Shimukappu..what an unusual name for a town.
They say it means "quiet and peaceful place upstream" in the Ainu language.
As we near Niniu where the campgrounds are, sharp rugged cliffs,
unusual for Hokkaido, and canyons appear.
The Akaiwa Seigankyo canyon is one of the many rock climbing spots in Japan,
and upon learning that there was a "Rock and Moss Forest Tour,"we signed up right away.
The tour began with the guide announcing that the area used to be the bottom of the ocean.
Akaiwa rock, over 1 meter tall, is an accumulation of plankton which hardened over a period of 2 million years.
If that is the case, then how many years have these other rocks, that are much larger, seen?
We were awestruck by the works of nature that have remained for centuries.
The next thing we decided to experience was the harvesting of Sakhalin firs,
which are used to make aroma oils and aroma water.
Though we were a bit worried about putting a saw into the hands of our children for the first time,
they seemed excited and curious.
Within five minutes, they were sawing away with a look of concentration on their faces.
It is said that proper elimination of trees can actually help the forest to grow.
"You have to fill up this container with wood, so you better keep going!!
Says the older sister. Looks like she was paying attention to the guide's instructions.
One of reasons for choosing Niniu Campgrounds,
was the surrounding environment, and the accessibility to Akaiwa Seigankyo Canyon,
and the many activities the area had to offer.
As soon as we arrived at the campgrounds,
we set up the equipment for extracting aroma oils from the fir wood we had just collected.
It took about 150 minutes,
and from all that wood we extracted a mere 400 milliliters of aroma water and 10 milliliters of oil.
My wife exclaimed, "Now I understand why essential oils are so expensive!"
The kids were ecstatic about the oil drum bath.
I dropped a few drops of the aroma water into the bath.
"It smells like the forest!" exclaimed my daughter.
Perhaps being outdoors sharpens the sense of smell, for I was repeatedly amazed at the reactions of my children.
After the bath, we enjoyed barbecuing, and lighting the firewood to make candles.
The entire area is pitch black, so the moon is huge, and the stars can be seen clearly.
For BGM, we have the frog choir. Snuggling all together in the tent brought the family closer together.
Early in the morning,
we filed out of the tent and headed for the Cloudsea Terrace at Hoshino Resort Tomamu.
A cloudsea can only be seen in the morning or evening when temperature, humidity,
wind direction, and other weather conditions all align.
The odds of a cloudsea forming between May and October are between 30 to 40%.
During the winter, the gondola carries skiers up to the summit at an elevation of 1088 meters.
As the sky began to get lighter, what appeared to be a sea of clouds began to show its face.
An announcement rings out, "Today we have complete cloudsea." "Yeah!!" shout the kids as we all give each other a high five.
While gazing upon this fantastic phenomenon of nature, I was overcome with awe at how mysterious and amazing the earth is.
The gondola gently carried the children's smiling faces slowly down to beneath the clouds.
We had breakfast at the Kumonoshita Cafe inside the station at the foot of the mountain.
There was thick sliced bacon, grilled sausage, and all sorts of vegetables grilled, boiled fresh and colorful for us to feast on.
Everything was so delicious.
The kids must have felt the same, for they ate and ate and ate, when usually they have small appetites.
It was as though they were trying to soak up as much of earth's energy as possible.
My wife happily smiled and said, "They are growing."
Niniu Campground, Akaiwa Seigankyo(Akaiwa Canyon), Hoshino Resort Tomamu