Camping in Japan - again

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Hi there,

I’ve read the current Japan Rough Guide cover to cover and one thing that was a surprise, was the fact that info on campgrounds is rather thin to put it mildly. I know most people opt for the train/guesthouses/hotel combination, but we’re renting a car (personal mobility issue) and would like to camp as much as possible. I’ve managed to dig up some info on campgrounds via various homepages, but I was wondering if there is a camping guide/atlas … anything that would come in print form really that would list campgrounds across Japan, and that would be in English. Or should we just wing it and see what’s available as we drive around?
Also: how necessary/ advisable are reservations for campgrounds? We have a tent, not a camper.

Thanks for any info and/or first hand experience!

evk08 16/07/14    Link Report

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Hi there,

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there’s a dedicated, English-language camping guide for Japan. There is the JNTO leaflet (which lists about 70 sites) about it, which you can find online and print off, but beyond that mostly just websites.

For most sites a reservation shouldn’t be necessary if you don’t arrive too late, but you may want to book ahead at ones in popular tourist areas, especially if you’re going to be there around any national holidays. If in doubt try to find the local tourist office or a kōban (交番, police box) and they’ll be able to tell you what’s in the local area – these are generally near the main train station, with larger towns and cities having several.

Especially if you’re heading off the beaten track a little without any site reservations, you should learn some key phrases in Japanese – are there any campsites in this area (kono atari ni cyanpu-jō ga arimasen ka?), we have a car (kuruma ga arimasu), we have a tent (tento ga arimasu)…

If all else fails, you can head to any local shrine or temple you pass and ask if you can camp there for the night. They may say no, but in general they’re likely to be hospitable, either allowing you to camp, politely declining and perhaps telling you somewhere else you could go, or even offering to let you sleep inside. Of course, this is another case where knowing a few words in Japanese will go a long way, even if only to show that you’re respectful and happy to make an effort!

Overall you’ll find Japan a very hospitable country for campers. Friends of mine have camped rough in various spots in Japan on the rare days when they couldn’t find a site, and even if the police asked them to move on they would wait until the morning and be polite about it – one even bought them some coffee and stayed for a chat! This won’t hold in some national parks, though, where you may face a fine for camping rough, but there will almost certainly be a site there anyway.

I hope this helps, and you have a great time in Japan!

Rebecca Hallett 18/07/14    Link Report

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