There are few better ways to really get to know a country than by camping under the stars, and Japan has more than 3,000 campsites to choose from.
Introduction to Camping in Japan
Camping is a great way to get to know a country. There are few better ways to truly see a place than camping under the stars in the great outdoors. Japan has more than 3,000 campsites across the country, including near major cities such as Tokyo, as well as truly wild and remote locations such as Shiretoko National Park in northern Hokkaido. Camping in Japan is not only a unique way to experience this beautiful country, but it’s also a great budget option, especially if you’re planning to stay in Japan for an extended period. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about camping in Japan, some of the best locations for sleeping under the stars, and how to get there with your JR Pass. Let’s get ready to camp.
Things You Need To Know About Camping in Japan
Every country is a little different when it comes to camping rules and etiquette. Japan is no different, but luckily, it’s also one of the best countries to camp in. As we mentioned above, it has more than 3,000 campsites spread across the country, giving you the opportunity to move around and experience different areas of Japan. This is a must if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Japan over an extended period as the country is incredibly diverse - it can be hard to believe that subtropical Okinawa and snowy Hokkaido are part of the same nation, but this certainly adds to the magic of any visit. It’s almost like visiting multiple countries rolled into one.
Camping is a great way to sample a range of locations across Japan, while experiencing changing landscapes, wildlife, weather, and different local food and regional dishes - always highly recommended. Another great thing about campsites in Japan is that almost all of them have amenities, such as drinking water, toilets, and more on site. We’ll have more on this below in our essential list of things you need to know about camping in Japan.
- How does camping work in Japan?
You can’t just camp anywhere in Japan, but that doesn’t mean your options are limited. There are public and private campsites right across Japan - more than 3,000 of them - offering you a huge number of campsites to choose from in almost every corner of Japan. Campsites in Japan are clean and well-maintained (more on the amenities and facilities below) so one important rule to remember is to clean up after yourself and pick up any litter.
- Campsite amenities in Japan
Unlike many Western campsites, Japan’s sites have impressive amenities such as drinking water, toilets, and more. Some also include electricity, playgrounds, tennis courts, fishing areas, and are located near onsen (hot spring baths). They’re also generally cleaner and safer than campsites you might be used to. One rule to be aware of is that you cannot start your own fire at your camp (even if you’ve brought marshmallows); instead, you’ll need to bring or hire a fire pit.
- Where can you camp in Japan?
You can choose from any one of more than 3,000 campsites. As we mentioned, you can’t just camp anywhere, but with such a huge range of public and private sites to choose from. These sites have been created specifically for camping, so you’re expected to use these rather than pitching a tent wherever you like. The upside is you get on-site amenities, clean, safe facilities and a huge range of sites to choose from. For a full list visit the Japan National Tourism Organisation website.
- How much does it cost?
Many campsites in Japan are free whereas others require a modest charge per night, ranging anywhere from 300 yen per person to three thousand for the whole site. Either way, it’s likely to be much more affordable than other kinds of accommodation, and it can be a great way of making your budget go further as well as making an extended stay in Japan much more affordable.
- When to go camping?
Camping is most popular in Japan in the summer months, but technically you can camp all year round. If you’re planning to go camping in Japan between July and August, the most popular months, then it’s recommended to book your spot in advance. Regardless of when you travel, always remember to pack appropriately for camping, the summer months can be hot and humid, there’s the rainy season to watch out for. can also get chilly out of season, depending on where you’re camping. Read our guide to Japan’s Weather and Seasons for a more detailed guide of the weather month by month and what might be the best time for you to travel (and camp).
- Different types of camping in Japan
Alongside traditional camping with tents, there are also a number of sites specifically for camper vans, cars, and other vehicles to pull up and pitch a tent. This is known as auto-kyanpu or ‘auto camping’ in Japan and is becoming increasingly popular. Alternatively, there are also campsites with cabins, lodges, and other kinds of accommodation for those who prefer sleeping under a roof and four walls. You can even get glamping (also known as luxury or glamorous camping) in Japan through various private providers. The first ever glamping resort in Japan (and still one of the best) is Hoshinoya Fuji with views of the iconic mountain and hiking in Aokigahara forest. Other glamping options include Takatakiko Glamping, Myogi Green Hotel, and many more. Don’t worry though, if you’re on a budget then you can still enjoy the Fuji area (and many other beauty spots) at more traditional campsites. See our list of recommended areas to camp for more.
- Travelling between campsites
Unless you have a camper van or you need to transport lots of campsite gear, the best option might be to travel by train, take everything you need in a good sized backpack, and hire anything else from the campsite. If you do this, you can use Japan’s world-leading domestic rail network to get from one campsite to the next while seeing as much of this incredible country as possible. The most cost effective way to do this is using a Japan Rail Pass for unlimited travel on the majority of the country’s trains.
Best Places to Camp in Japan
With more than 3,000 campsites, you’re bound to find a location that you’re excited to visit - probably more than one. Here is a list of potential ideas for you to camp while visiting the magical country of Japan:
1.) Fuji Five Lakes
If you’re going to camp anywhere in Japan, then it’s likely you’re considering camping with a view of the iconic Mt. Fuji. Campsites in the Fuji Five Lakes area include Kouan Campsite at Lake Motosu - one of the famous five. There’s a wonderful variety of things to do in the area, from admiring the scenery of the lakes to other cultural and natural attractions. In fact, there’s so much to do here that you’ll want to visit with a plan just to make sure you make the most of your time. To reach Fuji Five Lakes with the JRailPass, take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and get off at Otsuki Station. From there, you’ll need to use the Fujikyu Railway Line to reach Kawaguchiko Station, which is the best place to start exploring the area. It’s important to understand that only the JR Tokyo Wide Pass covers this entire route, while the JR Pass only covers up to Otsuki Station. Find out much more in our Traveller’s Guide to Exploring Fuji Five Lakes.
The famous floating Torii gate at Miyajima is almost as iconic as Mt. Fuji itself and is another stunning place to camp. The red gate at Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima, which is southwest of Hiroshima, rises out of the water and appears to float at the right tide. It’s so special that the entire island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Miyajima Tsutsumigaura Camp-Jo is open all year, costs just 300 yen per person per night to stay and offers tent and cabin rentals in one of the most beautiful and magical locations. Highly recommended. To visit, first travel to the city of Hiroshima, from which you can take the ferry across to Miyajima for free, as it’s included in the Japan Rail Pass. For more on Torii gates, read our Ultimate Torii Gate Tour of Japan
3.) Shiretoko National Park
Any one of Japan’s National Parks (it has more than 30) would make a brilliant camping destination. Shiretoko National Park in Hokkaido - Japan’s northernmost island - offers some of the most remote and spectacular camping in Japan as well as cycling, hiking, and wildlife watching. Also in Hokkaido is Higashi Onuma Camp Area next to Lake Onuma. Kamikochi National Park in the northern Japanese Alps is another beautiful alpine location that’s well worth a visit thanks to Konashidaira Camping Ground, which is a regular frontrunner on lists of highly recommended Japanese campsites. For more on Japan’s National Parks read our guide to Visiting Japan’s National Parks and Five National Parks You Must Visit. Meanwhile for more on camping in the northern Japanese Alps read our guide to Exploring the Kurobe Alpine Route.
4.) Shirajima Island
From icy Hokkaido to subtropical Okinawa. Shirajima Island in Okinawa has several lovely beach campsites for those who enjoy warmer climates. If you love swimming, diving, and watersports then camping near the beach is a no-brainer. Check out Yayagi Beach Camping Ground and Ama Beach campground.
Yes, believe it or not, Tokyo is a great place to camp! There are a number of excellent campsites within easy reach of Tokyo - many within the city limits in fact - making it a surprisingly great and budget friendly way to experience one of the biggest cities in the world. Jonanjima Seaside Park is one of the biggest, with 1,000 spaces for campers. There are also campsites close to JR train stations, which is ideal for those using public transport to get around. Hikarigaoka Park camp site for instance is just minutes from the Toei Oedo line. Okutama campsite is a little further out - two hours from Tokyo by train - but is known for its picturesque location and beauty. Finally, for those who want to be as close to Tokyo as possible, try Wakasu Kaihin-koen Camp-jo, which is arguably the closest to the city centre.
Of course, this is just a very small selection. For the full list of more than 3,000 campsites visit the Japan National Tourism Organisation’s official website.
Activities To Try While Camping in Japan
Camping under the stars can be fun and relaxing, but you may also be keen to combine a camping trip with other outdoor activities. Thankfully, there are a huge number of things to do in Japan if you love the great outdoors. Here are a few quick recommendations:
Why not indulge in some climbing during your camping holiday in Japan. There are a number of campsites ideally located to scale some of Japan’s iconic and rugged mountains, from the famous Mt. Fuji to the gorgeous Japanese Alps. Of course, serious climbing isn’t for the faint hearted either, so be sure to read up about Climbing in Japan before getting started.
For something slightly more sedate than scaling Mt. Fuji, how about one of Japan’s beautiful hiking or walking trails? Again, this is a perfect outdoor activity to pair with a camping trip. Read our Starters Guide to Hiking in Japan for an introduction to this popular activity. Meanwhile, for some specific hiking and walking recommendations, how about explore the northern mountains of Kyoto and the rural towns of Kurama and Kibune? You could also try walking the famous Nakasendo Trail from Edo times between Kyoto and Tokyo, or the Futabatosano Trail, which includes 16 historical sites in Hiroshima.
Camping and cycling also go hand in hand. With your campsite as your base of operations, you can use two wheels to get around and explore the landscape with the added benefit of fresh air and exercise. Japan is also famous for its brilliant cycle routes, including the famous Shimanadi Kaido. For a longer list of our recommendations for the country’s best cycle routes read our guide I Want To Ride My Bicycle in Japan.
- Beaches and Watersports
If you’re camping within reach of one of Japan’s beaches, such as at Ama Beach Campground on Shirajima Island or Yagaji Beach Camping Ground in Okinawa, you could have a camping trip and beach holiday all in one! Japan is also hugely popular for watersports such as paddle boarding, surfing, sea kayaking, parasailing and much more, meaning you’ll never be short of activities. Beaches are a great place to chill out with a book or to work on your suntan if you’re feeling more relaxed too. Our guide to Japan’s Best Beaches and Watersports destinations has everything you need to know.
Alongside watersports, if you’re camping near one of Japan’s beautiful beaches you could also go diving. Japan is a hidden gem for diving enthusiasts with some of the best diving spots in Asia. Take a Deep Dive into Japan to find out more.
- If you’re looking for an alternative to camping, why not consider a traditional Japanese Ryokan inn complete with shoji and tatami mats? Read our guide to The Best Ryokan Hotels in Japan.
- Japan also has more quirky and contemporary accommodation available too. After all, this is the country that invented the capsule hotel. You can find out more in our Guide to Staying in a Capsule Hotel.
- Want to stream a movie or music while sleeping under the stars? Make sure you invest in a PocketWifi device before you head off into the wilderness. This will ensure you stay connected with unlimited Wifi on multiple devices simultaneously.
- If you’re interested in camping and the great outdoors, you might also be the kind of traveller who likes to seek out remote, off-the-beaten path places when visiting a country? If so, you’ll love our guide to The Most Remote Places in Japan.