The Best Camping in Japan
Just pack your marshmallows and go.
Ahh, the smell of campfires and burnt marshmallows, doesn’t it just bring you back? While camping remains just a nostalgic memory for certain people, it’s still very much a thing for others. Having your accommodation on hand at all times and playing it a bit wild and free has its appeal. Some people prefer camping in their backyard, but for the more adventurous, there’s no limit.
Everyone knows about Japan. The East Asian Island in the Pacific Ocean is on many a traveler’s to-do list. It’s known for sushi, ramen, anime, tech, temples and… certainly not camping. Nonetheless, Japan offers endless unique camping experiences, and you should absolutely bring your tent and sleeping bag along for the ride next time you hop on a flight to the land of the rising sun. You’ll definitely find a place to rest your head at one of Japan’s 3000 campgrounds.
What's Camping in Japan Like?
Spending a night under the canvas in the Land of the Rising Sun might be a little different from what you're used to back home. Japan is packed-full with scenic locations that are the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a little while.
The biggest thing to note is that campfires are usually not allowed. Have no fears though, your marshmallow dreams are not completely obliterated! Campsites offer a designated area with a fire-pit or some type of kitchen-like area. Here’s what you’ll find at a Japanese campsite: restrooms, showers, something to enable cooking, water, electricity and somewhere to pitch your tent. Here are other things you might find at some campsites: tennis courts, dog parks, fishing areas, hot springs and wifi (it is Japan after all)! Plenty of sites will also have gear ready for rental, vending machines, or a corner store to help make your trip worry-free.
Auto-kyanpu or auto camping is the most popular camping style in Japan. It’s basically where your spot on the lot includes parking and room for the tent, side by side. Campground fees vary greatly from one spot to another. Usually you’re looking at a couple of thousand yens (a thousand yen is about $10 USD) which is nothing in comparison to some of the hotels you might find in Tokyo.
Camping is popular with locals as well! Things can get a little busy in the summer months, so if you’re planning on heading out, make sure to reserve your spot well in advance from July through August.
Tips and Tricks
The Japanese public transit system is golden. Plenty of camping sites can be reached by train or bus. All you need is a Pasmo or Suica card which are super easy to grab in all train stations. Some sites can be more remote however, so make sure to check this before you go! Some campsites even offer shuttles from the nearest train stations.
Once you’ve got your transit card, you can even use it to pay in corner stores (conbinis)! Utilizing conbinis to their full potential is the number one travel tip for Japan. 7eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart are the trifecta. Fill-up your ice pack with all the foodie necessities that require no campsite assembly. May we recommend an onigiri? Or the very famous egg salad sandwiches? All conbinis also carry alcohol and plenty of knick knacks for the road. It puts the convenience in convenience store.
Japanese grocery stores and conbinis also put plenty of food on discount a couple of hours before closing time. If you’re looking for a deal, shop late!
The best trick for a successful Japan camping excursion is onsens. Onsens are hot springs, or public baths, or a mixture of both. They are the perfect place to remove all the grime from your travels. The soothing warm water is also the best place to be when you’ve got a kink in your neck from sleeping on a punctured air mattress.
The Top Campsites in Japan
This is up there as far as scenic spots in Japan. Southwest of Hiroshima, Miyajima (also known as Itsukushima Island) is one of the best places to camp in the country. A ten-minute boat ride from the mainland will take you to your new temporary home.
One of the top reasons to visit is the huge (really huge) floating Torii gate. The entire island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but the red gate in the sea is magnificent. At low tide, you can even walk directly around it while gazing at the coastline of Hiroshima.
Miyajima is known for the many hikes it offers (Omoto Route is a good one), it’s shrines, and it’s semi-domesticated deers. We say “semi” since they’ve been known to temper with campers -- be careful about how you store your food on the island.
Camping on the Island of the Gods means you’ll get exclusive access to Miyajima: once the last ferry leaves, the island is blissfully quiet.
Miyajima Tsutsumigaura Camp-jo is where you’ll most likely spend the night (or nights). Open all year, you’re looking at 300 yen ($3 USD) per person to stay over. They also do tent and cabin rentals. This campground really has everything you could need and is a quick bus ride from the pier.
Camping beachside on a historic island surrounded by “friendly” deers? Check!
And another island! This time off the coast of Okinawa. For reference, Okinawa is sort of like the Hawai’i of Japan. It’s the perfect place for a tropical getaway! Think more beach-town and less commercial hub.
Simply take a ferry from the main island to get to Shirajimi Island. From there, it’s just a quick 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk to the Ama Beach Campground.
Do you like sea kayaking? Diving? Swimming? Snorkeling? Generally lazing around on a pristine beach? This is the place for you!
Once again, 300 yen ($3 USD - cash only) per person and you’re set. The fee includes (cold) showers and you can rent out tents if necessary. During summer, this is a hot (literally and figuratively) destination, so make sure to book in advance if you want your slice of paradise!
While you’re in Okinawa, Yagaji Beach Camping Ground is another great spot to stop. It’s an hour and a half by car from the capital and 600 yen ($6 USD) per night. White sand and turquoise waters, free of charge.
Fuji Five Lakes
If there’s anything that should ring a bell when it comes to Japan, it’s Mount Fuji! The best place to get that postcard worthy shot of the great mountain reflecting in the water is at Fuji Five Lakes.
Kouan Campsite is amazingly located right on Lake Motosu, one of the five. Once you get to Kouan, head for the north campsites, as that is where you’ll catch the best view of the snowy peaks.
The site is open all four seasons, although be advised that winters can get a little chilly. If you’re leaving from Tokyo, just take the train up to Kawaguchiko Station and from there, you’re looking at a 40-minute drive.
For a small fee of 600 yen per person ($6 USD), you’ll get the chance to wake up to the most dream-like view there ever was - it’s exactly like looking at the back of the thousand yen note.
Honorable Mention: Hoshinoya Fuji
If camping isn’t really your thing, bravo for making it all the way to this part of the article, here's something for you!
Hoshinoya Fuji is the first glamping resort in all of Japan. What’s glamping you ask? It’s glamorous camping! If creepy-crawlies worry you or you want to be sure to have a hot shower at your disposition, this version of camping is definitely for you!
With glorious views of both Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi, Hoshinoya Fuji is truly a luxurious experience (with a price to match). Cabins start at around 30,000 yen per night (that’s around $300 USD). You don’t need to pack a tent or any gear to come here and everything is set up for your utmost comfort. You’ve got a very real bed and your very own private bathroom.
Horseback riding, canoeing, coffee brewing lessons, and long walks in the Aokigahara Forest are just part of the experience. There’s also a chef on-site, so you don’t even need to stop at a conbini to grab your dinner!
While Tokyo is definitely worth a visit, there’s so much more to this country than just this vibrant city. Maybe stay in a capsule hotel for a few days right in Shibuya or Shinjuku and then make your way over to a different type of adventure with a bit more nature. Camping is just one of the many ways to see the land of the rising sun under a different (more organic) light.
And just think of all the raised eyebrows you’ll get once you tell people you just got back from a camping trip in Japan!
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