July 14, 2021

Fatherhood Road Trip #1

On just a normal weekend, my son Issey and I took a 24 hour road trip to some new places and spent some quality time together. I felt a noticeable deepening in our connection before and after.

It was simple, we shared a lot of FUN.

Me (Jun) and my son Issey

It was Saturday afternoon when I took Issey with me–just the two of us, giving Mommy a break– on a road trip on FUUUN –– FUUUN.L.000 to be precise, the first of our original Mobile Zen Capsule — you may call it a camping car, but it’s one of a kind.

We took the Shinkansen together from Shinagawa to Shinfuji (1 hour). On the way I got to teach Issey yet another new drawing technique — Axonometric. We arrived at Shin-Fuji station and FUUUN is parked literally a minute walk from the station’s southern exit, at our partner’s hostel Kinoya.

Issey learning to draw Axonometric

When we finally took off in FUUUN it was already close to sunset. We drove south-bound along Kokudo 1 / 国道1号, and watched the sunset into the mountains to our right, with the Pacific Ocean to our left.

As our ideal sequence, we stopped by an onsen before we head to the place where we would spend our night. This time, we went to あおい温泉 草薙の湯 There was a children’s playroom next to the restaurant, and with the pandemic the capacity has been limited down to 5 children at a time. That didn’t stop Issey from sweating himself head to toe playing with the other four kids. When he was done we shared our plate of large curry rice to the very last grain.

The onsen was spacious and have lots of variety for both of us to enjoy thoroughly. The 五右衛門 tub we shared together was particularly intimate and bonding. In the facility there were other offerings that we did not utilise including massage services, a hair salon, resting capsules and reading craters! All in all this was a very impressive onsen which was kids friendly as well.

After that we drove towards where we planned to watch the sunrise the next morning— Miho no Matsubara 三保の松原. Micro-buses were not allowed to get through the narrow Kami-no-michi 神の道, luckily there was a bus parking lot that was open and for free, complete with bathroom and vending machines; It wasn’t in the mist of nature per se, but the ground was flat. With all curtains closed, and a mosquito lamp lit inside the car, we slept soundly.

One of the only prior plannings we did for this trip was to watch the sunrise together, so at 4:15am the next morning, I woke Issey up and carried him on my back to the start of the beautiful 神の道 lined with pine trees and a well maintained decked path that stretches for some 500 meters. We strolled the pleasant stretch which lead to a small hill at the end. The climb over it gave extra anticipation to what awaits on the other side: a long stretch of beaches with a Mt. Fuji view. Unfortunately the day we were there was cloudy and had a bit of showers: Besides the early morning fishers and a long beach, we didn’t quite see the Fujisan view, and even the sun barely visible. A bit disappointed, we took a walk in the pine tree forrest and by the time we were heading back, Issey was on my back again. Issey has grown a lot in size and weight, but I feel happy to be carrying him on my back while he’s still up for it.

After the morning walk we went back to FUUUN and took another nap. Before Issey woke up I had a scheduled call with my colleagues from Hong Kong and New York. By the time I was done with the call, Issey was already munching on his breakfast that we picked up the night before.

Having refilled our water supply, gotten each of our favourite drinks from a vending machine, packed up our sleeping bags, and fastened our seatbelts (Issey was sitting in the passenger seat next to me in the front) we took off to start heading back with plans to stop by a few spots we saw on the way out that was beautiful and intriguing. For example, we noticed people and cars under the highway, parked by the ocean, so we took a random exit from the highway and managed to get to one of the many vacant spaces beneath it. It was secluded, relaxing (while the cars, and the world, were rushing by just above) and has a great view.

FUUUN underneath the highway

There Issey and I prepared our lunch together, while he helped set up the table and I cooked (i.e. boiling water…) Despite its simplicity, it was a hearty meal and we enjoyed it very much.

We cleaned up the table together, and did some focus work. Issey and I were both sketching in our notebooks while enjoying our sea view office.

Issey and his notebook

Our last stop was the river bank of Fujigawa. The space has a wide stretch of soccer fields, a parking lot for hundreds, and a mount Fuji backdrop. Issey challenged me to a race and I challenged him to jump over Mt. Fuji. The expanse of space was satisfying.

Over Mt. Fuji!
FUUUN.L.000 at Fujigawa

By the time we reached Kinoya to return FUUUN, Issey was fast asleep. I let Issey slept a little more on the tatami while I cleaned up and packed up. He woke up to walk to the station which was only 2 minutes away. Exhausted, we got on our train and both of us passed out right away. We got home in the evening, Issey happily sharing his experiences with Mommy, while I am glad she seem to have gotten a bit of recharge from her private time. I found this trip to be a great idea, and will do it again, exploring a different route!

Through this trip I felt quite strongly the difference between a trip where we book a hotel and travel to that place, and one where we decide on the mode of travel and let the journey unfolds. Whereas in the first case travel is but a hurdle between destinations to overcome, in the case of FUUUN, or road trips in general, the journey itself is the enjoyment. The freedom, the serendipity, even the ‘inconveniences’ where our teamwork was required, brought Issey and I closer together. The conversations we had while driving, literally looking in the same direction, took us to topics where we don’t usually get to sitting at home facing the TV, or at a hotel when we are busy enjoying the facilities.

This trip strengthened our original intention to build a camping car without walls. Taking the essences from various aspects of Japanese culture: from architecture, to tea, to zen, we aspired to produce a mobile space that would bring families closer to each other, eventually, when bonds are strong and understanding deep, to free the world from conflicts.

Moving forward, we are looking to experiment with trips where we could engage with the places we go to in more meaningful ways.

..| 2021.7.13

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