Call of the Wild: Oku Nikko

Hiking Travel Trends & Culture - April 4th, 2012
BBQHut

Glen Young, a veteran Tokyoite, tells Weekender his story about male bonding in the Japanese wild.

Dave had been stocking up a stash of Belgian beers for several years. That’s right – years. A connoisseur was Dave; knew what he liked and savoured produce at its optimum.  Mind you, the Dave that was, still is.

He had been making lunchtime runs from work to the international supermarket, almost daily, for weeks before the trip. Picking up a salami here, a slab of Brie there. He’d got the Brie a little before the expiry-date at half price.

“Good Brie tastes better a bit older”, he said.

And he was right.

Dave loves the outdoors. He is a photographer. He’s a hunter, of sorts, camping out alone in remote places. Seeking out that epic photo of a sunrise over craggy coastline, or even stalking a brown bear in the Yukon. He is an Aikido master.

We all met at Nerima station early one brisk morning in spring. There was Irish-Pat, Ollie, Dave, Patrick, and me.  Five men on a trip to man freedom. Dave had packed two big coolboxes in the back of his Subaru. One was chock-full of food. The other was our precious cargo of aged Belgian beers.

We all piled into the Subaru.

Dave stomped on the gas.

As the expressway gave way to rice fields, then lonely winding mountain roads, we eventually found ourselves in front of a rustic two-storey log cabin that was cloaked by spring growth.

Once we’d all laid claim to our respective sleeping quarters, we set about the task of preparing a fire and the evening’s meal. We made the barbecue in front of the hut … and cracked a beer.

We had fifty beers.

Fifty fine Belgian beers.

We rationed out the beers for the evening.

Ten beers each.

Quite a few of them were double-brewed. They were each, on average, about 8% alcohol by volume. Dave had set us a purposeful order to what could have been rampant beer swilling – we started light, and ended heavy. We had the Brie for this beer, a strip of sirloin for that one. You get the picture – it was food-beer structuring.

Oku-Nikko gets way colder than Tokyo at that time of year. We lit another fire to keep us warm outside… and perhaps to answer primitive calls from within. Red meat, Belgian beers, fire and nature are going to drag out your inner caveman.

As I stared into the fire, I imagined we were something like Native Americans acting out an age-old ritual. Each of us humming our own Peyote song. Or, Belgian-beer song. In a way, we were dancing once again to the ancient tune that we had stopped listening to, or, perhaps, could no longer hear against the noise of the city we lived in.

I sniffed a lung-full of the chilly spring air and swigged my Chimay. Somehow, I’d found myself again. I was back home in the wild.

Glen Young


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