Summer in Japan: Biwako





Camping in Lake Biwa

My last camp with my outdoor circle was during the summer in Biwako, also known as Lake Biwa. That whole week I had a lot of presentations and tests so I was ready to relax a bit and adventure to Biwako. In addition, I had heard a lot from other friends about such place and how fun it was. Since we were only going to stay for one night and it was rather close, I didn’t have to pack as much as for the other camp in Ogijima.

The train ride was only about an hour long and before we knew it we were already in the area. Something peculiar I noticed was the difference of scenery from one side to the other of the train. On the right side all one could see was mountains. However, on the left side one could see the lake and rice fields accordingly.

After we arrived at the station, we walked for about twenty minutes and finally arrived at the campsite. It was right near the lake shore and there were various bungalows surrounded by trees, which was where we stayed. As we finished settling in and taking out all the group equipment and food, some Japanese brought various things to play such as volleyballs and we played for a while.

Afterwards, as some of the group members headed swimming, the lake called my attention as I hadn’t gone swimming in so long and I went to change into my swim wear. The weather was perfectly hot as to enjoy the lake to its fullest potential and everyone was having fun. Some were taking others and jokingly throwing them to the lake so they would get wet. We played some other games in the water and swam to the most inner part we could. After a while, I rested on the shore with other Japanese group members and talked with them about the similarities and differences of summer in Japan from that of Puerto Rico.

Shortly after, the camp leaders told us to gather for a watermelon feast. I had heard but didn’t know anything more other that watermelons were famous in Japan during the summer. Everyone gathered in a circle and in the middle, there was a tarp that had three watermelons in the center and two persons on the sides. They played a game where someone is blindfolded and given a stick, to which he has to break a watermelon, all while being directed by another person. If he strikes one of the two other persons beside the watermelons he loses. Eventually, the two persons on the tarp left and other people were given a chance to break the watermelon while blindfolded. After the three watermelons were broken, they cut them up and we all ate from them. It was quite an interesting experience to witness this as it made me realize that I was essentially experiencing a Japanese summer. How I knew about watermelons in Japan was because I had watched an anime which was centered around summer and the different activities Japanese do in such time. This time however, I wasn’t watching it, I was living it.

After the watermelon feast, the group decided to go to a nearby shrine which was about a ten-minute walk. This shrine was indeed stunning since, just like Utsukushima in Hiroshima, there was a floating Torii gate on the lake. This was truly impressive as the gate took the spotlight immediately on the lake and in the horizon, you could see the outline of what appeared to be other small islands on the other side of the lake.

As dinner time came by, we gathered different tables outlooking the lake. It was then that we prepared for the BBQ. As tradition for the circle, before officially starting dinner, everyone took a drink and we all cheered on it for a job well done in the activities. We spent the remainder of the night talking with each other as I practiced my Japanese and answered questions about Puerto Rico and such. In addition, they also brought various fireworks and we lit them up near the shore.

Later at night some of the guys went into the lake again and were playing around. This time however, even the circle leader joined in. At one point, they raised me up and threw me to the lake. Before I knew it, I was wet all over again.  It was indeed a fun time to say the least and I was able to socialize with the other Japanese rather well.

Lastly, I decided to wake up at dawn to see the sunrise from the Floating Torii gate, which they had told me was quite impressive.  They were not lying indeed as the view was superb. I just sat down in some stairs nearby and contemplated in awe the marvelous scenery. Such imagery of the gate in the middle of the lake, surrounded by nothing, makes it known that there is no other like Japan. Japan is truly unique in its different aspects such as this and made me ponder on other simple things that make the country exceptional.