A wag once quipped, "Camping: where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person." Japan's first boom in auto camping began in earnest after the widespread adoption of the 5-day work week, from the early 1990s. Now the country is in the process of a second boom, which may possibly spur a third boom. Over the past five years, according to the "2019 White Paper on Auto Camping," the ranks of people engaged in this form of leisure increased by an additional 1 million, raising the overall total of auto campers in 2018 to 8.5 million.
"Auto camping is not some kind of transient fad, but a diversified type of leisure," Hiroaki Sakai of the Japan Auto Camping Association tells Spa (Sept 3). "It initially involved mostly families but has expanded to include camping by solo individuals and pairs or small groups of young women.
"More people are also combining camping with other activities such as fishing or mountain climbing," Sakai added.
Demand at outdoor specialty shops for camping gear and accessories, much of it imported, has been increasing commensurately.
Unfortunately, Spa notes, some of these happy campers come up short when it comes to proper behavior.
"After the designated time when it's supposed to be lights-out on the grounds, some people still play music and carouse," a veteran camper named Shida tells the magazine. "All they care about is having a good time with their friends. Sometimes they arrive in a group and park their vehicles in a circle that blocks access by other campers."
While some camps are competently managed by private owners, numerous others are on public lands. Use is free or they charge only very low rates, and can be reserved by telephone or via email.
One would hope that users would abide by the old Japanese saying that goes, "a departing bird should not leave behind a dirty nest," but alas, such is not the case.
"At a camping ground on the shore of a lake, one camper drove his car into the shallow water and began washing it," relates Ryosuke Sakuma, a camping coordinator who raises the various problems he hears about on social networks. "I also see people washing off their barbecue grills using chemical cleansers -- which are banned."
Another hard and fast rule at camping grounds is for users to take home their rubbish, but many fail to do so. Aside from being an eyesore, discarded waste also attracts birds and animals, which fling the mess in all directions. (Several photos accompanying the story attest to this.) Small children have also been injured tripping over half-buried tent pegs, which were not pulled out and taken home by users.
In a sidebar, Spa lists its "Top 10" transgressions by inconsiderate campers. In descending order, they are: drunken brawls; carousing until late at night; washing cars in a lake; utilizing banned chemical cleansers; leaving trash that gets scattered by predatory animals; discarding entire mattresses; leaving behind camping gear that results in injury to small children; starting forest fires due to building campfires on windy days; burning self-assembled furniture; and burning freshly cut green wood.
While admittedly low-key, the aforementioned Sakuma does his part with blog posts to encourage campers to behave themselves, while reminding them that what goes around, comes around.
Obviously, Spa writes, the fact that increasing numbers of people are enjoying camping suggests that the worst problems are not yet out of control. But a few bad apples can ruin the experience of many others.© Japan Today