Though many people likely associate a stay in a park with camping and rustic facilities, Japan's national parks offer a wide range of accommodation options. No matter your budget, there's something for everyone—from free campgrounds to luxurious hot-spring resorts.
Outdoorsy types will enjoy staying at campgrounds in the national parks. Campsites with basic facilities such as toilets and showers can often be used for free or a nominal fee, but prices tend to rise for places with amenities such as swimming pools or tennis courts. Outdoor enthusiasts in Japan can find it difficult to store bulky camping gear at home, so most campgrounds offer rentals of everything you need to enjoy your stay, such as tents and barbecue grills.
The rustic mountain huts dotted along multiday hiking trails are another excellent option for open-air lovers. In addition to offering shelter for a good night's rest, the huts are a great place to strike up friendships with local hikers. The shared comradery that springs from braving the elements cuts through cultural and language barriers, and you'll soon find yourself chatting away in the eating areas, the communal (gender-separated) baths, and the large, shared sleeping spots. The huts typically offer stay-only rates as well as rates that include two meals. If you need a break during the day, some shelters—such as those on Mount Fuji—offer hourly prices.
Hostels are another excellent way to meet new people. Many hostels have a common room where staff and guests can relax and swap stories. These rooms tend to be well-stocked with maps, sightseeing pamphlets and a makeshift library of travel books left behind by previous guests.
You'll also find a variety of reasonably priced, western-style hotels in the national parks. These hotels are often referred to as "business hotels" in Japan, but non-businesspeople can take advantage of their budget-friendly prices, too. Westerners may be surprised at how compact the rooms are, but they are well-designed and equipped with everything you need for a pleasant stay.
If you'd prefer a Japanese-style experience, consider a stay at a traditional minshuku guesthouse or a ryokan inn. Homey minshuku offer private or shared tatami-mat rooms with futon beds on the floor. Restrooms and sinks are typically shared, and you bathe in a gender-separated communal area with showers and a large bath. Ryokan offer a more luxurious experience compared to typically family-run minshuku. The rooms tend to be larger, and you can opt to pay more for a private bathroom. Both minshuku and ryokan usually offer rates with meals, making them a great opportunity to try authentic Japanese cuisine. Meals typically include a seasonal and/or regional main dish and other small side-dishes, as well as white rice, soup and pickles.
You can find luxury hotels in many national parks. These hotels typically offer room sizes closer to those in western countries, a variety of Japanese and foreign food options, and facilities such as spas, natural hot springs and concierge desks.
Keep an eye out for accommodations that offer special activities and services customized for a particular national park. These can include shuttles to trailheads, beachside locations and guided hikes, as well as ski resorts with convenient access to the slopes. Some accommodation facilities even provide clothing- and gear-rental for local activities. Such services can add an extra dimension of enjoyment to a national park visit.