Camping in Japan’s great outdoors is a fantastic way to get a very different perspective on a nation that is far more famous for its cities. If that conjures images of damp and draughty tents, grubby bathing facilities, and burnt burgers over a campfire, you’ll be glad to discover that there’s a far more comfortable way to be at one with nature. The concept of “glamping” - or glamorous camping - has caught on in Japan, and a night beneath the stars is no longer synonymous with roughing it. This fair-weather camper, for one, is delighted.
Camping gets glamorous at Fujino Kirameki. Photo credit: Fujinokirameki
Many glamping sites have cropped up around Japan in recent years, such as Fujino Kirameki Fuji, which sits on a gently sloping site with stunning views of Japan’s most famous mountain. The site has more than 20 cabins spread over 16,000 square meters, which also includes a children’s playground and fenced area for pets. The cabins range from 54 square meters to a very spacious 153 square meters, are all air-conditioned and fitted with a toilet, shower, hammock, and a deck area that has a grill and fireplace, as well as an outdoor jet bath.
All the outdoor charms, all the mod cons at Fujino Kirameki. Photo credit: Fujinokirameki
As this is glamorous camping, forget the singed sausages that are usually served up; here, the staff delivers gourmet meals to each cabin, course by course. After dinner, with the fire crackling in the background, lie back in the bath with a cold drink and watch the heavens wheel overhead. It’s mesmerizing. For those with more energy, the staff can arrange local trips, including hiking, fishing, horse riding, or trying your hand at local arts and crafts.
Forget damp sleeping bags—Niseko Cottage Bongo Square makes camping luxurious
Hokkaido is famous as Japan’s outdoor playground, with the Niseko Cottage Bongo Square glamping site providing log cabins, cottages, or tents with views Mount Yotei and Mount Niseko. The luxuriously appointed tents have double beds and sofas, an area for barbecues, and an oil stove to keep the evening chill at bay. The nearby onsen is another must-do Japanese experience.
Nature on your 'doorstep' at Niseko Cottage Bongo Square
Most foreign visitors to Kyoto want to see the ancient capital’s shrines and temples, but the countryside around the city is some of the most spectacular in all of Japan. The Grax Premium Camp Resort is set amid mountains in the west of the prefecture. It is a community of cabins, bungalows, tents, and even tipis - all fitted with the creature comforts more common in a high-end hotel. Relax in a hammock as the fire throws flickering shadows.
A choice of tents, tipis, cabins and bungalows at The Grax Premium Camp Resort
One of Japan’s newest glamping sites is the Nordisk Village, on the remote Goto Islands off Nagasaki Prefecture. The islands are a 40-minute flight from Fukuoka or a ferry journey from Nagasaki and are famous for their unspoiled beaches and natural environment. A former elementary school has been repurposed to serve as the front desk, cafe, and restaurant for the site, with comfortable tents dotted around the grounds.
Well-appointed, sizeable tents at Nordisk Village. Photo credit: nordiskvillage_gotoislands
For anyone hankering after a truly luxurious outdoor experience, however, the Hoshinoya Fuji five-star glamping resort is the place to visit. Sited among stands of red pine trees overlooking Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji beyond, the “cabins” are, in fact, lavishly laid out units with en-suite bathrooms that drink in the view and a deck fitted with a lounging sofa.
Glamping at its most luxurious at Hoshinoya Fuji
The Cloud Terrace is set amid the trees higher up the hill and has a vast fire in a cauldron where guests can toast marshmallows. Small, private decks have been cleverly incorporated into the hillside at different heights, with hammocks, beanbags, and loungers. Classic black-and-white movies are played in one nook.
Even the most reluctant of campers could be pursuaded by Hoshinoya Fuji
Guests can take early morning Canadian canoe voyages on the lake or ride horses on private trails—keep an eye out for squirrels, deer, and woodpeckers amid the tree. The less energetic can make pizzas in a wood-fired oven or simply lay back in a hammock and listen to the wind chimes in the trees.
About the author
Julian Ryall first came to Japan in 1992 intending to stay for a year, but quickly realized the advantages of Tokyo over his native London. Nearly three decades later he is the Japan correspondent for The Daily Telegraph and freelances for newspapers and magazines around the world.