have in store for us?

Full day rafting with Canyons in Minakami
We did a canyoning/rafting combo tour with Canyons last year in July and was recommended to come back around Golden Week if we wanted to experience the rafting with better water levels. We kept this in mind all year and made a reservation for May 4 for full day spring rafting. Upon arrival, we were told that unfortunately the water level was a bit low in the second half of the course, but we could choose to change the second half of the day to canyoning (combo tour), do the upper part of the rafting course twice with lunch in between or just do a half day of rafting and get a refund for the difference. We opted to do rafting twice!
Our group was 9 people - 4 guys and 5 girls and that's how we split into two rafts. Adam was the guide for the girls' raft and Sam was the guide for the boys' raft. 

The photos below are all provided as part of the tour package from Canyons. 

For the second half of the day (after lunch), our group were the only ones rafting (2 rafts reduced from the 5 in the morning), and we all felt familiar with what to expect, so it was a lot of fun. There were also some rock jumping opportunities!

Overall, I think the group was all happy with this rafting experience even though we didn't get to do the intended course. It was really great to be a smaller party for the second half, start when we were ready and only have two worry about just one other raft. And because we didn't do the canyoning in the morning, we weren't as uncomfortable in the wet wetsuits throughout lunch and the rest of the day.
This area is about a 3.25hr drive from where we live, so we stayed the night in an Airbnb in Takasaki (about an hour from Canyons in Minakami) as a group and then returned to Kanagawa the following day. 

Miura Peninsula run
One of my stretch goals before leaving Japan was to complete a run around the peninsula where we live. I had been running a small portion of it repeatedly during the marathon training which made the idea seem realizable, but slowly expanded the route and became more familiar with it during the last handful of months while also increasing my milage. I am so happy to say that I completed it on my first try on May 11!
This 45 mile run was a big deal for me, and I ended up having quite a bit of thoughts and photos I wanted to document, so I made a solo blog post for it here :)
Even though this blog isn't largely about fitness/running content, I always appreciate having it as a place to record details and memories I don't want to forget.

Nagano Chateraise Hotel weekend
We managed to get enough Chateraise points for another free 1 night hotel stay, but just the 700 point tier (last time it was 1000 points). By the time we accumulated the points, the Atami option was sold out, so we booked a stay in Nagano at the Chateraise Hotel Nobeyama. 
Since we were headed out that way, we also planned a stop at the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto. My husband is a big fan of this art style and we've been to Matsumoto a couple of times before, but never managed to stop here and this was our last chance!

The main exhibition at this time was works related to the Tales of Genji, which is actually the same theme we saw when we visited the Ukiyo-e Kurashiki museum in March. (Photos weren't allowed inside that museum, but the post is here.) The format of the museum is nice and open. Many of the photos have an English translation of the placard but not all do. 

They also had a cute DIY ukiyo-e stamp station with three different images that worked pretty well!
Overall, this museum wasn't as expansive or as informative as we thought it was going to be, but at least now we know! And spending only about an hour there freed up some time for us to spend exploring other parts of Matsumoto before checking into the hotel. 

We made a spontaneous stop at Mt Desert Island Ice Cream in Azumino which we had passed several times coming back from snowboarding but never got a chance to try. We happened by it on this day and easily made the decision to check it out. 
Lots of interesting flavors and my husband tried a few samples before settling on Genmai Pon Honey. I settled on the Callebaut Chocolate ice cream but also tried the Girl Scout flavor (thin mints) and loved that as well. 

We also went to check out Daio Wasabi Farm which was a complete random find by my husband while we were looking for things to do on Google Maps. It's quite close to the Mt Desert Ice Cream and we also must have passed it several times in the past, but never took note! Admission is free and there's several cafes/shops/restaurants so you can easily spend several hours here. 

We visited in mid-late May, so they had already put on the covers for the plants which helps keep the flowing water cooler in temperature. It has a slightly haunting feeling, but when you can peek through the gaps in person, it's really interesting!

Of course we also tried the wasabi soft cream and bought some wasabi omiyage. 

Would definitely recommend stopping by this wasabi farm if you're in the area! I imagine it's pretty different throughout the seasons too. 

After bragging that I had a handle on navigating Japan in the car using Google Maps, I sent us in the wrong direction at an ETC gate resulting in going 10+km in the wrong direction before we could turnaround, but eventually we made it to our free accommodations for the night!
It's pretty different from Chateraise Hotel Isawa which we stayed at in October 2023 which had free ice cream in the lobby and a nice public bath, located amongst a lot of other hotels, restaurants and shops. The main feature of the Nobeyama location seems to be the golf course or the ski resort (depending on the season) and it's quite a distance away from other things to do (you'd really need a car to access). That being said, it was free and we took the opportunity to just completely chill out in the room and relax, especially after my Miura peninsula run the day before! Being at a higher altitude also made the air super crisp and fresh. 

We also went to get the welcome cake upon check in (almost missed the time window because of the bad directions lol) and this hotel provides a 4 item variety plate of sweets and a choice of drink!

The next morning, we made sure to take advantage of the included free breakfast. The hotel/venue was quite empty while we were there so it was easy to just sit and relax with whatever we were doing. 
Not a luxurious stay by any means, but an interesting experience for free and it meant we got to check out the ukiyo-e museum and the wasabi farm, so it overall made for a good weekend. We even stopped by Ikea on the way home :)

Boso Adventure/Minamiboso BIKE x KAYAK 
We returned to southern Chiba to join the Cycle Tourism team on another adventure in Minamiboso! This event was originally supposed to be held in April, and I had RSVP'd no because of my South Korea trip, but was rescheduled due to bad weather. We were able to make it for the revised date and were joined by M&M and my husband's friend as well. 
We had to arrive bright and early due to a revised Tokyo-wan ferry schedule (one of the boats was down for repair/maintenance) and were ready to go. This wasn't a private tour, so we started with introductions with the rest of the group (9 people total).

Takagi-san led us out and we started by tackling and hill but it was all smooth sailing from there. We were guided to a few different landmarks that were good breaks for the biking course. Ono-san was our support car and photographer for the day, so some of these photos are from him!

We took a break for an early lunch when we arrived at the kayaking spot. Bentos were handed out and we enjoyed a meal near the sea.

Then we prepared for the sea kayak which for some meant change of clothes and change of shoes. 

We received the brief for the kayaking so we were all on the same page about the intended route and also got a quick lesson on how to paddle. This was my husband and my first time kayaking but most others had done it before!

Thankfully for me it's a tandem kayak lol. 

And just like that, we were off!

We kayaked about 2 mi (about 45 min) and then had a break on the Tateyama Bay side. 

This included snacks and coffee made one the spot!

Then we paddled the last bit, just over a mile back to the shore on the other side of the lookout. 
This was a super fun first time experience for me! The ocean was really calm and I didn't get too wet aside from my husband occasionally splashing me with his paddle wtf. 

We had a short walk back to the bikes and then we were on our way back to the clubhouse in no time!

One last stop at the now familiar Hinanosato roadside station and my hsuabdn got a mango soft cream. There was a sudden downpour during this break but it was short and we were able to continue soon enough.

Back at Heguri Hub - Bike x Kayak complete and a success!
Thank you to the Minamiboso tourism team for another great event.

What we ate
When we weren't away from home, we tried to visit all of our local favorites even if some of them were chain restaurants lol. Of course, we also had to eat in a number of times to get rid of what remainder of things we had in our fridge and freezer too!
Rossa (Takasaki)

PUJJAB (Fujioka)


Mama Bhanja

wanko soba challenge at Wanko Soba Tachibana

Napoli Pizza Tasuku

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream

wasabi soft cream from Daio Wasabi Farm

Chateraise Hotel Nobeyama welcome cake

Ikea food court

グリルとぽ Steak Ken

Kappa Sushi

Mendokoro Shinya

Dominos Pizza

bento and mango soft cream from our Minamiboso Bike x Kayak day 


Ramen Hasegawa らぁ麺はせ川 (they close this month!)

Yakiniku King



Gorkha Palace



Udonkoubou (new location I went to without realizing lol)

Shabu-shabu Ushita




Gyukatsu Motomura

Million Dollar ice cream

Wood Island Curry

This one was from June 1 but was the last major meal. Thank you, Itari-an!

Personal life/miscellaneous
With the moving and packing, remaining plans we wanted to get done and family visitors this month, it's been it. Figuring out what clothing and stuff I wanted to have on me (fly with) for the next 4-6 weeks seemed like the most daunting tasks and I'm still not sure I did it right, but it's too late now!

Outfits for this month are posted here. Sadly, it's a bit lackluster this month, but it's better than nothing!

Some last shots of the house before we started packing up. It wasn't as put together as I would have preferred for photos, but I decided it wasn't worth the bandwidth to move things around just to move it back, so this was what it was (which wasn't exactly how we were mostly living in it).
Upstairs/bedrooms -
Downstairs kitchen, living space -
Now all of our stuff is packed up and hopefully on its way across the ocean on a boat. We'll ideally have it in July when we want it, but could be a little later. We were so comfortable in this house and had a lot of fun buying furniture and making it into our own space. My husband made a good choice with this rental. 

Thankful for our friends during our time in Japan. We were able to do a few gatherings before we left, and they were obviously included in the activities as well. 
Our official leaving date is June 2, but this will be the last monthly Japan update! Thanks for coming on this journey with me. 
As mentioned, a full recap of my time living in Japan will be coming when I have time to do it justice and will probably be a few different parts. Let me know if you want me to highlight anything in particular!