Sunday, August 24, 2008


We just spent the last three days and two nights camping up in the mountains by a river. The first night we were one of only two families in the entire place and it was heaven.

There were several handfuls of cicada to keep the trees buzzing during the day, but as soon as the sun set out came the bell crickets. Gorgeous. If I didn't have a rock under my ass I'd have slept like a princess.

J took his most favorite of all best friends Y. Y moved away four years ago, but the two still keep in touch (mostly by letters that consist of cutting out strange pictures from magazines, gluing them to paper and adorning them with funny captions). At 13-years of age they were real troopers. After we got the tents set up they scampered around plucking enormous stag beetles from the trees and carrying them deeper into the forest to protect them from the nets and curious hands of the younger campers across the way. They shooed away snakes and used the bathroom without so much as a nod at the spiders, moths, and other creepy crawlies that lived alongside the lights.

And then came the inchworm.

"Fear ME!"

Day two's morning was spent hiking over a suspension bridge and carefully carrying fallen chestnuts back to camp ("I'll roast or boil or fry them. With this much protection they gotta taste good."). We enjoyed a lunch of stir fried vegetables and thinly sliced pork before we headed out to the river where we spent three hours throwing rocks, swimming, sunning, reading.

Tired and warm we reached camp and had an hour or two before dinner preparations so the kids decided to retire to their tent and laze around for a bit. I could hear them catching up on a year's worth of gossip while I dug into my new Tobias Wolff book.

Then it happened.

I heard a gasp, a squeal, another squeal followed by screams of terror and almost immediately the sound of two tough teens shrieking like little girls as they tried their damnedest to unzip and flee a tent as quickly as possible.

"You didn't see it?" Y is panting, jumping up and down, and running his hands frantically up and down his body.

"No, how big was it?" J says mimicking the universal bug-removal dance.

"It was on your hand. How could you not see it?" Y removes his shirt starts shaking it.

"Was it huge? What color was it?" J is examining his hand for signs of damage, feeling his pockets just in case it decided to slip in there.

"HUGE! With red and white and bluish-green stripes!"

"What was it?" I get up from my chair to see if they are okay, but I don't get too know, just in case whatever it was could leap great distances and squirt poison from its fangs.

"An inchworm!"

I laughed. They were not amused.

The next hour was spent removing everything from the tent piece by piece and performing a thorough Inchworm Check.


They weren't satisfied, so I volunteered to go in and look around. Nothing. They sat and went over the story again and again. I couldn't help but notice the bug kept getting bigger and bigger with added colors with each retelling. Another search was performed and then it was deemed too dark to be pulling sleeping bags out and shaking them....lest the intruder's family gain entry.

For the rest of the evening the two sat making sudden wiping motions when a leaf blew across a forearm or a long piece of grass grazed a shin. Occasionally, one would stand and ask, Is it on my back?

I kept asking why an inchworm was scary when bigger, more evil looking insects were okay. The answer was proximity and awareness. As long as you know where a bug is everything is peachy keen but have one of those things take a stroll down your forearm without your consent...

I had to agree.

Eventually they recovered though and we had a lovely dinner of burgers, hot dogs and roasted potatoes (those chestnuts never did get cooked or eaten).

The second night we had something much worse than inchworms...a man who spent half the night lecturing his son and the other half, snoring, talking in his sleep and farting. All of which echoed so nicely off the mountains.

Oh, and I found this in the riverbed: a rock shaped like a peace symbol. Like a sign from the universe why can't we just all get along? Cool.


Pat said...

Great story and pics, Kappa!

What do you suppose J's and Y's friends would say if they knew of the inchworm episode? Heh heh...

Kappa no He said...

Yep, I have ammunition! What is funny is that Yoshi used to want to research and study insects when he grew up. The things that boy used to touch! He was fearless. NOT seems.

Ello said...

Cool rock! Did you keep it?

And not so cool dad. You should have found all the inchworms and placed them all over his body as he snored.

Kappa no He said...

You know what...I did not even THINK about keeping that rock. And I COLLECT rocks!!

Ha ha, yea. Actually, I don't know who that snoring dad was...but an inchworm attack would have been nice. I kept feeling for his wife and child who slept in a tiny tent with him. Eyu.

Pat said...

BTW, Kappa - I mentioned your blog to our hiking buddy Hisako. At first I must have mispronounced it. When I spelled it for her, she smirked! We both had a laugh. Unfortunately, I don't think she's much of a blogger.

laughingwolf said...

good stuff kap...

hope you don't try to eat HORSE chestnuts!

as for inchworm panic: too funny!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I had a blast but then felt like I would melt when I last went to the mountains to gather chestnuts... It was soooo bloody hot.

I have never really been camping ever, once when I was a young child but that was at the beach-- I bet that does not exactly count as camping though,,eh? Looks like you had a blast = )

Kappa no He said...

Pat, ha ha. Do apologize to Hisako-san for me. I so love my Japanese mythical creatures and how they tend to take on such human traits, especially the rude ones.

Laughing Wolf, they were the outrageously prickly kind, near impossible to touch. Luckily we had just borrowed a fry pan from the lady at the front desk and were able to scoop them up with that. Owch!

Girl Japan, hi! My parents were anti-campers so I never went as a child either. This is something we started after my son was born. I would LOVE to camp on a beach though! Great idea!

Gina said...

Your camping trip sounds like so much fun!!!! I grew up camping with my parents as a child. And aunts, uncles and cousins. We'd do like 2 big camping trips every year. We'd have our tent for our family. And our extended family would be in about 3 or 4 tents near ours. Jiffy pop and roasting marshallows every night. Good times. : )

However, I have never been camping in Japan! I have no idea why. I sure would love to go. : (

Can't believe that man lectured his son. Poor son. : (

And what a nice mom and family you are for bringing J's best friend! That's cool!

And that inchworm story made me laugh! : )

Anonymous said...

Sorry to Hijack your post.. G-Girl what is Jiffy Pop?

" I just dunno" = )

Gina said...

Gomen nasai Kappa. : )

Girl Japan, it's popcorn basically but it is in it's own metal pan to pop it in. And it gets bigger and rounder and grows into this big tin round circle ball looking thing. Inside is nicely cooked popcorn. And the pan you throw away since it's disposable. It's just a couple dollars and a staple for many Americans who go camping. : ) Hope this helps. : )

Kappa no He said...

I miss jiffy pop. It was magical to watch that cook.

Gina, I only camped in Girl Scouts in the states. Major trauma there. But Japan has such lovely *clean* toilets. It's like outdoors but not really roughing it.

Girl Japan, I'm fixin' to go back to your blog it is so neat!

Mary Witzl said...

Even though an inchworm seems a funny thing to get all excited and squeamish over when you can pick up bigger beasties like kabutomushi, I understand that logic doesn't enter into the equation. I'm fine with all kinds of bugs and spiders until a cockroach comes sashaying along.

Anonymous said...

Oh... derr... Goodness- I had to look it up on wikipedia- and found it started in the US in 1959- I wonder if that's when or where it was born as well?

I remember mum and pop doing this or it could be so rerun in my mind?

Kappa no He said...

Mary, don't get me started on cockroaches. I have a cockroach post I've been working on for a few weeks. Those things are darn right evil.

Girl Japan, I feel so...old.

Kappa no He said...
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womaninawindow said...

Oh, sweet rock, sweet boys, sweet inch worm. Really. Did you know you can sautee them with a little butter and sugar. Uuuummmmm. sweet! (just kidding - DON'T!)

Lovely how the boys have kept in touch. I can only imagine what they're magazine picture cut-outs will be of over the next two months. National Geographic!

Kappa no He said...

There were certainly enough of them that day to sautee. They just kept dropping from the trees! Don't worry...I won't.

Actually, I snuck a peak at the last one and there was a picture of the Japanese prime minister with a "One Time Sale" and "70% Off" sign taped to his chest.

Anonymous said...

I camped quite a bit when I was in Japan. I usually went to an isolated beach or into the pine plantations in the mountains. Usually, there's lots of partying at the beaches, and most everyone wants to share their catches and shochu with the gaijin. The beaches could get too crowded sometimes, but nobody ever bothered me in the pine plantations. Just drive up a logging road until you find a clearing the treefellers use once every five years. There's usually a flat work area to pitch the tent on, and you don't have to pay $50 to camp next to loudmouths or party teens. Just be careful that you don't camp near a matsutake rick of pine logs, which are frequently found at the same places. I had a farmer chase me out of a site late one night because he thought I might steal his mushrooms. Those clearings often open up great views across valleys. A lot of the smaller towns still have sentos, which is really convenient. At one place, a buddy and I camped in a temple's bamboo forest and then hit a great rotemburo the next day on the advice of the cool priest who let us camp there.
There's a great (and cheap!) camping equipment shop in Iwata, that's got everything anyone could need. Enjoy!

Kappa no He said...

Camping near a temple would be awesome. And the beach is intriguing as well.

Hilary said...

I loved this post, Terrie. Your son and his friend are hilarious.. the snoring camper - not so much. That suspension bridge looks like white-knuckled fun and that peace symbol rock is a wonderful find. I think it's just as well that you left it behind for others to discover. You can take me camping with you anytime! Maybe I'll even bring Benny. ;)

Frank Baron said...

Sounds like a wonderful time but weren't you a little harsh on your husband?

A stuffy nose and some minor intestinal issues can happen to anybody.


Kappa no He said...

Hilary, thank you. You are soo invited. And The Ben Master, too.

Frank, no, no, not hubby. He was actually the one who did the best inchworm search. The reason the guy pissed me off so much is because it was a huuuuge campground and there was practically no one else there but he set up tent right next to us. Did I mention his bad oldies Japanese pops playing until after ten pm?

rebecca said...

thanks for reminding me again why i don't camp. bugs! yuk!

oh, and that rock....tres cool.

Kappa no He said...

Boy, have I got some bug stories for you!