Japan in a Van: Road to Chichibu

Day 7

Today would be our last full day with the van so we had to start heading back towards Tokyo. We woke to a cold ‘pea souper’ which for the non-Brits is a thick fog. A couple of coffees later and it had started to clear so we set off ignoring Google Maps to cross the mountains heading southeast.

Google Maps usually decides to do its own thing, taking us through a housing estate or industrial park or over a mountain or down an alley not suited to a motorhome to cut a corner and shave off 6 minutes, burning twice as much fuel, rather than using the perfectly flat road we were already on. We decided to manually navigate using the maps rather than trusting what they suggested.

It also wanted to force us back onto the toll roads at every opportunity so we ignored it and took the back roads which offered fantastic views of Japanese villages and an explosion of colour from the autumn foliage.

We stopped at a sky bridge attraction on the way which was out of the way and only had a couple of visitors. It was then back on to some seriously twisty single-lane mountain roads that tested the RV and my driving abilities.

We’d hoped to arrive at our road station destination in time for the restaurant to be open but were disappointed yet again. Japanese opening times are bizarre, eateries will open for a couple of hours in the morning, then for a bit in the afternoon or evening … maybe. More often than not, places were closed but were out in the boonies with very few tourists or people about.

After almost a week in the van and four days without a shower, an Onsen (hot spring) was more than welcome at this road station. However, it was also closed but fortunately, there was another one attached to a hotel just up the road.

Japanese Onsens offer full bathing and pampering facilities in addition to a hot spring pool. Men and women are separated and you have to enter naked. The shower facilities at this particular Onsen were superb with many different shampoos, gels, balms, and lotions to apply before and after bathing in the hot spring. I could have stayed in there for much longer and felt totally relaxed after the challenging drive.

By 8pm the road station was a ghost town making for a quiet time to relax, drink some ridiculously cheap Argentinian wine, and write this trip report entry.

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