Ever considered camping in Japan? It’s a cheap, fun way to travel around and an easy way to meet Japanese people. Not only that, but you get to meet Japanese insects up close and personal. Don’t wrinkle your nose! The Japanese love their insects. Everything from the sound of cicadas and crickets to the sighting of a giant stag beetle are prized occurrences in Japan. So get out there and get to know your smaller neighbors!
Campsites in Japan vary from primitive to deluxe campsites with all the amenities. If you’re traveling around Japan, be ready for anything, because you may not always be able to find a campsite with all the comforts. But due to the numerous public baths and hot springs in Japan, you’ll never be far away from a nice, hot bath.
Fall is an ideal time to camp as it is the season for Autumn festivals all around Japan. These festivals celebrate everything from Autumn vegetable planting to worshipping local Shinto Gods. Festivals are community events, so even visitors can usually join in the fun, helping to carry the “mikoshi” (portable shrine) and taking part in drinking the local sake. Choose a festival, then look for a campground near it, and you’ll have a fun, hands-on vacation.
If you are not concerned about finding a campsite, in certain parts of Japan such as Shikoku, it is legal to set up your tent anywhere on public land (parks, etc). Hint: If no park is available, find places near train stations or even bus stops as they are most likely to have toilets and running water. Even if you know it is legal to camp somewhere, it is always polite to ask anyway.
If you are a seasoned camper, consider bringing your own tent to Japan. Japan offers all kinds of camping gear, but they tend to sell mostly larger size tents for 6-8 people, which can be heavy to carry around when you only need a tent for two. Everything else can be bought at the large camping stores in the cities.
Typically, there will be a charge of 1,000 yen per tent, and a surcharge per person. Amenities may be extra.
Remember to take your Guide to Insects.
- JNTO offers a pdf file of campsites with prices and amenities.
- “Dutch Pancake Camping,” (see photo) run by a Dutchman and his Japanese wife on Shodoshima Island in Kagawa Prefecture. Contact: Michel Habets dpc-(at)mx8.tiki.ne.jp
- Shiraishi Island, Okayama Prefecture. Free camping on the beach or at campground on the beach with a few amenities. English Contact: Shiraishireservations(at)yahoo.com
Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at www.amychavez.com