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A brief introduction to camping in Japan: Save yen and see Japan from a different perspective

17 Comments
By Connie Sceaphierde, grape Japan

Ever since the late ’80s, Japan has been stuck with the stereotype of being some sort of super expensive futuristic hub due to the high inflation of its economic bubble at the time. And although it may be true that some things are more expensive than in other countries, the reality of modern times is that travel in Japan needn’t be any more expensive than a trip in Europe or the States.

One of the major concerns for travellers in Japan is the cost of lodgings for a few nights, with plenty of people complaining that accommodation in The Land of the Rising Sun costs an awful lot more than just an arm and a leg (and let’s be honest here; no one wants to pay with those anyway).

However, the truth that almost everyone wants to ignore and keep hidden is that there are actually plenty of affordable and decent places to stay all over the country. There are a plethora of capsule hotels to test out, plenty of business hotels to grab a few winks in and many tourist-friendly hostels dotted all the way from the southernmost tip of Okinawa to the northernmost reaches of Hokkaido. In addition to all the normal places you can stay at for a bargain nowadays, there is also one type of shelter in Japan that you haven’t perhaps thought about; camping.

Outside the dizzying electronic hubs known as cities, the country opens itself up as a whole other world and has so much more to offer. There are plenty of hidden places to explore, mountains to climb and seas to swim in.

By spending some time in the rich countryside of Japan you can find more natural beauty than you could have ever imagined, and in my opinion, one of the best ways to enjoy said nature is to take a few days off and head out and get off of the beaten track with some hiking poles, a hot cuppa and a tent.

Camping in Japanese Culture

Camping has become a popular and regular pursuit of many Japanese individuals and families, just as it is in Europe and the States. The love of the activity can be seen at campgrounds all around, as groups of Japanese campers set up their pitch with all the latest camping gear and tech. Although it is not essential to have every piece of camping equipment to enjoy a few night’s closer to nature, it certainly must make the experience all the more comfortable, and I often find myself wondering why we don’t hear more about Japanese camping enthusiasts and their wild adventures.

Camping in Japan becomes especially popular during the summer months, with other peak times throughout the year being the Japanese holidays; Golden week in May and the Obon period in August. Even when the temperatures drop to sub 0, you are still sure to find many camping devotee’s braving it out despite the cold.

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Camping in Japan can give you access to a whole new unexpected world. Location: Shikoku Karst. Photo: Connie Sceaphierde

What to Expect

The charges for campsites vary across the country, with some sites costing absolutely nothing whilst others may go up to 5,000 yen per night. However, those pricier options are more likely to be on the luxurious side with entertainment, electric hookups, restaurants and shops - which is not what all adventurers are necessarily looking for.

Despite the fluctuation in varying prices, most of the regular sites cost around 1000 yen per night and with all paid sites coming with access to toilets and cleaning facilities, is there really any need for something more?

On a downside the majority of campsites in Japan are a little out of the way and it can sometimes be a pain to find a restaurant that is open for dinner. There is a silver lining however, as most campgrounds allow stoves and controlled fires, so in addition to sleeping under the stars it can also be the perfect opportunity to get out the barbecue.

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Beach camping is one of the great pleasures of camping in Japan. Photo: Connie Sceaphierde

A Small Note on Japan’s Free Camping Grounds

With all the basic comforts of home (and perhaps more) you are sure to rest easy at any of the paid sites in Japan.

Free sites, on the other hand, can be a little trickier to settle down at. It is wise to keep in mind that, although it is fun to test out your survival skills at one of the free campsites in Japan, the camping ground will most probably be lacking in maintenance and that it is not advisable to consume any running water. However most of the free sites are conveniently placed close to nearby sleepy villages or road service stations that come with toilets and vending machines.

So whether you’re the type of person who has all the latest gear and equipment, or perhaps you are just someone who packs the bare minimum, why not give one of Japan’s many great campsites a go and see the country through a different kind of perspective.

Read more stories from grape Japan.

-- “Ainu Museum” dedicated to the indigenous people of North Japan to open this spring

-- Walk among the tombs of the Mori warlords at Tokoji Temple

-- The Koishikawa Botanical Gardens are the oldest in Japan and rich in stories to tell

© grape Japan

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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People who cry that Japan is too expensive for travel have never been to Japan. As article points out there are many levels of accommodation as well as dining for all budget levels. Not all decent Japanese hotels are $300 per night.

And who wants to camp in Japan especially when it's broiling in summer.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

On a downside the majority of campsites in Japan are a little out of the way and it can sometimes be a pain to find a restaurant that is open for dinner. 

Huh?

Well maybe the writer was thinking of giving Mom a break from the cooking/cleaning job.

Anyway, getting the equipment can be expensive. Camping items are way overpriced here. Anyone seriously thinking of getting into it should be in it for the long haul. eBay is your friend here. Don’t go cheap on your tent.

And who wants to camp in Japan especially when it's broiling in summer.

Mountain/clear river camping only for me. It’s the small fauna that I love. A moth bigger than my hand. Ever hear of a King Namikuji? Amazing. Some night moth eating the wax out of my ear. If you find the smaller less popular ones, nice big bonfires and an amazing star filled sky.

Happy trails!

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0 ( +1 / -1 )

Avoid all Japanese campgrounds in the summer, particularly on weekends. There are no quiet hours and people tend to drink and carry on all night and let their kids run around screaming all night. Tent walls are too thin to sleep.

But it is pretty easy to do rough camping in Japan on beaches and just off back country roads where nobody will find you, and all are free.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Problem with Japanese campsites is most are geared for huge groups. Bungalows for 2 to 4 people can be rare. Also, secluded tent sites on soft grass is the exception, while being crammed together on harsh rocky gravel is the norm.

Guerilla camping not always recommended, due to how climate change has disrupted bears' activities and temperment. More sightings and problems than before.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Avoid all Japanese campgrounds in the summer, particularly on weekends. There are no quiet hours and people tend to drink and carry on all night and let their kids run around screaming all night.

Not my experience. Is this in the surrounding area of Tokyo maybe?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I've camped for decades all over Kyushu, once even in a hotel's garden (it was the only flat space) and directly under a sign that said "No Camping" (the authorities noticed my behavior and let me be). Four pieces of obvious advice and you'll be welcome:

No open fires. Bring a camp stove.

Keep the noise down. No fireworks or loud parties.

Respect the locals - they're accepting you as you bring business.

Leave your site cleaner than when you arrived.

A good tent is your major investment, followed by the cooking stove. All else can be bought at Daiso.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Camping many times in the Japan Alps mountains.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@FizzBit Mostly Kyushu but have camped all the way between Southern Kyushu and northern Hokkaido and some islands. Off season is pretty good as generally, the campground will be empty but summer is nuttso.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I've had some nice camping experiences at campsites here but you need to choose carefully. Being squeezed in tightly to the groups around totally defeats what I consider the point of camping to be. I like a shaded area and I'm also a light sleeper so a quiet spot is preferable. I don't actually like camping in tents but the kids enjoy it, i'd happily turn up for the day do the bbq etc and go stay somewhere else.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Yeah camping is a lot of fun. If you are on your own, buy a minimal lightweight setup you can carry up mountains. The new trend is to also carry lightweight camping gear in bikepacking bags that will fit on any bike, not just some dedicated (heavy) touring one with panniers. It means you can go touring on any bike, road and mountain bikes included.

With car camping, watch out for GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), the urge to keep buying more stuff that plagues musicians, photographers, cyclists, etc. Some people have seriously OTT setups that must have cost a fortune.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I've been camping a lot around Tokyo (Gunma, Ibaraki, Shizuoka) with my wife, and then with our son, who naturally loves it. Minimal gear, a tent, mattress, bbq set, and the sort. And a fishing rod for me and my son. This allows us to spend more on quality meat for the bbq. At the beginning we rested a car, now we go with our own. It is important to research well the camping sites, we found many nice, quiet and very spacious sites. In summer, even in August, you can find cool mountain sites. The only places we didn't like were the beach sites, very crowded and hot in summer, and many noise punks around

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I only ever camp deep in the mountains on old logging roads. Too many stupid rules at Japanese camp sites, like "no fires".

0 ( +3 / -3 )

No BusinessToday 03:52 pm JST

I only ever camp deep in the mountains on old logging roads. Too many stupid rules at Japanese camp sites, like "no fires".

Yep, a campfire deep in the mountains on old logging roads, sounds wonderful.

What could go wrong?

gary

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

proxy......a great comment.

I have camped along the Edo and Tone rivers without a problem at all.

Japan is awesome in this respect.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Have not done a ton of campong in Japan, but look forward to doing so. I second (or third) the motion on getting a good tent and cookware and would also add a nice sleeping bag if you plan on going in the shoulder months. Getting out under the stars for night or two can do wonders for your state of mind!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some good insights and views on here, great to read after a night in a smoky izakaya.

Who's up for a JT Campfest in summer? We can really right the world's wrongs over a few beers and a roaring fire by a cool river.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What about deep nature camping ? Is it forbidden to camp outside specific géographic zone ?

In France, deep nature (cut from every thing) for soft survival experimentation is top cool.

°

NadAge

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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