When you hear of RVers taking their adventures overseas, you likely don’t imagine an RV in Japan. However, many Japanese enjoy camping. It may look a little different than RVing in the United States, but it’s RVing nonetheless. Today we’ll look at if you can RV in Japan and if it could be your next big trip. Let’s get started!
Table of contents
- Is RVing Popular in Japan?
- Benefits of RVing in Japan
- Can You Rent a Camper Car in Japan?
- Where to Park Your RV in Japan
- Do You Need Reservations to RV Camp in Japan?
- Should You Rent a Camper Car in Japan?
Is RVing Popular in Japan?
RVing, whether owning or renting, is a popular activity throughout Japan. RVing is especially popular during school holidays in late July and August. Golden Week in April/May is a combination of four holidays in seven days. Many use this time off as an opportunity to adventure and make memories with their families.
In Japan, the RV scene looks different than what we typically see in the United States and Canada. Japan’s streets and transportation infrastructure can’t handle the massive RVs typically seen on U.S. and Canadian highways. Instead of toy haulers and travel trailers, you’re more likely to see compact camper cars.
Instead of hearing names like Grand Design, Jayco, and Forest River, you’re more likely to hear Toyota, Subaru, and Nissan. While these manufacturers are typically known in North America for their vehicles, they’re popular camper car makers in Japan. These vehicles are often less than 16 feet and, depending on the model, can sleep five or six campers. They provide many of the amenities needed to camp, but most don’t have a bathroom.
Benefits of RVing in Japan
RVing in any new country or location has many benefits. Let’s look at a few of the benefits of choosing to RV in Japan.
Go off the Beaten Track
When you choose to RV in Japan, you get to visit places and locations not commonly visited by tourists. Locations heavily reliant on tourism typically don’t paint an authentic picture of a country or culture. They’re often heavily influenced by other cultures and lose their traditional look and feel. By taking your RV off the beaten track, you can visit smaller towns and cities that can reveal a more authentic picture of Japanese culture.
While there certainly isn’t anything wrong with visiting tourist locations, an RV provides some flexibility to travel or stay in both places. You never know when you’ll find a hidden gem while traveling through a small town or village in Japan.
Allows for Spontaneity
Being reliant on public transportation or hotels limits your ability to be spontaneous. Sometimes the most exciting adventure occurs when you least expect it. RVing in Japan means if you see something you want to enjoy, you can enjoy it without having to worry about missing a bus or train or arriving back at your hotel late at night.
Completely immersing yourself and being present in a spontaneous moment like a random food stand or park is an incredible way to enjoy your experience. The spontaneity of RVing is sure to make your RVing adventure in Japan memorable.
It would be great if you didn’t have to worry about finances when it comes to traveling. However, most of us have to be mindful of how much we’re spending on hotels, food, rental cars, and entertainment while on vacation.
A camper car in Japan combines your hotel and vehicle into one and will often give you space for food prep as well. The savings from being able to prepare your food means more money for entertainment and other adventures.
Pro Tip: Staying on top of your budget is necessary when RVing full time. We broke down How Much Does It Cost to Full-Time RV?
Can You Rent a Camper Car in Japan?
Because taking your RV with you to Japan isn’t an option, you’re going to need to rent one. Luckily there are several great options to consider. Japan RV Rental has rental options if you visit Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Sapporo, or Chitose. You’ll typically pay $70 to $200 per night to rent a camper car in Japan. The larger the camper car, the higher the price.
Where to Park Your RV in Japan
Much like the United States, Japan has a generous amount of places to park your RV. Due to the compact size of their camper cars, you’ll have little difficulty finding a parking space. They can easily fit into a standard parking space. However, parking on the street is often illegal in Japan, so let’s look at where you can park your camper car while RVing in Japan.
Michi no Eki (Road Stations)
Similar to Harvest Hosts, a Michi no Eki offers complimentary overnight parking for travelers. The goal of these road stations is to encourage tourism in local communities. These locations provide opportunities to buy local products and souvenirs, get tourist information, and sometimes connect to free Wi-Fi.
The amenities will vary from one Michi no Eki to the next. Due to the relatively low cost and convenience, expect crowds on weekends and holidays. You may also have to travel outside of a big city to find one. However, if you’re able to score a spot, you’re sure to have a great experience.
Highway Service Areas
Another free option to consider is one of the many highway service areas found along many of the highways in Japan. These service areas typically have access to toilets, restaurants, and garbage cans.
Due to their proximity to busy highways, truck drivers often choose to stop here at the end of a long day of driving. Parking near these large vehicles can make it challenging to get a peaceful night’s sleep as they typically leave their engines running and come and go at all hours of the night.
Free Parking Spots with Toilets
If you don’t depend on amenities, Japan offers thousands of free parking spots with restrooms outside of big cities. While these free parking spots are often near scenic overlooks or other recreational areas, no website or app assists with finding them.
Many rental companies, like Japan Campers, provide maps with known free parking locations, but the status of these spots can change without notice. Luckily there are plenty available, and you’ll likely come across several while adventuring.
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Similar to RVing in the United States, Japan has many organized campgrounds across the country. These locations are very popular places to camp in Japan and often require a reservation to secure a spot. Many of these campsites are for travelers camping in tents, so be sure to confirm availability and that a camper car is allowed.
While these offer more amenities like power, showers, and running water, they’re also more expensive. You may have issues finding availability during peak seasons, and there’s no guarantee that the staff will speak English.
Keep in Mind: You wouldn’t risk RVing in the US without health insurance, and you shouldn’t internationally too. Make sure to see what international coverage your plan includes. We looked into the Best Health Insurance Options for Full Time RVers here so you wouldn’t have to!
Do You Need Reservations to RV Camp in Japan?
Peak seasons often require reservations. Traveling during off-peak times increases your chances of snagging a spot without a reservation. However, it’s best to plan if you expect to make use of the campgrounds to avoid finding yourself struggling to find a campsite.
If you’re looking to stay in any free parking spots, highway service areas, or a Michi no Eki, you can likely get by without a reservation. There are a generous amount of locations available, and if you’re not able to find a spot at one, you can easily move on to the next location.
Should You Rent a Camper Car in Japan?
If your time in Japan involves exploring several cities, renting a camper car in Japan is an affordable way to experience the country. It provides the freedom and convenience many enjoy while RVing and enables you to see unique locations and attractions along the route.
However, if you plan to spend your time in Japan exploring one city or location, it may not be convenient. It may be easier to rely on public transportation to explore a city rather than maneuver through the city and worry about parking at attractions.
Japan is a beautiful country that’s waiting for tourists to explore and experience it. Being able to experience the unique culture and landscapes it has to offer is sure to be a trip you’ll remember for a lifetime. Being able to share around the campfire that you’ve traveled in an RV around Japan is a pretty impressive story as well.
Could you see yourself RVing in Japan? Drop a comment below.
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