Hirano State Campground

The Road to City Camp

On the first weekend I was in Kanazawa, I was longing for exercise (something it's a little difficult to come by in Japan). I took the bike I had rented from Eurocentres and headed up the nearest mountain road (Kanazawa is at the western side of the Japanese Alps, in particular very near Haku-san). There were numerous signs like the one at left along the road as it rose, consisting of four Kanji I couldn't read at that time followed by the word "kyampu" (camp) in Katakana, so I dubbed it "City Camp".

Nowadays I can read this just fine, it says "Hirano State Campground".

The Bamboo Forest

Many kilometers before the camp though, the road passed through something I had never seen before -- an extensive bamboo ("take", pronounced "tah-keh") forest. If you're from the west and have never encountered a bamboo forest before, I urge you to click on some of these pictures to check out the enlargements; there's really nothing we have that's like a bamboo forest.

Bamboo grows very fast (the word "weed" is applicable), so even though this forest probably wasn't very old, the bamboo had crowded out almost all other vegetation, resulting in a nearly clear forest floor. It's a freaky environment; among other things, it's very, very green. The forest floor is clear similar to what you only see in North America in a very mature old forest (which there ain't many of anymore).

As you can see in some of these pictures, from moment to moment the forest varied greatly from airy and open to gloomy and dark.

Much like mining claims in the US, there were lots of folks up in the forest harvesting bamboo. I continually heard saws and motors throughout the forest, even though there were no structures evident anywhere around me.

Bamboo shoot
A fresh bamboo shoot.

The bamboo shoots are probably what accounted for a lot of the activity in the bamboo forest on my Saturday. Bamboo shoot is a popular seasonal ingredient in Japanese as well as Chinese cuisine; my host mother used local bamboo shoot in a number of the meals she made.

Obviously, in addition to harvesting the shoots for food, the Japanese harvest bamboo wood for use in shades, mats, and so forth.

Frehs-cut bamboo
A freshly cut bamboo stump. The interior was almost wet and liquid looking. This cut was right next to the road.
Trees and ridge line
A typical view from the road during the switchbacks leading out of the bamboo forest up to the camp.

The Camp

As the road kept climbing, the views became something I associate more with the California foothills than with urbanized Japan. Finally I got to the "kyampu" itself, which was a reservable group camping, picnicing, and hiking area. The path alongside the pond led to a series of car-camping sites, which were all connected by paths and stairways in the woods.

Lily pond
A placid, lily-pad-covered pond.
A cherry tree with a few blossoms left
A cherry tree with a few blossoms left next to one of the paths connecting two of the campsites.

Although the camp wasn't crowded, there were several large groups picnicing and playing music at the larger campsites. The campground ended at an athletic field and series of parking lots.

Athletic field
An athletic field at the far end of the campground. I didn't bother to photograph the parking lots ;).

At the parking lots I left the bike and started hiking around on the trails that led away from the road. They connected to a series of major trails behind the campground which headed off into the foothills around the camp and presented lots of appealling vistas.

Hazy view of valley
This view convinced me to hike off in this direction to see if I could glimpse some views of Kanazawa.

And sure enough you can. As I hiked further out along the side ridge, the views of Kanazawa got better and better.

If you click on the englargements of these photos, you can see several distinctive buildings. Yasuko-san mentioned that one of them was a research facility associated with the university.

Although most of Kanazawa was lost in the haze, you can see the beginnings of the plain the leads to the sea.

Long driveway
Alongside the road on the way down was this beautifully arranged (and very long driveway). I couldn't tell whether it was a public or private driveway.

And about then it was time to head back to the road. At the time I couldn't figure out where I was on the Kanazawa map (I only had the tourist board map of the prefecture, or the bus map). I couldn't find any description of the camp on the recreation map, nor did Yasuko-san know what it was. Thus the name of this page... City Camp.

Looking on Google Maps now (in 2021), there's no place with that exact name. However, 森林浴の森 has a subtitle of "former Hirano Campground" so presumably that's where I was.

Heading Back

Well, that was it for the bicycle ride to camp. After that, I turned the bike around and headed down the hill.

The bike I rented when I was in Kanazawa was, like all Japanese bikes, a total beater (in the US, these bikes wouldn't get stolen: they're just not worth anything). It was a single-speed bike and the frame configuration is what we would call a "women's" in the US (the top tube was dropped to be parallel to the down tube). In line with all of that, the brakes on the bike were classic small-pad side-pull brakes, so I was pretty concerned about the brakes overheating on the ride down! I'm not sure what elevation I got to, but my guess is that I topped out at around 1000' elevation. So, I stopped a number of times to let the brakes cool off.

View across Kanazawa
At right, one of the places I stopped on the way down had a good view of the Kubo-machi area of Kanazawa. This is also the place where I took the Panorama on the main Kanazawa page.

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