Tuesday 14th September 2010
A Tokyo Snow Club weekend trip up to Minakami, Gunma for the Summer Splash Mountain Music Festival and outdoor adventure activities.
With an 8am start on a Saturday morning it was surprising that almost everyone made it to Shinjuku to get on the bus on time. There were only three who didnt manage to get up in time but luckily they were able to nab a bullet train ticket and meet us up there later in the day.
The bus arrived at our hotel, Mochiya Ryokan, in Minakami at 11:30am and we were able to check in early and have a few quick games of Ping Pong in the lobby before starting the days activities. On the Saturday afternoon four of us went Mountain Biking with Benny and the crew from MTB Japan and another four left for an afternoon Canyoning tour with the crew from Kappa Club. The rest of us hopped back on the bus and headed down the road to the Bungy Japan bridge jump point to watch Emi and Nick bravely leap from the 42 metre high bridge, the highest bungy jump in Japan!
After checking out a few of the other jumpers we walked down along the river to an awesome local swimming hole where we chilled out with some bentos and beers, jumped from the ledges on either side and relaxed by and in the river. We headed back to Mochiya Ryokan around 4pm for a couple of hours rest (blame the sun and midday beers!) before getting ready for Summer Splash.
Canyons, the venue for Summer Splash was only a short walk down the road and across the river from our hotel and most members of our group headed over there in dribs and drabs from around 6:30pm. The venue was seat up really well with one semi outdoor stage on the large deck and another DJ/Electronic act stage in the cafe/bar area.
I actually missed the first band due to an extremely violent drinking game involving white rum, Janken and J-Pop singers but managed to arrive in time to catch the Bagpipe splendour of the Alley Band. Consisting of a front-woman absolutely shredding the pipes and a drummer kicking in the danceable beats this unlikely conbo had folks grooving with semi Scottish dance moves.
The Dirty Ts were up next and as expected they rocked out completely. Killer guitar riffs, inspiring overalls, and a sound as tight as any band Ive seen – the Dirty Ts are a rock juggernaught.
MTB Japan roped off the dance floor after the Dirty Ts and busted out with an amazing Mt. Bike performance. Table top jumping and some wicked stunts over the top of an audience member, these guys have got the skills!
Up next were Volgrooma and they didnt disappoint. Ive seen these guys at several of the Snow Splash events over the years and am impressed every time. Volgrooma play an awesome groove/jam vibe and feature a tap dancer who taps on a miked up floor board. Sounds like a gimmick act but Volgrooma are anything but. As usual Volgrooma busted out some extremely soulful grooves to get us dancing and feeling it at the same time. Great stuff!
The night continued with a hilarious horizontal bungy competition filling the dance floor next. The Horizontal Bungy was essentially a tug of war with two competitors tied together with a bungy rope. Two TSC members, Trey and Yan were first up and it was an even and fair battle (probably). Congrats to Yan, who eventually, after much clambering against the tension of the bungy rope, managed to snatch the victory from Trey.
The Shapeshifter Sound System kicked in next with the dancefloor immediately swelling and going mental. Crisp and bouncy drum and bass beats with live vocals and saxophone, they had everyone grooving for the whole set. Can definitely recommend a Shapeshifter set if you are looking for some good exercise!
Feeling the effects of the days sun combined with one too many pineapple juices, I headed back to the Ryokan for the onsen and the awaiting futon. Summer Splash continued on with more bands and DJ acts until 4am. A fair few of our crew were there right until the end and still made it to breakfast at 7am, nice work!
After a delicious traditional Japanese breakfast at our Ryokan it was time to start the days adventures. Fifteen people took off early to hit the waterfalls for some canyoning, others went swimming in the river and, even though it was raining lightly, the rest of us headed up to Mt. Tanigawadake for some hiking. After being warned against hiking from the bottom of the mountain due to the recent sightings of some wild bears, fourteen of us took the gondola ropeway to the base of the Tenjindaira Ski resort.
Although rainy it was still really warm so we decided to see how far up we could get in the four hours or so that we had. The hike started off quite easy with a slow descent and wooden trails and steps on the path. We reached a rest hut after 40min and from there on the hike became gradually more difficult involving some climbing using ropes and chains to ascend. We frustratingly didnt quite make it to the summit however we made it to several rocky out crops that we could climb and experience some amazing , almost 360 degree views of the surrounding mountain ranges. We trekked back down, had lunch at the ski resort base and caught the ropeway back down the mountain around 1:30pm, then back on the bus to meet the rest of the group at the hotel.
With everyone back together on the bus we headed about 15min up into the hills to visit Takaragawa Onsen. More like a small village than an onsen, Takaragawa features several large outdoor, natural hot springs connected by walkways and suspension bridges with a beautiful river flowing between. Unlike a lot of onsens in Japan Takaragawa is mostly a mixed onsen and swimsuits are not allowed in the water. We could however take a towel into the water with us to cover certain areas of our body that we did not wish to be seen, such as elbows and knees.
After a couple of hours at the onsen we boarded the bus again for the trip home, stopping to pick up an amazingly large stash of beers, vodka and whiskey that was somehow forgotten at the hotel. Two rest stops, a couple of traffic jams and one and a half DVDs later we arrived back in Shinjuku, a little tired and a little sunburnt but with new friends and good memories of a fun weekend!
Big thanks to Outdoor Japan and Canyons for a great Summer Splash event and to MTB Japan, Bungy Japan, Canyons and Kappa Club for some wicked adventure tours!
Check out more photos from this trip here.
Tags: canyons-takaragawa, canyonsminakami, dirtysnowtheband, japan-camera-club, japan-ski-predictions, japan-snow-forecast-2011, mochiya-onsen, niseko-snow-prediction-2011, onsen, sitetokyosnowclub-com-tokyo-snow-club, snow-predictions-for-japan, snowboard-blog-japan, summer splash, summerswimmingriver, takaragawa, takaragawa-onsen-bears, takaragawaonsen, tokyo-snow, tokyo-snow-early-december, upcoming-trips-to-toky