I turned 34 (in age, not mind) this year at an eco-lodge we’ve visited previously in Saitama. It’s up in the mountains and surrounded by bamboo. We’ve visited a few times because it’s peaceful, surrounded by nature, and, importantly, cheap!
This year was a difficult birthday, the first to pass without hearing from my Dad. As always, I lit a candle for mother Jean and this year, for Dad, too.
Dan and I decided to celebrate the day with a hike up and over one of the mountains we often walk here – it has a decent trail with some rocks to scramble but it’s mostly solid underfoot through a very old and very large forest. We cheered my birthday on top of the mountain with mini champagne and the infamous Mikans (Japanese tangerines that are sweet and delicious and in season during the autumn).
Once we arrived at the other side of the mountain something of a mirage was revealed, a coffee shop that was actually open. We sat down in the garden and enjoyed tea which came with…free cake!! They didn’t know it was my birthday but perhaps sensed my need for some fresh banana cake. And it was delicious.
The local town (two short trains away) has a great brewery. While we were not able or willing to sit inside the small space, a short walk away is a lovely riverside. We drank our take out beers with the river and mountains beyond as a backdrop and watched the sunset. It was a glorious way to spend a very warm November afternoon!
To wrap up the weekend we hiked another mountain which has Japan’s largest roller slide on top! Though, due to my poor navigation skills, we initially hiked the mountain next to roller slide mountain…making the short trip up last a few hours. The views were wonderful and the slide was surprisingly fun, if a little rough on the derrière. Though, I somehow managed to slide incorrectly and ripped the handle off my cardboard sledge (designed to protect the derrière from the heat of the rollers), which made for a somewhat hairy second ride (think legs in the air, quickly moving down a slide, with a rising heat…!)
While it wasn’t an easy weekend for me I was grateful to be in the mountains, with Dan, and with the sunshine warming us as we enjoyed the nature around us.