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Sunday, April 8, 2001

Swap the city for quasi-nature


By MASARU FUJIMOTO
Staff writer

Going camping can be a thrilling prospect for city dwellers with little exposure to nature in their everyday lives. The peace and quiet, the clean air, the open sky, forests, mountains and rivers . . . these things can outweigh some of the hardships of camping, some of the things that people might forget when they dream of escaping the city.

Putting up a tarp can be a hassle and pitching a large tent a tangled affair even with today's user-friendly designs. Cooking outdoors can be tricky -- if you can produce unburned food without burning your arm hair you must be some kind of miracle-worker. And bugs on your plate are practically guaranteed.

Still, these are small sacrifices to make for the experience of sharing dinner with family and friends around a bonfire surrounded by nature. You know, after all, that you go camping to seek inconvenience in exchange for fresh air.

Some campsites cater to those who want to keep things as easy as possible, offering power outlets, outdoor lighting and even Jacuzzis -- although all for a price. While these auto campsites may not appeal to true nature lovers, novices may find that a weekend in quasi-nature can be fun. When you return home you'll appreciate the convenience of urban life all the more, and think twice about the environment.

Here are some recommended sites for "soft-core" campers:

Saiko Lakeside Camp-mura in Ashiwada, Yamanashi Prefecture, (0555) 82-2323: This is a large-scale but quiet campground by Lake Saiko, one of Mount Fuji's Five Lakes. There are tennis courts, bicycles and canoes available for rent. Admission is 500 yen per person. Capacity is 100 tents and 22 mobile homes. A plot for one tent starts from 2,000 yen. Parking is 2,000 yen. Open year-round.

Seiwa Kenmin no Mori Camp-jo in Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture, (0439) 38-2222: This campsite is located amid 3,200 hectares of forestland in the center of the Boso Peninsula, which is bordered by the Takago, Kano and Otsuka mountains. There are 20 tent plots and 35 cabins. The charge per tent is 610 yen. Reservations are required. No pets allowed. Open year-round.

Aokiso Tent-mura in Omachi, Nagano Prefecture, (0261) 23-1280: This site has a spectacular view of Lake Aoki. Available for a reasonable price are hot showers and power outlets. Windsurfing and canoe classes are also offered. Capacity is 80 tents. Admission is 800 yen for adults and 600 yen for children. Tent plot and parking fees are 1,000 yen and 300 yen, respectively. Open April 20-Nov. 30. No reservations required.

Shobugahama Camp-jo in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, (0288) 55-0158: This serene campsite is situated along Lake Chuzenji and is close to the Senjogahara hiking course. There is space for 50 tents and 54 cabins. Cars must park in a designated lot. Charge per camper is 1,100 yen and 800 yen for children. Cabin rentals start from 5,000 yen. Open May 1 to the last Saturday of October. No reservations accepted. No pets allowed.

Togakushi Son'ei Camp-jo in Togakushi, Nagano Prefecture, (026) 254-3581: This municipal campsite is located inside a national park at an altitude of 1,300 meters, about 20 km from Nagano. There's space for 250 mobile campers and 160 tents. Admission is 100 yen. A regular tent plot is 1,000 yen, and 3,000 yen is charged per mobile camper. Open early May-late October.

Jonanjima Kaihin Koen Camp-join Ota Ward, Tokyo, (03) 3799-6402: This is the ultimate campsite for laid-back city dwellers. Located in Kaihin Park in the Tokyo waterfront area, campers can watch as planes from Haneda airport fly overhead. Tents are provided free of charge. There is space for 20 tents. Admission is 200 yen for adults and 100 yen for children. Reservations are accepted up to three months in advance.



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