With so many people in Japan living in cramped urban population centers, it’s understandable that a large number of them want to head somewhere more rural if they’ve got a few days to get out of town.
On the other hand, Japan’s traditionally high standards regarding hospitality mean that often travelers want to be pampered while away from home. Add in the fact that it’s much more common for a group of Japanese women to travel together than a group of men, and you’ve got the makings of a new cottage industry of luxurious accommodations for female campers.
Over the last few years, Japan has seen a steady rise in the number of “yama" (mountain) girls. The yama girl is a young women with a penchant for getting back to nature by hiking the country’s mountains or forests, often attired in brightly-colored, fashionably-designed outdoor apparel.
Many residents of large cities like Tokyo or Osaka don’t own a car, though. Hauling your tent and other gear on the train can be a bit intimidating for camping newbies, particularly if your inexperience makes you unsure as to exactly what equipment you’ll even need.
As a result, yama girl excursions tend to be day trips. A few outdoor leisure providers are looking to change that though, with services that let their guests enjoy roughing it on the trails during the day, secure in the knowledge that their desires for comfort and relaxation will be well taken care of once they arrive back at camp for the night.
One option for outdoor-loving ladies seeking the best of both worlds is Tamayura no Sato, in Wakayama Prefecture. From now until the end of November, the riverside campsite is offering special accommodation plans for groups of female guests.
Tamayura no Sato’s basic joshikai (“girls’ party”) plans start at 9,900 yen per person. Guests stay in wooden cabins, so there’s no need to worry about pitching a tent.
A variety of meats and vegetables comes with the packages, which travelers grill on outdoor barbeques. Even better, the plans include a free bottle of champagne, which you can use to cap off your meal, or, if you prefer, polish off ahead of time, then play rock-paper-scissors to decide who has to cook while the rest of you go take an alcohol-induced, pre-dinner nap.
Should you burn your food beyond what’s edible, there’s also an on-site restaurant open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., plus a bakery and ice cream stand.
All of Tamayura no Sato’s "joshikai" plans include complimentary access to the campground’s large outdoor communal bath.
More upscale cottages, staring at 15,400 yen per person, have private baths with rock or wooden tubs, in addition to cozy sitting areas the more economically-priced options lack.
Going one step farther in customer service is Sweet Grass, a campground located in Kita Karuizawa in mountainous Gunma Prefecture. Sweet Grass has tossed its hat into the luxury camping accommodation ring with its Princess Plan.
As the name implies, the package is only available for female travelers, and is tailored to those whose ideal image of hospitality runs more towards being addressed as “m’lady” than having to cook for themselves.
The prime attraction of the Princess Plan is the attentive staff, composed of men the company refers to as butlers, who are on hand to take care of their princesses’ needs. That’s right, camping just got classy.
Pick-up service from nearby Karuizawa Station is included, although since Sweet Grass’ website makes no mention of a carriage drawn by a team of a dozen stallions, each with a coat as pure white as freshly fallen snow on Christmas morning, so we’re sadly forced to assume the ride to the campsite happens in an ordinary shuttle van. This is by far the most plebian part of the package, however.
As at Tamayura no Sato, travelers on the Princess Plans stay in cottages, which are warmed by wood-burning stoves. The attendant butlers will light the fire, cook dinner, and even clear away the dishes afterwards, as well as provide guidance for any guests who want to try their own hand at preparing the roast chicken or dessert that all dinners include.
After dinner, the princesses have the option of stepping outside to gaze at the stars above, while the butlers point out the constellations and otherwise regale the ladies with tales of the celestial reaches.
Sweet Grass offers a number of other activity choices such as hiking, hot springs, obstacle courses, and handicrafts on the Princess Plan, which starts at 18,500 yen per person and includes breakfast and lunch. When the storybook journey is over, the staff will once again transport the princesses back to Karuizawa Station, at which point the shuttle van may or may not magically transform into a tasty, green, Japanese pumpkin.
Sources: Naver Matome, Tamayura no Sato, Sweet Grass
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