Takezawa, Saitama

For my birthday, I turned 25 for the 7th year in a row (I know, it’s a miracle…) Dan and I went to Takezawa in Saitama.

Now, this was a trip I had very little hand in planning (alarm bells). So imagine my delight when we arrive in Takezawa area at the local train station (it was terribly local) and missed the only bus to take us to our accommodation. “Here we go,” I thought…a Dan Hayman organised the trip. One, slightly fraught, taxi ride later, we were dropped off on the wrong side of the tracks, literally and metaphorically, still a ten-minute walk away from our cabin. “Here we continue to go,” I thought again…and may have verbalised…

After some huffing and puffing, we arrived at the right-hand turn that would lead us to our cabin. We started to climb an unreasonably steep hill, in the dark. We passed the final house and the tarred road turned into a grass, possibly, path. “You have got to be JOKING” I thought as Dan boldly continued walking into the pitch dark Japanese jungle with a sense of misplaced hope. I followed, “at least he will get eaten first”…After a few more minutes, we turned a corner and there she was! Our cabin in the woods.

Dan had booked us an eco-cabin, complete with compost toilet, limited electricity, and no wifi (for the woman doing an MA in digital literacy and an IT Technician man…). As we approached, I was charmed, while also being slightly alarmed at how remote it was. Still, it held some fairytale promise. On entering, we met our happy-go-lucky host, who, despite what we had thought, did not live in the cabin. She was jetting back off to Tokyo, leaving us in the woods alone…The fairytale started to morph into the horror movie ‘Cabin in the Woods’. Don’t know it? Everyone dies…

Off into the night, our happy-go-lucky host danced. We were left with a cabin without curtains, in the darkness, without a door key…but at least we could lock from the inside! As morning dawned on day one, my 23rd birthday, the daylight outside revealed we were actually staying in a fairytale, not a horror movie. Outside showed us why there were no curtains; because at each window, there was a bamboo forest complete with…bamboo and then a little more…bamboo. It was beautiful! On my birthday, the heavens opened (as usual for a November birthday) and so the planned hike was slightly rained off. Instead, I settled (not really) for a picnic in the woods with BEER! It was a delight. The evening was followed by time in a private onsen, relaxing, and watching figure skating (who knew I loved that so much!).

Day two, more rain. We did the only sensible thing and dropped the hike for “a beer or two” in the local brewery. Turns out, local beer in Takezawa was delicious! So we stayed…until closing…meeting some lovely local people who were all rather surprised to see us, but one who declared she was also celebrating her birthday! Sunday, the final day arrived. Ten minutes before checkout the rain stopped. I was FURIOUS. 48 hours of rain and then we are due to leave and the sun shines?! Classic move, Japan. We decided to stay a little longer and get in at least one hike in. Up the mountain, we went with a plan of taking a 30-minute walk around the path we were currently on. Several hours later we had hiked the three peaks famous in this area and were still no closer to making it out of this “bloody forest”. The three peak challenge we completed was not intentional, we got royally lost. What felt like days later, we emerged back onto tarmac, blinking into the sunlight and congratulating ourselves for a job slightly well done.

All in all, Takezawa was a wonderful place to spend my 21st birthday. I hope to turn 18 here again in the future!

Thanks #Takezawa and #Dan for organising something truly special.

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