July 8, 2021
2021-06-21 Hoshino Risonare Yatsugatake
We've been in the pandemic, working from home, since February 2020. We went once to a cabin in 2020 September, out in Nasu, which was nice. We haven't had a chance to get vaccinated yet, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics held in 2021 during a pandemic when Japan has about 12.5% of the population vaccinated, which isn't going to be good for anyone. We decided a few months back to take a vacation, and Lisa reserved 3 nights and 4 days at Hoshino Risonare Yatsugatake Resort in Yamanashi.
It's about a two or three hour drive from Tokyo - we hit bad traffic on the highway around Shinjuku which added another 45 minutes - and since we have a car, it was nice to finally get out and use it. During the pandemic we've only been going to Costco once or twice a month. Granted, even when there isn't a pandemic we usually only drive once or twice a month to Costco, so there's no change there. We got into the car around 10am, and headed out to Seisen-Ryo, a facility that has been operating since 1938 as a Christian camp founded by Dr. Paul Rusch. They have restaurant, some hotel rooms to stay in, some kind of farm stuff - along with the fresh ice cream that most farms in Japan that have cows seem to have - and is generally a nice place situated up in the mountains. We stopped there for lunch, which was quite nice. I got a Pork Katsu Curry, which was very good. They have a lot of fresh vegetables and the like that Lisa really liked. We had a nice lunch, then drove a few minutes to a local brewery which really, really, likes John Deere tractors. We got some beer and picked up some fresh peaches, and drove out to the hotel (resort I guess.) The Rock Restaurant added a brewery in 1997 to the restaurant (which has been around at least 50 years) and they make good beer there - at least they've won some awards. They also had some influence from Paul Rusch, an Anglican missionary. The interior had a lot of Beatles stuff too, looks like a fun place. I'm always surprised when I see the Western / American cowboy kind of influence in Japan - it pops up a lot more than I would expect in the countryside.
After our shopping stop, we headed to the hotel, which was about 20 minutes back. On the way to lunch and back we passed a Solar energy production farm, which is interesting. They panels were fixed, which seems strange to me since I thought you would have to angle them throughout the day. Maybe I missed the mechanism that would rotate them though. The resort looks really nice - it is a large complex and has a lot of activities. We plan forest adventure walks for Alan and Momo at the activity center the first evening. The walk to our room is really nice - each of the rooms is in a small bungalo with a room on each floor. We're on the first floor which is great because we don't have to take stairs. The setup is realy nice - a big living room with dining table, beanbags, and a sleeping area with a loft that could sleep up to six people if you used all the space for mattresses. There is also a separate shower and bath, which is nice. We reserved a nice dinner on the last night we're here, which I'm looking forward to, and otherwise there are three or four little restaurants. We had dinner at the Soba place the first night, along with a bottle of wine that we bought at the wine shop. There are actually three different wine shops, since this is in a wine producing region of Japan.
We had breakfast at the buffet - which was super strange since I've thought that buffets are like the worst things you can do during Covid. The buffet is a good one, and since we are here on a weekday (Monday through Thursday) there aren't too many people anyway.
In the morning, Lisa and Momo went for a forest walk, and Alan and I joined the "Forest Sky Walk" - a kind of adventure thing where you climb around in the trees and do Zip lines on a harness system. Alan is a lot like me when I was a kid, and nervous about physical challenges, so when we signed up for the adventure course, I was a bit worried he would change his mind. We signed up for level 3 out of 4 levels - he was too short for the final level. When we got to the course, he wanted to cancel, but he was a good sport and we climbed up to the first activity in Level 3 - a suspension bridge between trees. You are on a pulley and harness system the whole way, so you aren't in any real danger, but as soon as we got up there and he hit the first segment, he wanted to cancel. We talked him through it a bit though, and he was able to make it to the next tree! There were four activities in the 3rd level: a swing bridge, then bridge with foot hoops, then a tarzan swing into a net, and finally a zip-line. They were all pretty tough, and as I expected the Tarzan swing was the hardest - he did the swing ok, but then when he got onto the net wasn't able to climb to the platform. So we pulled him back twice and one of the staff helped him onto the platform from the other side. He also did the zip-line! When we finished with the level 3 course, he was done, but the staff asked if he would try level 1, which is "very easy" compared to level 3. With a bit of convincing from the staff he did that too, which was a lot easier. It had I think some kind of slat bridge, then a log bridge, then a net climb, another kind of net bridge, and a zipline. The zip lines were really fun. After all of that my hands were pretty sore, and he said he would never do it again, but he did have some fun and made some good memories. I'm proud of him - he did a great job, and pushed on even when he didn't want to do it.
For lunch we stopped at the coffee shop and split their two person sandwich plate - Alan and I split a sandwich and Momo and Lisa split one. They have a nice little outdoor area with fake grass, and interestingly three "working pods" that are re-purposed cable cars. You can rent them (for free) by inquiring at the hotel front desk and getting the key. I thought about doing that, but while I'm here I'm only doing some minimal email checks, and not doing any work if I can avoid it. I wouldn't check email either, but past experience has shown that spending an hour a day on email while on time off saves a whole bunch of time when I return to work later.
In the afternoon we went to Oomurasaki Center Park, a large park that also has a butterfly/insect museum. We had a nice time walking around (or, in Momo's case, being carried by daddy) and seeing the exhibits. Alan and Momo weren't too interested in the "touch the beetles!" section of the museum, but Lisa really enjoyed it. We probably would have walked around the very large park more, except Alan (like his father before him) isn't really a big fan of the outdoors. Also, someone was tired of carrying Momo around all day, so we just took a short little walk before heading back to the hotel.
We came back and relaxed a bit at our hotel room for a while. The hotel has two large baths, one for women and one for men, as well as a shared outdoor bath that you need a swimsuit to enter. These are separate from the pool facilities - which we plan to visit tomorrow. Alan and I went to the men's bath, and Lisa and Momo went to the women's bath. Notably, these are not Onsen - the strictly classified natural hot springs. Those have to be certified as having water from volcanic heated underground sources and some composition of minerals (I'm not too clear on it.) These are just baths. It was really nice - Alan and I relaxed for a while in the bath, and did check out the outdoor bath as well, but it wasn't as big as I expected.
After everyone met up back at the hotel room, we had dinner in the room from one of the nearby restaurants. We also finished off the beer that we bought the previous day from local brewery. It was a full day, so we all turned in a bit early.
This is our last night here, and we have dinner planned at a fancy restaurant associated with the hotel. We hope that Momo will enjoy it, but that isn't until the evening. We went out for breakfast at the buffet, and relaxed a bit more at the hotel - Alan had a Zoom meeting with his friend he made at International school who moved to Vietnam a few days ago.
After we returned from breakfast we took a short break, and then headed to the pool at about 10am. The pool complex is very nice - a large indoor wave pool, and there is an area for kids that has small water slides, a bunch of fountains and water spouts, a pool with a lot of balls for kids to throw at a stepped waterfall, a hot tub / jaccuzzi that continues outside, a bunch of rental equipment, a restaurant, lots of bridges going around the place, and maybe some other stuff. Alan hasn't yet learned to swim well - I need to work on that - so he took a life vest. We spent over three hours at the pool area - the kids really liked the wave pool when that ran for ten minutes at the top of the hour every hour. I was in the pool long enough that I really started to dehydrate, so I sat down for a bit and drank a lot of water.
After our long pool session we walked back to our room and ordered a hamburger lunch to take back to the room. Since we have a nice dinner planned, Lisa and I split a burger, and the kids had a bunch of fries and a cheeseburger. Momo went down for a nap super quick, and we all took a bit of a break. At about 4pm, we headed out for a 10 minute walk to a nearby ranch where they have horses you can (pay to) ride. Once we got there though, it started to rain, so we turned around and came back. We didn't have time to ride anyway, since dinner is at 5:30. Momo and Alan did enjoy watching the horses walk around, and we got some exercise, so that was nice.
We had a very nice multiple course meal Itaian at the hotel restaurant, Otto Sette. Lisa and I had a set of three glasses of wine (sparkling, white, and red). There was a choice of 3 different wines for the white selection, and I of course chose the one called "Funky Chateau". I don't remember what the other two were. All of the wine was local to the area. The meal was great, but very long - I'm really proud of both kids. Alan looked the best dressed in his suit that we got him for his kindergarten graduation (it still fits but this is likely the last time he can use it). For a three hour meal, he was great, he had a five course kids meal and enjoyed it. He spent most of the time reading books on his kindle, which is fine. Momo did great, and ate a lot of pasta, but halfway through we gave her my iphone and she watched a few episodes of "Hey, Gaba Gaba!". A very nice family meal, and we got a few pictures to commemorate it. During the early part of the meal one of the kids from the table over banged into the partitions between tables, and Lisa, who at the time just happened to look over to check on Alan, saw it an caught it before it came crashing down onto her head. The staff was very apologetic, but since we have kids too, it just really isn't a big deal. There were lots of families with kids there - we started dinner at 5:30pm for just that reason - and it seems like lots of other families had the same idea. The dessert course was nice, and at the end we had a small plate of cake type bites celebrating a late anniversary. I think Momo ate 70% of them, but we all had a great time.
In the morning we went to get breakfast pretty late for us - we actually slept in until about 7:30 (the time we wake up is entirely dictated by when Momo wakes us). We normally got breakfast between 6am - 7am, but when we got there at 8am, the place was busy. We had to take a number on their fancy computer system, and had about an hour to wait. We headed back to the room, but as luck would have it there was a group headed out for a forest walk aimed at kids 2-5 years old, so we joined that. It took about an hour, and just when it finished up we headed to the restaurant. Alan didn't want to do the tour, and Lisa wanted to check out, so Lisa did that, I gave Alan the hotel room key, and he went back to the room. When we went to get breakfast, Lisa went to get Alan, and found out that he wasn't able to open the hotel room door - the lock is a bit tough since you need to turn the key and pull, and he didn't quite master that. He waited outside on the steps for maybe 50 minutes on his own before Lisa came and got him. He showed good initiative by not wandering off, and did a great job on his own for that whole time! (It was a bit tough for him, but he had books to read, and it worked out ok.)
After breakfast we went back to the room and packed. We'll pack up the car, and do one more activity before heading to Restaurant Rock for lunch and to fill our growler with local beer before heading back to Tokyo.
We asked Alan what he wanted to do out of the three possibilities we thought made sense: 1) go to a sightseeing spot with a view of Mt. Fuji, 2) go swimming, 3) go ride horses. Alan had read about the options, and was really excited about going to the sightseeing spot because you drive up a mountain on a golf cart, and he wanted to drive the golf cart. Sounds good. We packed up the car, checked out, and drove over to the sightseeing spot. Unfortunately, Thursday happened to be the day that they were closed! So as a back-up, we went to a ranch that we had passed on the way, and asked if they were available for horse riding.
They had the horses free, and recommended Alan and I do a horse ride with some riding lessons before hand, and Lisa and Momo could ride a horse together with someone leading them. Alan has ridden a horse at least once before - back at a ranch in Texas - so the short lesson they had was pretty easy. We all went out together for about a half hour ride through the mountain forest - it was really nice! It had rained a bit earlier in the morning, and was quite cool out for June. The horses we were on were all a bit hungry and tried chomping at the vegetation as we went, and the path went up and down and through some mud so it was pretty interesting. After we got back the kids gave the horses a little treat, and Momo bought a little horse figurine of the horse she was on (Wendy). That quickly became a favorite on the ride home, and I'm sure I'm going to spend a lot of time over the next few weeks hunting that horse down for her.
The drive back home was uneventful, closing out our June domesitc vacation. Lots of fun!
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