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  • Glynn

Camping Nippon Style

Updated: May 10, 2023

As a kind of follow on to my previous article, I thought I might share a few experiences and challenges as regards camping in Japan. Now there are two main approaches to camping in Japan as far as I can see... 1. Glamping and 2. Flamping!

Glamping: outdoor camping with amenities and comforts (such as beds, electricity, and access to indoor plumbing) not usually used when camping

Flamping: no effort required to embrace the outdoors

Little home on the Prairie - MC rain cover is optional

I'm following up my previous camp trip with a return to the Lake Biwa campsite called the Miami Beach Auto Campground. But this time I upgraded to a cabin! Now, before you all get hyped up about genuine biker/campers doing it for real and not compromising. I had my reasons.

I had planned for four nights away, and on the third day the forecast was… Rain! Nothing new there, as having been a member of the M.C.C. Rainbringers for many years (well, actually still a Life Member) we knew a thing or two about rain and ride outs, along with some very damp camping fields and sodden bike gear. And as you would have seen from a previous blog, I have the Redverz Atacama tent, weighty enough when dry, but when packed wet it becomes a little more than just a tent, it becomes ship’s ballast!

Now as the Tenere 700 is a tall bike, loading it takes some care and planning and weight is a big issue (as on most motorcycles). I had grown a little tired and a little wary of overloading the bike and as I would travel alone over some narrow passes and back roads; I used the rainy Wednesday as an excuse to lighten the bike and try out a cabin.

I booked the smaller cabin ‘The California’ ironic name really as I had just been living in CA for nine years. The location was okay, and it was comfortable enough. But my previous camping experience had me enjoying a private hot shower and outside wash sink, which came with the pitch. The cabin did not have these luxuries, so I call for a little sympathy over my decision to Glamp a little.

A room with a view... the AC

I’m eventually getting to the point here! That what is one person’s luxury can be another’s over complication or simplification of the end goal of enjoying nature on a motorcycle.

In Japan, the camp sites differ from those in Europe or the USA. There are several things to be aware of and I do not direct any of these points at the Auto campsite I have just mentioned.

Many of the campsites in Japan are owned and run by elderly individuals who enjoy working well into their retirement. The ability to work as long as you are capable, in Japan, is a blessing. Now this might also mean that a lot of campsites cannot be maintained as well as they could, with limitations in accessing investments for upgrades to some of their amenities. This said, the effort made by many of the camp site owners can far excel those owners found in the UK and of the campsites users!

In Japan, be prepared to bring most of your own necessities and some luxuries as if you were Wild Camping. One such camp site I have pitched at was limited in its washing and toilet facilities and with many sites still using crouch style W.C.’s and external washing/kitchen sink areas you have to take care to reconnoitre the site prior to choosing your pitch or your cabin location.

Without getting too focused on ablutions… I am a sitter (carefully checked spelling there) and not a croucher! Just call me old-fashioned, but if I wanted to be at a rock concert in a field, then I’d go to one! And at sites that have such luxuries, you usually will find them in limited supply, so… PLAN. Mine is to get up early with the dawn chorus (a standard for me when camping) and try to be their first, just after the early morning clean has been completed. As far as showers… then some sites just have outdoor pool style cold water only showers or you may get lucky and find coin-operated individual shower cabins.

Waders for the neighbours... after the storm

There is a big fondness for hot spas here in Japan and so this sometimes explains the lack of ablution facilities as most people make a beeline (on their motorcycle and not on their bee) straight for the local spa.

Here in Japan camping is very popular and especially with families, so if you want the full Bear Grylls experience then avoid any national holiday weeks and any favourably forecasted meteorological events. The sites WILL be buzzing! Golden Week… BEWARE!

This year (2023) my hostelry needs shall be met, with a combination of camping, cabins and cheap hotels. Exploring more towards the southwestern part of Japan and a hopefully, milder climate.

Not a scratch on it! And NOT mine...☹️

Finally, you will be overwhelmed with the variety and excess of camping paraphernalia found in camping shops far and wide here in Japan. It is popular to 'day camp'. Which entails bringing every conceivable item, from cooking tool display frames, cooking ovens/hob systems to heated carpets and enough tools that you are never likely to use! But all of this doesn't take away Japans love of the outdoors and enthusiasm to be seen in nature. The photo above is the extreme and the 'Landie' did indeed only stay for the day. But with such enthusiasm on any campsite, you cannot but enjoy sharing the outdoors.


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