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There are two ways to camp in Japan (and probably most other countries): 1) minimal, i.e., a sleeping bag and a box of matches; and 2) ridiculous, i.e., a half-acre tent with sunporch, enough illumination to light a small city, 4-burner gas stove with utensil rack and preparation table, a complete set of pots, pans (blue enamel only!) and other cookware, lounge chairs, dining table with table cloth and 8-course place settings for 6, portable tv/vcr and radio, battery-powered refrigerator, and, of course, a kitchen sink. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not! That's why most campers drive big 4WD trucks and vans...they need 'em to haul all that junk!


 I wish I had a better photo to show you, but check out all the vans and 4WD's in the parking lot!

I thought I had seen it all. But this thing had me floored. A battery-powered air blower to start barbecue fires!

We use an uchiwa, a non-folding Japanese fan with a short handle. They are passed out by the millions during the summer as promotional items for events, sales, etc., and we have stockpiled quite a few over the years just for island barbecues and camping. They are free, disposable, light and compact, and the kids love to fan the fire wth them. As an added bonus, they can also be used for their original purpose: to keep you cool on hot summer days! Try that with this guy's overgrown hair dryer.

The Kariya/Porritt clan belongs to the minimal school of camping. Until this year, our kit consisted of two small tents, 4 sleeping bags, an ice-powered cooler, a wood-powered grill, and a box of matches. The one luxury that Steve refused to do without was his morning cup, so a one-cup campfire espresso maker is now part of the kit.

A couple of years ago, Steve added a beach umbrella to protect his white haole skin. This year we added a folding picnic table (mainly for the kid's undokai days, which involves picnics on hot and very dusty school yards). Still, we're pretty basic compared to the rest of our Doro camp neighbors.

This camping spot is several hundred yards upstream and around the corner from the offical campground, and much closer to the river. It is just a few dozen meters from the beginning of the Doro gorge. We've set up camp here twice and only once had neighbors -- about 100 meters away. At night, not a light can be seen other than our own campfire, and not a sound can be heard other than our own kids racing around in the dark.

One time, we arrived after dark, so we set up camp on this grassy knoll in the official campground. We woke up to a spendid view of the river, then moved upstream to our usual spot.

It is not always a good idea to camp on a river bank. This year, the night before we arrived, it POURED -- harder than I had ever seen that wasn't in a typhoon. On our way to Doro we passed this river, where several times in the past, I had seen campers on the banks. This time, I couldn't even see the banks. (That's a dam underneath all that white water.)

So this year, we camped in the official Doro campground, well above the river. Even though there was no dam on the Doro river and the rains had stopped, why take a chance?

That same night up in Kanagawa Prefecture, 11 campers, including several children, drowned when a dam overflowed from heavy rains and washed their river bank camps away. Officials had come by and warned them, but they remained...until Nature made them leave forever.

Okay, so the parents were dumb and deserved their Darwin Award nominations, but couldn't they have been a bit more concerned about the risk to their children?

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