The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Caribou-kun and Lake Yamanaka: Yuru Camp△ 2 Fifth Episode Impressions and Review

“The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” –Kakuzo Okakura

On a chilly winter morning, Ena agrees to go camping with Chiaki and Aoi and their next break. Since Nadeshiko and Rin are working, it’s just the three of them, and Chiaki has planned out an itinerary for their stay near Lake Yamanaka. After arriving at Mount Fuji Station in Fujiyoshida, the girls begin by visiting an even larger Caribou store than the one closer back home, where they are greeted by a massive stuffed Caribou. Here, Aoi purchases her camping chair, while Chiaki manages to find a hammock fitting her specifications. Ena, Aoi and Chiaki then head over to the hot springs, where the comfortable waters and refreshing ice cream makes it difficult for them to leave. Finally, in order to pick up ingredients for their evening meal, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena swing by a local supermarket. Here they purchase ingredients (on Nadeshiko’s recommendation) and set off on the last leg of their bus ride towards their campsite at Misaki Camping Ground on the far side of Lake Yamanaka. Chiaki helps a foreign visiter find their destination before disembarking for their destination. While the girls are initially excited to set up camp on a cape, during registration, they learn from the manager that it would be unsafe to do so. Here at Yuru Camp△ 2‘s fifth episode, we mark a return to the Outdoor Activities Club’s style of camping, and as a result, the episode is lively, energetic and filled with amusing conversations, which stands in contrast with the gentle contemplative mood of Rin’s solo camping trips. This time around, as Nadeshiko is busy, Ena substitutes in for her, allowing Yuru Camp△ 2 to mix things up and give her another opportunity to see how the Outdoor Activities Club gets things done.

The rambunctious and improvisational approach that the Outdoors Activity Club employs on its camping trip creates an element of unpredictability that makes their trips particularly fun to watch. While Chiaki still organises the club’s itinerary in a clear manner and possesses a modicum of camping knowledge, she is able to improvise and make do in situations that demand it. Unexpected scenarios turn into memorable moments. This had been demonstrated with Chiaki using Nadeshiko as a makeshift pole during the previous episode, and in the first season, she walks Rin through an unexpected turn of events, earning Rin’s respect. If solo camping allows one to spend time to recharge, be immersed in nature and contemplate experiences, then Chiaki’s group camping is about adapting to challenges and drawing on different perspectives to solve problems. For instance, when Aoi remarks that they might’ve done better to prepare the vegetables for dinner ahead of time, Chiaki reveals that a conversation with Nadeshiko allows them to go with a packaged alternative that makes it easier to prepare once at the campsite. Similarly, at the larger Caribou Store, when Chiaki struggles to decide on a style of hammock, a clerk provides a demonstration for her, in turn helping Chiaki to make a decision. The episode closes on this token, as well – when the manager denies permission for the trio to use the cape as their campsite, citing safety reasons, this foreboding start does suggests that in the upcoming episode, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena’s ability to adapt and overcome will be put to the test: finding another site to pitch their tents isn’t going to be an issue, but something unexpected does feel like it’s about to present itself.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After an episode spent learning new equipment and setting the stage for future travels, Yuru Camp△ 2 returns to what the series does best – having the characters travel around Japan for both relaxing camping and explore local attractions. The fifth episode opens at Fuji Station, and right out of the gates, it became apparent that this week, my location-hunt skills were back in business. I will note that I had absolutely no trouble with finding anything this time around and located everything within the span of five minutes, but because I will be doing a standalone talk about the locations of Yuru Camp△ 2 later, this post will primarily focus on the characters.

  • On this journey, we see a new dynamic: since Nadeshiko is working (and so is Rin), Chiaki and Aoi decide to invite Ena along for their trip. Yuru Camp△ has five central characters, and using combinatorics, that means there are a total of 31 possible unique groupings. While this is decidedly smaller than something like GochiUsa or Non Non Biyori, coupled with the fact that there are over three thousand different campsites in Japan, it should become apparent that the combination of number of groupings and campsites together are staggeringly high, even larger than what is possible in GochiUsa and Non Non Biyori: assuming each grouping could visit a campsite once, we’d end up with 93000 combinations, leaving viewers assured that every episode and story arc will have something new and unique.

  • Chiaki’s first move in Fujiyoshida is to hit the bus station and pick up a transit pass that will give the Outdoor Activities Club unlimited transit access for 1500 Yen (18.23 CAD). In my area, an equivalent pass will go for 11 CAD, marking one of those rare times where something in my area is less pricy than what was seen in Yuru Camp△. I am admittedly jealous of how inexpensive some things are in the series, but this is also a reminder that there are probably a great deal of things back home that I don’t know about despite having lived here all this time.

  • Still feeling a little salty about the New Year’s break, Chiaki plans on gloating about her weekend’s experiences to Nadeshiko and Rin by sending them photos of their travels every so often, leading Aoi and Ena to remark that Chiaki is pure evil. With this being said, I have no qualms about giving Chiaki this moment – Rin and Nadeshiko did have a blast in Shizuoka, and one cannot fault Chiaki for also wanting to relax a little and simultaneously give Rin and Nadeshiko some photos to excite them. Of the Outdoor Activities Club’s members, Chiaki is a go-getter, energetic rambunctious, resembling K-On!‘s Ritsu Tainaka. Her manner is initially off-putting to Rin, who is the polar opposite, but over the course of Yuru Camp△, Rin comes to respect her.

  • The town of Fujiyoshida lies north of Mount Fuji and has a population of around 49000 people. Located between 650 to 850 metres above sea level, the area has hot summers and mild winters. This town acts as the starting point for the trio, but since their objective is camping, their destination lies outside of the populated areas. Getting here from Minobu is, as mentioned in Yuru Camp△ 2, a bit of a trek: there’s a handful of ways to travel this distance, but the shortest way is to ride north into Kofu’s Zenkōji Station via the Minobu Line and then from here, take a one-and-a-half hour long bus to Mount Fuju Station.

  • Back home, Nadeshiko has started her new job as a waitress at the soba shop in Minobu. Her funds for camping are now secure, although given the price of camping gear and the fact that this job offers 890 Yen per hour (about 10.81 CAD, which is lower than the minimum wage of 15 CAD per hour in my province), it’s going to be a bit of a journey for Nadeshiko ahead. Doing part time jobs of any sort really helps people appreciate the value of a dollar, and also makes the effort of saving up for something even more meaningful: as Nadeshiko saves up, she’ll be able to acquire a similar setup as Rin and be able to look at solo camping.

  • For now, however, we’ll return focus to the Outdoor Activities Club and Ena: Yuru Camp△ 2 has not given Chiaki and Aoi much shine time as of yet, so with this episode’s story being about their latest excursion, Yuru Camp△ 2 becomes considerably rowdier. Yuru Camp△ has two distinct sides to it: Rin’s side is the contemplative, slow-paced and tranquil one, while the Outdoor Activities Club’s side is noisy, exciting and humourous. Here, the trio arrive in front of what Chiaki considers the largest outdoors and sporting goods store in the area, another Caribou. Yuru Camp△ implies that Caribou is a large chain, similar to Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops, but in reality, the store here is called Montbell.

  • Standing a massive stuffed animal in front of a shop is something I consider to be a familiar sight: a lot of shops in Banff have a giant bear or moose in front of their entrance (decked out in the RCMP’s iconic red Serge). While perhaps not as soft or fuzzy as a stuffed animal, they’re still is decently cuddly and make for some great photos. I’m not sure how common these large stuffed animals are in Japan, but for Ena and Aoi, it is something that is distinct enough. As they reach Caribou’s entrance, they immediately make to hug it, and although Chiaki initially resists, she finds herself compelled to give the stuffed caribou a good hug, as well.

  • Aoi is struggles to make the decision between the different types of camping chair. Yuru Camp△ 2  differentiates the chairs by height, stating that higher chairs make it easier to stand up from, whereas low chairs offer a bit more comfort. There are many types of camping chairs, beyond these two: rocking chairs, scoop chairs, three-legged camping stools and the unusual-looking two-legged chairs are also options. Chiaki, on the other hand, is looking for a hammock, and although her requirements are tough (the hammock must be lightweight and use its own frame), a clerk soon helps her work out something.

  • With their purchases in hand, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena prepare to head for their next destination. Ena chooses to buy nothing, having already picked up a snazzy-looking tent for Chikuwa. While Ena might’ve been reluctant to formally join the Outdoor Activities Club, she is giving every indicator that camping is something that she is beginning to greatly enjoy. This episode had opened with Ena receiving a message from Chiaki wondering if she’d like to share in an adventure with her and Aoi, and Ena had commented that, as soon as she saw the words “camping”, she immediately said yes.

  • I imagine that for Ena, her lack of inclination to go camping comes more from her dislike of the cold more than the activity itself, and Ena had previously mentioned that she’d probably do better with summer camping. With this in mind, given how Chiaki, Aoi, Nadeshiko and Rin all have demonstrated a means of keeping warm, I imagine that a few more excursions, coupled with rising temperatures as spring approaches, could change Ena’s mind and get her to join the club at some point. Back at Caribou, in a hilarious show of sanctimony, Chiaki gets a second hug in as the trio depart from the store despite being the one telling Aoi and Ena to get a move on when they’d first arrived.

  • The second destination on Chiaki’s itinerary is Benifuji no Yu, an onsen located 5.3 kilometres southeast of Montbell. It’s a 19 minute bus ride here, and after entering the onsen‘s 38°C waters, admire the majesty of Mount Fuji, visible from the baths. Chiaki realises that they’re likely to get rooted here if they’re too into the immensely comfortable waters, and attempts to get out. With the ambient temperature a cool 1.4°C, however, only Chiaki has the courage to follow through: Ena and Aoi remain within the onsen‘s waters. Being “stuck” somewhere owing to how comfortable it is seems to be a recurring theme in Yuru Camp△,and during her visit to Shizuoka, Rin says the same thing while enjoying tea at the Kimikura teahouse.

  • In a scene that brings back memories of Yuru Camp△‘s first Outdoor Activities Club camping trip, when Nadeshiko, Aoi and Chiaki enjoy ice cream at the Fuefukigawa Fruit Park, after a relaxing soak in the onsen, Chiaki, Ena and Aoi enjoy and share ice creams again. Aoi mentions that grabbing ice cream before camping has become somewhat of a tradition for the Outdoor Activities Club, and strictly speaking, this is true: the Outdoor Activities Club ice cream was savoured both prior to the Pine Wood Auto Camp trip and Christmas Camp. While I’d previously not been a fan of ice cream, but after enjoying D. Dutchman’s Ice Cream (they’re located just outside of Sicamous), I’ve warmed up to this frozen dairy treat.

  • The last destination for the day is a supermarket a six-minute walk from Benifuji no Yu. The supermarket is known as Ogino in real life, although Yuru Camp△ 2 portrays it as Hagino. In a bit of a twist, the name had me thinking about Chiaki, and for the duration of the episode, I was at a loss as to why this was the case. As it turns out, while Chiaki of Yuru Camp△ has the family name Oogaki, there is another Chiaki in Hinako Note, and it so happens that her family name is Hagino.

  • After learning of Nadeshiko’s suggestions to making a delicious nabe, Ena and Chiaki are seized with a desire to marry Nadeshiko. The list of amendments and changes Nadeshiko has both hints at her own ability to cook, brought on by her love of food, and reminds me of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, where Snape’s old textbook is filled with amendments and revisions to various potions. When I took home economics in middle and secondary school, I always was accustomed to measuring things and following recipes precisely. However, my parents’ cooking style is more laissez faire: recipes are modified all the time, especially when they call for more salt, butter or oil than is deemed healthy.

  • Once the girls do a cheer that draw the other shoppers’ attention (to Aoi’s embarrassment) and finish buying their initial list of ingredients, Ena notices the store is also selling Lake Smelts (Osmeridae) and decides to get some for tempura. The improvisational nature of their camping trip is most apparent here; Chiaki had initially planned on a nabe with kiritanpo (rice that is pounded into a cylinder and roasted over an open fire, popular in the Akita prefecture), but the girls decide to wing it with their tempura dish. Tempura is not difficult to prepare, but tricky to get right, and the resulting oil does need to be disposed of properly.

  • On the last leg of their journey towards Lake Yamanaka, Chiaki helps a foreign traveller to find Hirano Hot Springs: this onsen is alternatively known as Ishiwari no Yu and is located about a kilometre northeast of the bus line. Chiaki is able to answer and helps the fellow out, even putting on a fake accent while in the moment. The traveller’s Japanese is decidedly better than my own, as he is able to understand Chiaki’s reply: while I can phrase simple questions and the like without too much trouble, my listening comprehension is still bad.

  • Ena and Aoi had been disappointed to learn that Chiaki had picked a camping spot that was quite far removed from area attractions: a glance at a map of Lake Yamanaka shows that on its eastern edge, near Misaki Camping Ground, there really isn’t a whole lot to see in the way of attractions. However, upon arrival, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena are greeted with a vast, uninterrupted view of the lake. Of the Fuji Five Lakes, Yamanaka is the largest in terms of surface area, and despite being quite shallow, it is a popular spot for watersports and boating.

  • Of all the places in Yuru Camp△Lake Yamanaka is a spot I’ve visited during my trip to Japan four years earlier: the tour had saw us from travel from Saitama through Kanagawa to Gotemba. At Lake Yamanaka, we stopped at Yakinuku Fuji for lunch before travelling to Oshino Hakkai, a series of eight ponds nestled in a small village. The pond water is very clear, having been thoroughly filtered by porous layers of igneous rock, and here, I bought a blue ice cream to enjoy while taking in the sights: Mount Fuji was, as Rin puts it, wearing a hat that day, which was otherwise completely sunny and clear.

  • After being awed by the lake scenery, Chiaki, Ena and Aoi head off to register, hopeful they’ll be able to camp on the cape itself. The manager, however, declines: he appears to be an unfriendly-looking fellow, and given that Yuru Camp△ has been faithful with its details, one cannot help but wonder if the real-world manager here is a little gruff, as well. This brings my talk on the fifth episode to a close, and I note that like last week, this week’s post-credits sequence is an absolute laugh, which supposes that Rin has a nightmare where everything is given sentience, making her feel tortured about the simple act of setting a campfire up.

It would appear that one Yuru Camp△ 2‘s themes will likely deal in the idea that, despite their outward differences, solo camping and group camping would share more in common than prima facie apparent, and the most complete camping experience results from participating in both. The end result of such a message would allow for a greater variety of adventures (and character combinations) to result, keeping Yuru Camp△ 2 fresh and exciting. As the fifth episode draws to a close and Yuru Camp△ 2‘s halfway point is reached, it would appear that this trip to Lake Yamanaka will help Ena to appreciate camping to an even greater extent and potentially pave the path for her to join the Outdoor Activities Club: the last season saw her participate in the Christmas camp, and while she still declined Chiaki and Aoi’s invitation to join their club, I imagine that exposure to camping, its subtleties and joys will help Ena to come around. This week’s episode also adds a host of new locations to add to my list of places to showcase once I get to doing the second instalment of Oculus Quest-powered location hunting for Yuru Camp△ 2 – this time around, finding the outdoors equipment shop, hot springs and supermarket proved to be trivially easy, requiring no more than a total of five minutes, suggesting that Chiaki’s itinerary was whipped together in no time at all. Yuru Camp△ 2 is maintaining a very consistent experience insofar, and having come to anticipate new episodes each week, it goes without saying that Yuru Camp△ 2 has done a fantastic job of presenting a varied, engaging experience for viewers.

2 responses to “Caribou-kun and Lake Yamanaka: Yuru Camp△ 2 Fifth Episode Impressions and Review

  1. David Birr February 6, 2021 at 08:14

    “E-Ena, help us.” *Ka-click!* as Ena takes a picture of the silly position Aki and Aoi fell into….

    Like

    • infinitezenith February 6, 2021 at 12:47

      That moment alone speaks volumes about Ena’s personality: she’s very much got a mischievous side about her, and I wager we might even see this moment in next week’s opening sequence!. It brings back memories of a similar situation from Houkago Teibou Nisshi, when Hinata and Natsumi venture too far out into a tidal flat and get stuck in the mud. In the end, both end up covered with mud and learn a valuable lesson about tidal flats.

      Like

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