Yuru Camp△ 2 – 13 (Fin) – It Goes Both Ways

From the first shot of the episode, we know something has ended, because the girls are walking down the mountain after watching the sun come up. It’s the last sunrise on their Izu trip, and indeed of Yuru Camp’s gloriously healing second season. Rin, seemingly sensing this end, makes sure to thank the others for inviting her.

Rin also leaves her moped at the campground and piles into Toba-sensei’s sister’s Lafesta with the others for a visit to the Iidas, where Toba, Ena, Aki and Aoi bow their heads in apology and thanks. The Iidas, being nice people tell them to think nothing of it, as it was fun to have a big group that night.

As Toba stocks up on the good libations, Rin and Nadeshiko meet Choko, only to for him to speed right past them to the more familiar Aki, Aoi, and Ena. The Iida daughter decides to accompany the group to Mt. Omuro, a perfect place and the perfect time of year to walk her heat-averse Corgi.

Rin and Nadeshiko share a chair lift and are startled by the automatic souvenir camera, resulting in a deer-in-headlights shot for the ages. As the girls again race to the peak, Toba and Iida take it easy, and Toba admires Choko’s spectacularly cute butt (a Corgi trademark).

From there, the group heads to a zoo beside the mountain, where Akari finally gets to encounter the Capybara Hot Spring in person, which turns everyone watching into the naturally chill-looking capybaras themselves; Akari comes right out and remarks “This is so healing” while snapping a picture. And really, that’s been Yuru Camp in a nutshell: a capybara hot spring.

Which is why, after the zoo visit, when Iida parts ways with the group and Rin hops back on her moped for the long ride home, it really starts to feel like the end. Because what else could really come after a capybara hot spring but the ride home? Nadeshiko snaps a picture of Rin on her moped before they part, and after they do, Nadeshiko’s smile fades. I know why, too: with Rin headed home, the ending to their Izu trip is really starting to hit her.

It hit differently for me in particular, since I only just recently started Yuru Camp from the beginning, and only needed to hit “next episode” when the first season concluded (and you better believe that’s exactly what I did!) But this time, there is no next episode readily available. I’m reasonably sure we’ll get a third season, but who knows when.

This final episode perfectly captures that unique and powerful bittersweet feeling one gets of the end of a fun trip and the journey back home to the status quo. Nadeshiko is the only kid to stay up as Toba drives, knowing Toba would be lonely if she napped too. Even Rin feels a bit lonely in the saddle after experiencing so much liveliness with so many other girls in so short a time.

But as Aki said in her military general voice, the camping trip isn’t over until everyone is home safe and sound. There was even a foreboding quality to the photo Nadeshiko snapped of Rin, as if it would be the photo she’d chose to put on a milk carton should she turn up missing.

Of course, this isn’t that kind of show at all and would never take a turn like that, but it was still in my mind, just as Nadeshiko remains worried when Rin doesn’t answer her texts. So when her sister comes home, Nadeshiko asks her to drive her out to Minobu town border so she’s there to greet Rin the moment she finally does arrive.

It turns out Rin knew the way back and was focusing on driving, and so didn’t use her phone, which…good for her! When Rin is about to tell Nadeshiko she didn’t need to worry, she remembers when she was sitting in that massage chair and couldn’t help but worry about Nadeshiko on her first true solo trip. Realizing that concern goes both ways, she expresses her appreciation for Nadeshiko.

As they gaze on the now-familiar hometown view of Fuji-san, Nadeshiko remarks how it’s kind of sad the trip’s over. And it is! They’ll never have another trip quite like that one, with that collection of people going to those particular places and eating those particular things. Even if that was all arranged, it wouldn’t be the same, and it would be missing the point in the first place, which is to experience something new with each trip.

And that’s how Rin replies: it may be a little sad, and a little lonely but they can always go somewhere together again, and the options from there are almost limitless. If they were always on a trip, the trip wouldn’t be special, would it? We watch Aki, Aoi, Akari, Ena, and Toba all returning home to their families, then Rin returning to hers and eventually mailing her gramps a thank you letter and some Izu miso-pickled meat for camp cooking.

School starts back up, and Nadeshiko, Rin, Aki, Aoi and Ena all reunite at the ramp that leads to their school, no longer in their cozy puffy camping outfits but their school unis. Life may be back to normal, but they still carry in their hearts all the warmth, joy, and magic of the time they spent together in the great outdoors.

I’ll vicariously carry all of that in mine as I hope for third season of Laid-Back Camp. But even if we don’t get one, I’ll always treasure this show as a singularly cozy therapeutic experience. And you better believe I’m going camping as soon as I can!

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 12 – Crossing the Rubi-tombolo

Yuru Camp takes a quick look back at when Nadeshiko was saying a tearful goodbye to her best friend Ayano; and I agree with the commenter that Kurosawa Tomoyo is a perfect voice to match Aya-chan’s personality—I just wish Kurosawa voiced a main character! Aya assures Nadeshiko that she’ll make new friends (which she does) and says that once she’s in a new place, she should try a new thing.

That new thing turns out to be camping up an absolute storm, culminating in this latest group trip to the geospot and lookout-packed Izu peninsula. After a refreshing breakfast of sashimi rice bowls, the group heads to Dougashima and the famed tombolo of Sanshiroujima. Akari is heartbroken to learn, her big sis was having her on; “tombolo” isn’t food, but the sandy bridge between islands that appears during low tide.

Removing their boots and braving the frigid waters, the group crosses the shallows and explores the island before the tide comes in. Nadeshiko thinks this would be a perfect spot to visit in the summer when the water is warm enough to swim in, leading to what I believe is the series’ very first cutaway to the girls in swimsuits.

From there, Rin takes point in her 30km/h moped for the drive along the glorious Nishiizu Skyline to their campsite. I can’t help but recall a similar drive I took up Mount Evans, on the highest paved road in North America. Evans is 2km taller than Fuji-san, so you can imagine words will hardly do the majesty of the scenery justice. It truly is, as Rin says, like driving in the sky.

Once they arrive at the Daruma Forest Campsite on the Darumayama highland, Aki, Rin and Ena start prepping for dinner early, while Akari leads the birthday girls Nadeshiko and Aoi away to check out the baths near Cape Mihama (which is sometimes mistaken for Cape Ose). To Akari’s shock, they already know a birthday meal is being prepared, since Aki specifically told Aoi that back at school, and their grocery shopping included things like whipped cream.

But even though it’s not a complete surprise, Nadeshiko and Aoi are still delighted by the celebration prepared by the others, who go all-out with decorations, a (pancake-based) cake, and the gift of durable and easy-to-maintain wooden cooking pans.

A suitably sumptuous feast of shrimp and tomato risotto awaits, made with spiny lobster broth and made extra-shrimpy by the addition of a highly-concentrated shrimp sauce. While Toba-sensei is enjoying the snacks the girls prepared to go with her booze, she gets a call from her Ryouko, who is herself solo camping much closer to Fuji-san out of her sister’s Suzuki Hustler.

Ryouko can tell her sister isn’t that drunk (yet) and congratulates her for being a good advisor. Minami admits she “wasn’t too keen” on becoming one at first due to the time it took up, but watching her students growing up before her eyes, she totally gets the appeal now!

With everyone now on the same sleep clock, the girls eschew movies and head to bed early so they can get up in time to watch the sun rise from the peak of Duramayama. The extra 500-meter climb nearly kills Aki all over again, but Rin and Nadeshiko reach the top first with time to spare, and Nade prepares instant miso soup with more of the spiny lobster broth, telling Rin the shell can be used more than once and even ground down into powder for future use.

While Toba-sensei stays in the van with a still-sleeping Akari, Aki, Aoi and Ena join Nadeshiko and Rin at the top, and the three formally bow and thank Rin for saving them. They also intend to visit the Iidas to properly thank them (and play with their adorable Corgi, Choko).

Then that sun rises and begins to bathe the landscape in its warm, silky light, rewarding the girls for their effort. Did I mention that shortly after starting this show I’ve started getting up early to watch the sunrise? There’s really nothing quite like that light. Yuru Camp isn’t just about immersing yourself in its warm and fuzzy therapeutic goodness, but inspiring you to get out there and give something new a try, as Aya urged Nadeshiko to do.

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 11 – Mamashiko Ajiii!

As expected, the highest point of Hosono Plateau offers a view that’s well worth the climb…or the race to the top if you’re Nadeshiko, Akari, or Chiaki. Also as expected, Nadeshiko won, securing her revenge for Akari telling her the camping was over when she woke up. Part of the reward is seeing the Izu Islands, technically part of Tokyo Prefecture and potential island camping location.

But Izu is vast—thanks to all the volcanic activity inthe last 20 million or so years—and the hour grows late, so the van-and-moped convoy leaves Hosono in search of a hot spring near the campsite. Once they find a suitable one, Nadeshiko relays it to Rin, who lets out a BIG ol’ yawn in response. She’s been riding since three in the morning, after all!

After Akari imagines a hilarious TV commercial for a Rin-themed frozen treat, the group has a sunset-lit soak at the Dougashima hot springs, which almost claim the increasingly drowsy Rin. Then Toba-sensei makes the mistake of chugging a post-bath beer, and has to call in a replacement driver, which is apparently a thing in Japan!

Still, bathing at Dougashima was the lemonade they made from the lemons of being turned away from their original campsite, and getting to their new site in Nishiizu a little late doesn’t faze the group in the slightest. Rin is too sleepy to be fazed anyway!

When it’s time to start a fire, Rin wakes up and teaches Akari how it’s done. You can tell Rin hearing it’s Akari’s first real campfire takes her back to her first campfire…which didn’t go nearly as well but was salvaged thanks to an experienced helping hand. With the tents and camp galley set up, a very well-rested Chef Nadeshiko enters Yuru Cookin’ Mode.

She first prepare a Spanish-style chunky Ajillo in an earthenware pot, while Ena and Chiaki grill some spiny lobster. Toba-sensei learned from her Christmas Camping error and brought the perfect booze for every possible meal. Her sister Ryouko texts her a quick reminder not to overdo it as she’s gotta drive tomorrow. I kinda wish Ryouko had joined them!

Having chosen meals as much for their ease of preparation and clean-up as their deliciousness, Nadeshiko innovatively uses the leftover juices from the Ajillo to make a totally different one-pot dish: alfonsino acqua pazza pasta. Yuru Camp does a good job giving you the gist of the recipes without turning this into a full-on cooking show…but as I’m a huge fan of both Great Chefs and Food Wars, that wouldn’t have been the worst thing either!

One thing’s for sure, Nadeshiko upped her game considerably, and her friends can be certain that going forward camping with her means rib-sticking gourmet-quality meals that take full advantage of the local ingredients to the max. But the  umami and sleepiness double-whammy finally does Rin in, which is when Nadeshiko becomes Mamashiko, ensuring Rin brushes her teeth and uses lotion before retiring to her tent.

The fact that Nadeshiko, Rin, and the others are all on totally different sleep cycles works in the episode’s favor. When Ena can’t sleep, she encounters Nadeshiko is also still up, enjoying a dramatic view from the picnic area. The two have proceed to have a wonderful little low-key heart-to-heart. Nadeshiko mentions how the relaxing waves remind her of her hometown, admits she knows about Ena’s konbini job.

Ena says it’s not just for camping expenses, but because she wants to get her drivers license at eighteen so she can take Chikuwa camping. Ena then remarks how much things have changed since Nadeshiko moved to Minobu, and Nadeshiko says a lot’s changed for her since meeting them. They head to bed, as it’s past three, and at four on the dot Rin wakes up totally rested…and all alone.

This is no problem for Rin, who takes the opportunity to get a little Me Time in before the others wake up. She hops on her moped to check out some local geospots, from Cape Kogane to Sawada Park, which she learns has an open-air hot spring right beside the sea.

Ena and Aoi are the next to wake up, but when they see Rin’s text they retreat back to their sleeping bags, joining the still-dozing Nadeshiko. Then a panicked Chiaki shows them Rin’s message “Please don’t come looking for me” and assumes Rin’s run away from “home”. The other two understood: Rin just wants some solo time. Here’s hoping getting up so early doesn’t render her too sleepy for the group’s adventures later that day!

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 10 – Dispatches from the Geofront

The OP to Yuru Camp’s second season is a vast improvement over the first, but there was one thing that always bugged me: a Nissan MPV was featured instead of Toba-sensei’s adorable Suzuki Hustler. Turns out the car in the OP is Toba-sensei’s sister’s van, a first-gen Nissan Lafesta.

With that mystery solved, there’s immediately a new one when Toba-sensei picks up Nadeshiko in the morning: What’s with the bags under her eyes? This is solved before the OP: she was simply too excited for their trip and couldn’t sleep a wink. So she sleeps in the van. The Whole. Damn. Time.

Rin, who set off hours earlier, is already checking out Cape Ose, Izu’s “geospots”, unique geological features along the way, visits to all of which she and the others hope to collect like Pokémon. She encounters some very hungry fish, a giant shrimp, and a thrillingly windy mountain road.

The van gang catches a glimpse of the fist-like mountain Jouyama, then stops at an ice cream spot—an established Outclub tradition—to sample Izu’s local specialty: raw wasabi ice cream. Then take a ride on the Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge.

Rin’s wanderings take her to the Ryugukutsu Cave, which has a skylight due to erosion and for me called to mind the Hidden Beach in western Mexico. From there, she arrives in Shimoda, rests her road-weary dogs in a hot spring foot bath, and admires the torii by the water.

The van gang is delayed by choking traffic caused by the cherry blossom festival in Kawazu, home of some of the earliest-blooming sakura. Aoi’s sister Akari gets out to use the restroom but comes back with local treats. Eventually they meet up with Rin in a Shimoda parking lot, and a panicked Nadeshiko asks her where they are and what day it is, having been throughly messed with by Aoi and Akari, the “Lying Sisters.”

After a lunch of fried alfonsino burgers with Camembert cheese and sweet-and-spicy sauce (goddamn that sounds good), the van gang and Rin form a two-vehicle convoy to the grocery store where Nadeshiko stocks up on more alfonsino for the first night’s dinner.

It is here where we learn that Chiaki, Ena, and Rin are responsible for dinner on the second night. Not to be upstaged by Nadeshiko, Chiaki had convened with the other two back at school before the trip Gendo Ikari-style to organize Operation Shrimp.

The gist is, they’ll make Toba-sensei give up drinking and use her booze money to buy some of the spiny lobster Shimoda is known for. Ena dispenses with the subterfuge and simply requests Toba-sensei buy some spiny lobsters, and she does.

The convoy continues on to Cape Tsumeki, where Toba-sensei learns that despite the city saying they could camp along the coast in the winter, the landowner no longer allows it as of a few years ago. It’s a setback, but it doesn’t stop the gang from visiting a lighthouse and checking out the rad columnar jointing at Tawaraiso Beach.

Ena, proving to be the X-factor of the group, suggests they contact the Iidas, who saved them at Lake Yamanaka. Sure enough, they know someone who owns a campground and has arranged a place for them. It’s a 43km detour that throws some of the later parts of their itinerary out of whack, but Rin puts them back in whack with her Mad Map Skillz.

Their updated route sends them to explore the next geospot, Hosono Plateau, before continuing to the campground in Nishiizu. There’s a mini mountain peak to climb, and Akari challenges Nadeshiko to a race in which Chiaki unwisely decides to participate. Despite having built up strength in her legs from her liquor store job, Rin, Ena, and Aoi find her planking on the steps nowhere near the top.

This episode feels worlds away from where the previous one ended, with Rin and her grandfather on a magical early morning ride. But there’s a different kind of magic at work here, one of overflowing excitement and anticipation as we dart breathlessly from spot to spot with the seven travelers, who divide mingle in fascinating new ways. As always, the journey to the campsite, with all its sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, proves just as meaningful as the destination.

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 09 – You’ll Never Ride Alone

Nadeshiko is back from her solo trip, and admits that after her dinner of foil-wrapped salmon (the veggies were apparently only an appetizer!), things got a little boring. With bad cell signal, she looked out at the scenery and thought, and came to the conclusion that she wanted to go camping with everyone again. It’s not that she dislikes solo camping, but she’ll definitely be staggering solo trips with group trips.

When Nade, Chiaki, and Aoi go to Toba-sensei to voice their intention to go on another trip, she’s ready with the suggestion of Izu in March. For one thing, she wants to visit the Iida’s to thank them for saving her students—left unsaid: she also wants more of that sake! Izu won’t be cheap, hence setting the date a month in the future. That’ll give the girls time to make some extra money to fund the trip and time to study for finals.

When Rin and Ena get the invite, it doesn’t take long for Rin to agree to go “if she can go”. While on her way out, Ena mentions how good a person Rin is to have gone all the way to Fujikawa to check on Nadeshiko, leaving Rin wondering how the hell Ena found out about that!

Chiaki mentions that Aoi’s birthday is March 4…which as it happens, is also Nadeshiko’s birthday! It’s also the birthday of historical figure Ohshio Heihachirou, leading to one of the more disturbing cutaway shot of the two girls with Ohshio’s face…pure Nightmare Fuel! I’ll take Ojou-sama Nadeshiko any day! When home, Aoi learns that her little sis Akari wants to go with them, not necessarily for the camping, but because there are capybarasHot spring capybaras.

The next day during club Toba-sensei informs everyone of the loose itinerary, starting with a night by the shore at Shimoda, followed by a night on a mountaintop with a view of Suruga Bay and Fujiyama. She approves Akari coming, and when asked how all seven of them will be transported, Toba-sensei says she’ll be borrowing her sister’s minivan.

Rin respectfully asks that she be allowed to go on her moped, but not because she’s worried the van trip will be too rambunctious. Instead, it’s because her initial New Years plans to ride to Izu were cancelled, and she’d been rearing to go ever since.

With the whens and where’s settled, all that’s left is to get to the date. A month passes in pleasant montage form, with Chiaki, Aoi, Rin, and Nadeshiko hard at work at their jobs (only Ena’s job isn’t shown). The group minus Rin also studies together in the library (though Rin isn’t far away), and Chiaki, the one everyone was most worried about, ends up passing the finals along with everyone else.

Chiaki also reaches out to Rin and Ena about pitching in to buy a gift with which to surprise Nadeshiko and Aoi on their birthday. It’s from Caribou, so it must be camping equipment. It’s also reasonably priced, so it’s definitely not the huggable Caribou statue, which costs the equivalent of $3300!

Rin plans her route, choosing to leave early and take the long way so she’s riding along the coast as the sun comes up. Nadeshiko is trying to think of recipes for their meals without success and gets some pointers from her dad (Izu is known for its wasabi, alfonsino, and deep sea fish). He also plans to slip her some petty cash with which to buy tasty souvenirs.

The night before Rin leaves, she gets her package containing a luggage rack and phone clip, which combined with a windshield her grandfather has lying around will make her moped journey significantly easier and more comfortable. Her dad comes home having gotten her moped serviced, inspected, and thoroughly cleaned.

Rin and her dad spend some quality time installing the rack and clip, but when her grandfather arrives for dinner and inspects the ignition switch, he notices something amiss: the phone keeps charging even with the engine off, which will drain the battery if she forgets to unplug it. Even though dinner is almost ready, he hops right back on his motorcycle to buy a relay in Kofu.

By the time he returns and has the relay installed, it’s almost nine, so the Shimas have a late dinner. We learn that both of Rin’s parents used to ride, and her mom in particular was extremely talented. Her dad even mentions some photos of her mom from that time, which really spark Rin’s curiosity —and her mom’s embarrassment—but Rin needs to head to bed since she’s got an early start.

When her alarm wakes her at three in the morning, Rin suits up and prepares to leave, only to find her grandfather in the genkan also gearing up. He’s not just leaving at the same time, but no doubt inspired by the reminiscing during dinner, he proposes they ride together for a little while.

Grandfather and granddaughter ride out in the middle of the night, two birds of a feather both in the way they might appear cool and distant at first glance but in actuality are two of the nicest, warmest, and most caring souls you could ever meet. There’s a quiet thrill in watching them ride together through dramatically lit tunnels and a past a slumbering Fujiyama, both the visuals and music rising to the occasion.

They stop at a konbini for a quick coffee before parting ways. Before riding off, her grandfather, not a man of many words or extreme emotions, expresses how happy he is he got to ride with his precious granddaughter. After this episode, you could say the Shimas’ hearts pump two-stroke fuel, and now in at least its generation with Rin, the family legacy is still going strong. Onward, to Izu!

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 06 – Ice Station Yamanaka

Their dreams of cape camping dashed, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena set up their two tents and their tarp as close to it as they dare, then break out their brand-new (and IMO somewhat overpriced) camp chairs. Chiaki opted for the two-chair set-up to a lighter hammock.

A group of hobbyists are flying RC planes over the lake, while they’re visited by a friendly Corgi named Choko (named after the cup in which you drink sake) and his owner. The girls aren’t alone on this cape, and that proves to be of vital importance to their very survival later on.

But first, this trip starts out like many others we’ve seen before; with the participants basking in the beauty of their natural surroundings and bracing themselves against the cold with blankets and something warm to drink. For the latter Chiaki whips up some delectable non-alcoholic hot buttered rum, the recipe for which she got from a co-worker.

While Chiaki demonstrates she can be an angel when she offers one of her two chairs to the chairless Ena, she also shows she’s got a devilish side when she sends a picture of them relaxing to Rin back home. Rin is airing out her bag and cleaning her grill—all the maintenance required to keep your gear in ship shape. Chiaki’s photo puts a smile on Rin’s face, but it quickly turns to a look of concern as she checks that night’s low temperatures at Lake Yamanaka.

At the very end of every episode we’ve been told the same message: It gets cold during the winter. Stay warm and be well-prepared! No duh, right? Except that there’s cold, and then there’s COLD. At 4:30PM, before the sun even goes down, it’s already two below (28° F), and all three girls’ phones’ batteries die due to the cold.

It wasn’t anywhere near as cold in Asagiri for their Christmas Camping, but that was over 1,300 feet lower elevation! And it’s only going to get colder. Chiaki curses herself for not checking the weather forecast, and it would seem like the Outclub got “a little in over their heads” once they started getting all gung-ho about winter camping.

Still, the three come up with an emergency plan to stay warm through the night: build a fire and cook the hot pot to warm themselves up, then pile into one tent with every blanket and coat piled on top of them. Aoi and Ena don’t have the heavy-duty hand warmers, so Chiaki volunteers to run to the konbini to buy more, as well as some cardboard for insulation.

But the plan soon falls apart when Aoi and Ena arrive at the administration building to find the manager has already locked up and is driving off. Unable to buy or even access proper firewood, the two search for twigs, only to find the ground completely immaculate! With the sun fully down and the temperatures dropping fast, things look grim…but for the grace of their fellow camper and owner of Choko.

By the time Chiaki returns from her odyssey to the konbini and back, their campsite is worryingly abandoned. Then she’s called to the dog lady’s big teepee-style tent, which is both blessedly warm due to the continuously-burning wood stove, and large enough to accommodate the three girls. The lady and who I presume to be her dad are even preparing their own hot pot.

The dad may say with a laugh that the girls would have been “goners” if left out there, but he’s not wrong. Toba-sensei ends up showing up to check on them, and while looking in their tents gets the shit scared out of her when Chiaki sneaks up on her. As she explains, Rin notified her of their plans to camp at Lake Yamanaka, where the temps get down to 15 below (just F!), and weren’t answering their phones.

Toba-sensei puts on her Adult hat and firmly scolds the girls over the seriousness of their error. The greatly varying elevation means drastically varying temperatures and unpredictable shifts—stand on a mountain any time of day and you’ll learn that quick! Furthermore, their gear is woefully inadequate for even a normal Lake Yamanaka winter.

She impresses upon them the absolute necessity of thoroughly researching their campsite and preparing accordingly. The girls bow in tearful apology, but Toba-sensei is also sorry, for while she knew the three of them were camping, she didn’t ask where. From now on the must be sure to talk to each other about where they’re camping.

With all that settled, the dad/(or husband?) invites Toba-sensei to join him in imbibing a big bottle of sake—the good stuff from the store they own in Itou. Within minutes, Serious Adult Toba-sensei devolves into Drunk Toba-chan. Then they prepare their two batches of hot pot: both motsu and kiritanpo. A magnificent feast ensues within the toasty tent.

Toba-sensei is too drunk to drive, so she and the girls spend the night in her Hustler with the heat on. I once thought this was a bad idea, but only if your car is parked on ice! Turns out as long as your car’s battery and alternator are in good working order, as long as you’ve got gas in the tank you’ve got a warm car to sleep in. And it’s not like they had another option in this instance!

Just prior to sunrise, Ena is the first to wake up—quite uncharacteristic for the girl they’ve always cut to in the past curled up in her bed with her pup well into the late morning. She’s soon joined by Aoi and Chiaki, and their reward for braving the outside is another truly majestic sunrise complete with soaring orchestral score, which as by now become a Yuru Camp specialty.

Once Toba greets the morning, Ena gets to work on tempura smelts for breakfast. Ena snaps a photo with her newly car-charged phone, and all three girls send Rin their heartfelt thanks for worrying about them. Chiaki adds that she’ll never forget this, and Rin immediately cashes in by playfully warning them they’d better have gifts for her from Lake Yamanaka!

While cleaning her trusty but lately quite dingy moped, Rin gets a call from Nadeshiko, who just got off work, and voices her intent to try solo camping like the kind Rin does. Whether this leads to her trip to Lake Motosu in which Rin and Nade end up soloing at the same place (the epilogue of the first season) or a different, truly solo trip, we shall see.

But yeah, this week Yuru Camp got real with us, showing how quickly laid-back can become life-threatening! Winter camping can be wonderful, but it is not for the ill-prepared. No doubt Chiaki, Aoi, and Rin learned their lesson, and between doing their research and maintaining clear communication, they’ll be ready for their next excursion in the cold.

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 04 – One Step Closer to Fancy Camping

This week there’s no camping, but plenty of Outclub hijinx, starting with Chiaki buying a new tarp for their next trip only to forget to bring the posts. She and Aoi have a tree serve as one temporary post, and Nadeshiko as the second. The moment Nadeshiko wordlessly just stops holding the tarp up had me rolling!

Chiaki bought the tarp with her New Years pay, while Aoi is planning on buying a comfy low chair like Rin’s. Nadeshiko, of course, is just counting down the days until her temp job pay is deposited so she can buy her beloved Coleman retro lantern, which she visits at the Caribou store several times simply to bask in its beauty.

Nade sends Rin a photo of her holding up the tarp, to which Rin says the Outclub girls sure are “free spirits.” Rin doesn’t really want to buy anything in particular, so she’s probably just going to save it for her next trip. As for Ena, she spent her money not on a tent for herself, but a dog tent for Chikuma—one that is nicer than many human tents!

When Ena asks what Rin would do with 100 million yen (i.e. a million dollars), Rin says she’d “start by putting a sleeping bag on top and sleeping on it”. Toba-sensei only has one scene in the faculty lounge, but it’s a sweet one, as she finds some local treats at her desk and a thank-you note from her Outclub girls.

Back at Caribou, the employees there are fascinated by Nadeshiko’s fascination with the lantern. It takes one of them back to the excitement of spending her first paycheck—even though she doesn’t remember what she even bought! I doubt that will be a problem for Nadeshiko; she’ll never forget this lamp!

While at Minobu station waiting for her train home, Nadeshiko finds herself on a completely empty platform. It’s just her, the mumbling of the PA and the buzzing of the lights. There’s quite a long stretch where nothing happens…and that’s the point: Nadeshiko has been thinking long and hard about what Rin said about solo camping being an opportunity to contemplate and embrace solitude. As we saw in the first season’s epilogue, at some point she’ll solo at Lake Motosu only to run into Rin.

Of course, with no costs to share with others, soloing can be pricey, and Rin saved a lot by inheriting a lot her her gear from her gramps. That means Nadeshiko has to find a new job. Unfortunately, that proves difficult. She imagines herself playing a Chihayafuru-style game of karuta and slapping a card that says “Minobu” among scores of cards marked “Kofu” (she says Kofu so mournfully!)—only to find it’s a full-time position requiring experience.

Aoi suggests looking into working at a camp or a resort, although those don’t really start until it gets warmer. Chiaki breaks out the latest issue of Bivouac magazine, the cover of which depicts a solo winter camper not unlike one Shima Rin. In it, Nadeshiko discovers that reusable hand warmers using warmed oil exist. That night, Sakura invites her out to dinner at a tempura bowl shop in Minobu, and Nadeshiko races there with all due haste.

It’s only when their jumbo head-on shrimp tempura boxes arrive that Sakura says she’d hope Nade would treat her for once, using her newly-earned holiday pay. Nade freezes and all color fades from her, but her sister is only joking. The real reason Sakura asked her to come to this particular restaurant is because they happen to have just started hiring part-timers.

The next day after school is THE day Nade finally purchases her lantern, one of which the employees kept on hold for her just in case the ones on the shelves were all sold. Nadeshiko poses for a photo with sparkly eyes and an ojousama laugh, and just after being told to be careful, she trips on a box and nearly drops her treasure, catching it at the last second.

One step closer to “fancy camping”, Nadeshiko trys the lantern out at home. Her folks praise her purchase and the three gather around the warm cozy light it provides. The credits roll with her lantern still glowing in the living room, and Nadeshiko sneaks outside to Sakura’s car before going up to her room to enjoy the lantern’s light a bit more.

Early in the morning, Sakura is the first to leave the house. Upon entering her car she finds a gift-wrapped box on the dashboard with a note: it’s a reusable hand-warmer, purchased by Nadeshiko as thanks for being such an awesome big sister. You’d better believe I got a little choked up at the surpassing sweetness of the gift, and Sakura’s warm reaction to it, ending with a shot of Nadeshiko curled up in bed, sleeping soundly…and deservedly!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 03 – Top-Grade Eels and Feels

When Rin tells Nadeshiko she’ll be staying in Shizuoka for a couple extra nights due to the snow back home, Nadeshiko makes an alternate proposal: Rin could join her at her grandmother’s house on Lake Hamama. There’s are some lovely little moments of tension in between Nade’s offer, the alert sound on her phone, and the reveal of Rin’s reply: “Looking forward to it!”

The snow granted Rin two extra days to be all by herself if she wanted, but she choses to spend it with Nadeshiko, though first she books a surprisingly cheap campsite, spending New Year’s Day reading on the beach and then luxuriating in the bath.

At dusk, she quite accidentally stumbles upon a little local tradition where people gather to watch the sun setting directly into a torii gate near the Hamama-Ohashi Bridge. As Rin puts it, she got to see the sun rise and set on the year’s first day. Early in the morning, Sakura gets Nadeshiko up so she can make all the various train transfers to Sakume Station, where she’ll meet Rin.

After breaking camp, Rin heads to Kazanji in Nishi Ward to buy a gift of Strawberry buns, and soon learns that there’s a fanatical demand for them, as she ends up in yet another crush of people. Nadeshiko is at Sakume and greets her with a formal New Year’s Greeting, then shows her a gaggle of tame black-headed seagulls.

It’s a 20-minute walk to her grandma’s but Nadeshiko suggests they grab some lunch, further suggesting they have eel, a Hamama Lake specialty. Rin is down to just ¥1,920, so when she sees that the Top-Grade unagi Nadeshiko orders costs ¥4,000, she panics. Not to worry: Nadeshiko whips out a crisp ¥10,000 bill her dad gave her specifically to treat Rin to the good stuff, as thanks for how much she’s helped her out over the last half-year.

Rin doesn’t turn down the offer, but is perplexed when Nadeshiko, who decided to sit at the counter, turns away from watching the practiced chef kill and clean the live eels. Watching Rin’s reaction to tasting that eel, I’d say Nadeshiko’s tendency to make food look really good is rubbing off!

Upon arriving at Nadeshiko’s granny’s lakeside house, Rin also meets Nadeshiko’s childhood friend Toki Ayano, who comes off as a lot less energetic than Nadeshiko. In fact, she’s kind of a Lake Hayama Rin … or maybe Rin is a Yamanashi Ayano! There’s a natural bit of tension here as well, as it’s always a bit strange to meet your relatively new friend’s much older friend (or vice versa).

As expected, Rin ends up learning more about Nadeshiko from Ayano. Specifically, she was quite a bit chubbier in middle school, and her sister Sakura put her on a grueling exercise regime biking around Lake Hamana, and she slimmed down by her first year in high school. Now Rin understands why Nadeshiko had the strength and stamina to bike from Nanbucho to Lake Motosu the day they met.

Nadeshiko and Rin show her granny and Ayano more pics of camping, many of which are of food and eating, to which Nadeshiko declares eating outdoors to be the “best part” of camping. Rin doesn’t loudly agree, for a reason we learn later that night, but she does demonstrate her mini offertory box portable campfire grill by grilling mochi outside, and Ayano starts to get it. Also, Ayano has a moped too!

After an evening of watching TV while under the kotatsu, playing the Game of Life, Ayano has to head off to work at the konbini, agreeing to meet up with them at the observatory later. When the time to head there arrives, Nadeshiko wakes Rin up for once, and Rin, who hadn’t slept in a real bed for several nights, needs an extra few moments to shed the coziness.

Rin is initially worried about biking at night, but as Nadeshiko assures her, this area is like her back yard; she knows it like the back of her hand. Ayano is there to meet them at the observatory, and she and Nadeshiko points out all of the landmarks of Hamamatsu at night. Then she asks how Rin’s solo camping went, and she gets a very honest answer.

Going from Christmas Camping to soloing for New Year’s confirmed for her how different it feels when you’re camping alone. You see and hear and taste things you just won’t when you’re not alone, and you have nothing but time to contemplate things.

Rin describes soloing as “a way to appreciate loneliness”—which is a hell of a line! Nadeshiko notably doesn’t come right out and agree with Rin … and that’s okay! She and Rin can prefer different kinds of camping and enjoy occasionally camping together or with larger groups and still be good friends.

It may just be my imagination, but Yuru Camp seems to have upped its game a bit in the second season. Landscapes and backgrounds seem lusher and more detailed, as are the interactions and emotions it tackles, without beating you over the head with drama.

There’s a pervading realism to everything, from those little indefinable moments and feelings to a strong sense of geography and culture of the places the character inhabit. It’s also making me compile an ever longer (and harder to complete!) list of places to go and things to do next time I make it to Japan!

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 02 – Four Sunrises

Rin arrives at Iwata, and it’s everything a gal from a landlocked prefecture could hope for: crystal-clear skies and endless ocean. Riding her moped beside the sea feels great, until the cold and wind get to be too much. Fortunately her mom recommended a tea place, and who should be minding the store but the mountain climbing lady she met at the Yashajin Pass.

Yuru Camp seems to be running with the idea that Japan is just a big small town, where you’re always bumping into people you know by chance. I don’t mind, it’s fun! Rin goes to the upstairs café for a matcha tiramisu set, and suddenly wants to set up her tent right there.

Rin also visits the Mitsuki-Tenjin Shrine, but learns that Shippeitarou III passed away years ago, making Rin suddenly think about how short dogs’ lives are, even going so far as to text Ena her worries about Chikuma. Ena says she’ll be devastated when it happens, but it’s inevitable. All she can do is make sure her pup has as many good times as possible.

Rin switches gears from pondering mortality to getting a fire and dinner going. With no pine cones or twigs on the campground, Rin uses her knife to make a feather stick to start her fire, showing how there are plenty of tricks she still learning. After whipping up a duck soup nameko mushroom soba, she sends all of her pics to the gang, and Nadeshiko reports that it’s snowing back home.

After getting a few hours of sleep, Rin gets up to watch the first sunrise of the new year from Furude Beach, where many others are already gathered and a torii gate is set up for the event. Toba-sensei elects to drive Chiaki, Aoi, and Aoi’s little sister Akari to Mt. Minobu.

They take the ropeway, pray at the shrine, buy some dango, drink some amazuke, and find a good spot to watch the sun rise. In both locations, there’s a palpable electricity in the air, a sense of anticipation in the literal darkness before the dawn.

Then the sun rises in all her majesty, filling that darkness with blinding light and vivid colors. Rin aligns herself so the rising sun appears directly within the torii gate, as if a great spirit were emerging. Yuru Camp has previously displayed a gift for depicting sunrises and sunsets, but it really outdoes itself this time, showing us the same sunrise from multiple locations.

As the day goes on, Rin is looking forward to trying out Iwata’s local specialty pig’s foot curry, but is tempted by a food truck selling pizza and pot-au-feu, and decides to indulge. Chiaki gets Toba and the others to hurry off Mt. Minobu so they can try to catch a second sunrise in Fujikawa City fifty minutes after the first—and one that looks like a diamond rising over Fujiyama’s summit.

While Toba-sensei drifts her Suzuki Hustler up and around the mountain road with the skill of a rally driver, they arrive to find the sun already high above Fuji-san—Chiaki was off by a whole half-hour. The last to see a “sunrise” is Ena, once it’s already pretty high in the sky. Still, I’m sure she enjoyed the extra sleep!

While Rin is starting to think about preparing to check out, she gets a call from her mom: Yamanashi has frozen over in the night, making the roads home too dangerous to attempt, particularly on a moped. The new plan is for her grandpa to drive out in his van to get her and her bike. She just has to sit tight for two days. Considering she’s a short walk from the beach, there are far worse places to be “stuck!”

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 01 – The Power of Curry Cup Ramen

In its first season Shima Rin mentioned she first started camping in her first year of middle school. The second season opens by saying “You don’t have to take her word for it; we’ll show you!”

Rin’s passion for camping began when her grandfather mailed her a package containing camping gear. Then, as now, she was a voracious reader, but used to simply read in the front room of her family’s super-awesome house. She takes a long look outdoors and decides to figure out how the tent gramps gave her goes together.

Before long, the day has come for Rin’s very first camping trip, a day trip to—where else—Lake Motosu. Her dad, whom we see for the first time, drives her there and walks with her to the lakeside where she’ll set up camp on her own. He’ll be chilling in the lodge while she’s camping, in case she needs help. The striking view of Fuji-san fills Rin with awe.

That awe soon turns to frustration as Rin proves absolutely terrible at camping, but in her defense, it’s her first time, she’s only 11 or 12, and most everyone is crap at doing something the first time!

She bends one of the tent spikes when hitting it too hard with a rock. She doesn’t have a chair so her butt hurts. She tries to start a fire with no kindling and enormous branches. She ruins the pot in which she tried—and failed—to cook rice.

It’s cold, and she’s hungry, and she’s been so busy trying and failing things that she hasn’t able to read a single page of her OOPArts book! Then her mom gives her a call, and tells her she slipped some “emergency food” in her backpack: a cup of curry ramen. Aw, mom! Rin boils some water on the fire the camp admin helped her build, and she digs in.

She can’t recall curry cup ramen ever tasting so good, but when you’re enjoying nature’s majesty, once-ordinary foods just taste better. In a lovely little closing touch, Rin is admiring Fuji-san close up, and we cut to a sixth-grade Nadeshiko in her hometown, gazing happily at a much smaller Fuji-san.

Fast-forward to the present: with New Year’s fast approaching, Nadeshiko is working hard at a job perfectly suited to her energy levels: bicycle mail delivery. She finishes her route and has lunch with Ena, whom she shows the retro lantern she wants to buy. Then they get into a text exchange with Aoi, Chiaki, and Rin regarding their New Years plans.

Chiaki doesn’t get any time off, but everyone vows to bring back something for her, so she’s fine “holding the fort”. Rin will be soloing for New Year’s, preferably by the ocean, somewhere like Izu. Both her parents prefer that she chose a campsite that doesn’t involve heavy traffic, as she’s still a relatively new rider.

Rin settles on Iwata in Shizuoka, not least because it has another dog shrine like the one she visited on her impromptu solo trip—and this shrine features a living descendent of Shippeitaoru AKA Hayatarou. I wouldn’t pass up meeting a holy dog either! She loads her trusty moped up with her gear and sets off before the sun comes up, her mom sending her off.

While at a stop light, Rin hears someone calling her name from a konbini…It’s Nadeshiko, who is buying snacks before starting her early workday! Nadeshiko runs up to chat with Rin and gives her something to eat and stay warm once she’s at her campsite: a cup of curry ramen.

Not only is it the same kind Rin shared with Nadeshiko when they first met, but it’s the same kind Rin’s  mom packed for her on her first ever trip, and thus always had deep sentimental value. Emphasizing the two girls’ warm, sweet, enduring friendship no matter how apart they are…Yuru Camp 2 is off to a great start!