Camping is an excellent way to discover the diverse natural landscapes of Japan’s national parks. From tent camping to car camping, mountain huts to beach campsites, there are possibilities for every style of camper.
Pitching a tent is ideal if you want to wake up early to start a challenging hike, or stay near the summit of a peak to see the sunrise. Camping is also a great opportunity to escape from the city and immerse yourself in the fresh air, native plants, and wildlife of Japan’s well-maintained national parks.
Japan’s national parks offer a variety of terrain for camping, including beach camping, forest camping, high-altitude camping and lakeside camping. Some campsites even have hot springs nearby with scenic views—who says camping can’t be comfortable? In Japan’s subtropical islands, you may emerge from your tent on the beach in the morning to discover sea turtles on the shore. Family-friendly campgrounds offer outdoor activities accessible to kids like mountain biking and easy walking trails.
Camping with a car
Commonly referred to as “auto camping” in Japan, driving to a campground is a good option if you are able to rent a car. It’s particularly convenient in the national parks where there are fewer public transportation options. Camping with a private vehicle gives you the freedom to combine overnight camping stopovers with stays in hotels or ryokan, traditional Japanese inns.
Prices vary depending on whether you’re pitching a tent, car camping, renting a cabin, or staying in a mountain lodge. Many campgrounds rent tents for around 2,000 yen, or allow you to stay in permanent on-site tents. You can often find shops that rent camping equipment such as sleeping bags and stoves in towns near popular outdoor destinations. Cabins and bungalows are often available at campgrounds, too. Many campgrounds charge a fee to use the site plus an additional fee per person. If you bring your own car and park it on-site, fees are likely to be higher.
Below are general cost guidelines for camping in Japan:
|Type||Basic Campsite||Pre-Pitched Tent Site||Cabin or Cottage|
|Cost||From JPY 400 - 5,000||From JPY 4,000||From JPY 10,000|
Campgrounds in Japan’s national parks offer a wide array of amenities, from basic to relatively deluxe. Some campsites offer electricity or rent electric generators, while others even serve meals. RV parks and campsites with hookups for camper vans are not as common in Japan as other countries, and thorough planning is required to travel and camp in Japan with a RV.
Here are some of the amenities you can expect to find at a campground:
- Electrical outlets
- Cooking facilities (a covered area where you can have a barbeque, or cook using your own camping stove)
- Showers (mainly coin-operated)
- Laundry facilities
- Natural hot springs, foot baths and hand baths
Browse the many campgrounds in Japan’s national parks to see the amenities that are available.
Miike Campground in Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park is ideal for families with children, with a water plaza that has pools to splash in. Mori no Kuni Daisen Field Athletics is a family-friendly adventure park with campsites in Daisen-Oki National Park. Kids will love the park’s 50-plus kinds of play equipment. Shima Azurihama Campsite in Ise-Shima National Park is also a great destination for families, with several activity programs including guided group kayaking trips.
Glamping, or "luxury camping," is a good option for those who prefer creature comforts while getting close to nature. In recent years, Japan’s glamping resorts have attracted visitors with their all-inclusive services and exclusive experiences.
Visitors to Ise-Shima National Park can marvel at the splendor of the night sky on Strawberry Beach at Kabuku Resort, in a comfortable pre-pitched tent with a bed, refrigerator, and premium amenities. Other popular glamping locations include Hoshinoya-Fuji resort in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and Field Suite Hakuba resort hotel in Chubusangaku National Park.
Getting to the campgrounds
Personal transportation can make a camping trip in Japan’s national parks smoother. Some campgrounds are located in remote areas with infrequent public transportation, though some are serviced by local buses. It is much easier to reach campgrounds in the national parks of Hokkaido and Tohoku, for example, if you have your own vehicle. Many of the national parks in the Kanto region, however, which are closer to Tokyo, have public access campgrounds. This is not to say you will need a car to go camping in far-off regions, but consider your options based on how much time you have and whether you have a vehicle or not.
What to bring
Deciding what to pack depends on the length of your vacation, where you’ll be camping, the time of year, and whether you have your own transportation. Taking these factors into account, here’s a short list of essentials:
- Lightweight cooking stove
- Waterproof rain gear
- Insect repellent
- Sleeping bag (preferably a four-season sleeping bag if you’re camping in fall or winter)
- Sleeping pad
- Close-toed shoes
- Food and snacks (there may not be grocery stores nearby)
- Plastic bags (for garbage)
- Flashlight/headlamp and spare batteries
- First-aid kit
If you’re planning to hike over several days in one of the national parks, the extensive mountain hut system provides basic facilities and lodging, as well as sites for camping.
- Campgrounds are open during the warmer months (from May or June to October) in northern areas that get a lot of snowfall in winter. Most national park campgrounds in southern Japan are open year-round.
- Protect the environment. If trash bins are not available, hold on to your garbage until you can dispose of it properly.
- Many campsites prohibit campfires. Pack a camping stove if you want to cook, or use designated cooking areas provided by the campgrounds.
- Unregulated camping is generally not allowed in Japan’s national parks. Stick to designated campsites, which provide facilities like toilets, cooking areas, and waste disposal, for the protection of the environment.
- Check the latest updates about bear sightings, volcanic activity alerts, Japanese hornet warnings, and other safety alerts before heading out to the campground. Visitor information centers in the national parks are a good resource for this kind of information.
- It’s a good idea to book campgrounds in advance, especially during national holidays and the summer vacation period.
Experience a different side of Japan
Camping in Japan’s national parks is accessible to international visitors and extremely rewarding. There are plenty of locations to suit every taste, from resorts in the forest to isolated lodges in the mountains. Camping is a cost-effective way for those on a budget to experience Japan’s diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes. Some campgrounds may prove challenging to reach without your own car, but careful planning will bring almost any camping destination within easy reach. Many visitors only get to know Japan’s cities, but camping is a way to recharge in nature and see a different side of the country.
Written by Erin Kessler