Where have we found camping spots or other forms of accommodation in Japan?
Staying with People
We hospitality of Japanese people has overwhelmed us and we have stayed with a number of people, particularly with the Land Cruiser community. It has been a privilege and we recommend taking up invitations when receiving one.
Mountain Huts & Pitching a Ground Tent
On Yakushima Island you are not allowed to free camp in its national park but there are shelters. These huts are very basic but clean and free of charge. July/August are the busiest months of the year. Along the coast, on the other hand, are no shelters so we pitched our tent.
Rough Camping in Japan
We didn’t rough camp a lot during our first six months in the country:
- The weather. Our first months were in late autumn and winter. To keep the car as warm as possible we opted for protected parking lots rather than camping in the wilds.
- Even when the weather wasn’t an issue, michi-no-ekis are so convenient (more on that below) that we often didn’t bother searching for ultimate camping spots as we may have done otherwise. Blame these roadside stations: they got us lazy…
Having said that, we feel rough camping isn’t a problem anywhere in this country and we did much more of it in spring, and particularly in summer (Shikoku Island). This Facebook Group shares information on free camping and free onsens (hot springs).
Michi no Ekis – Roadside Stations
About 10 years ago Japan wanted to encourage road travel within Japan. Rest areas did exist along the Express Ways, but people wanted them along the minor roads as well. Lo and behold, the government listened and built them.
These rest areas are parking lots with a public toilet and a shop selling local produce and/or other local foods and/or handicrafts. Some of them sell bentos, a kind of like a set-lunch with rice and several side dishes. Eat it cold or heat it up in the microwave that they will have when selling bentos (or noodle soups).
The michi-no-eki may also have an information counter with brochures and maps about the area. The rest areas are safe and clean. Unfortunately you can’t count on them having WiFi. Some do, some don’t, some do at intervals (more on WiFi below). You can’t do your laundry here but you will find coin laundries throughout the country.
The michi-no-eki system has a website on which you can find all locations. The road stations are often mentioned on local paper maps that are available at tourist information places.
While many michi-no ekis are not the most inspiring places to camp, they are incredibly convenient and you will find them everywhere (which is why we stopped mentioning many of them on the map below after a couple of weeks on the road).
Parking Lots of Convenient Stores – the WiFi Option
There are different brands of convenient stores, the most common ones being Family Mart, Lawson, and 7 Eleven. Since they are all over the country, I don’t give any specific GPS Waypoints of them. We haven’t spent the night in their parking lots very often but they can be a convenient spot when in need of WiFi.
Lawson offers 5 sessions of maximal 1 hour of free WiFi per day; the 7-Eleven 3 times 1 hour. You have to log in their system and off you go (to prevent having to give your email all the time, download the app Japan Wi-Fi where you register once and when you login here you’re set to go). All convenient stores have bathrooms, and the coffee at the 7-Eleven and Lawson is affordable and good. So besides michi-no-ekis, parking lots of convenient stores are another good option to spend the night if the scenery isn’t the requirement.
An additional advantage of the 7-Eleven: the ATMs accept foreign credit and debit cards.
Map with GPS Waypoints of our Camping Spots in Japan
Let there be no misunderstanding: no, you don’t have to go to these places. No, these are not by definition the best spots. In Japan you will have no problem finding your own places to camp. We decided to share our GPS Waypoints anyway, for travelers who would like some tips about camping spots which we enjoyed or found practical. Please note that this is always our personal experience.
|Nijinomatsubara (Kyushu) |
Nijinomatsubara. Stunning spot: on the beach with great view and behind an 5-km-long pine-tree forest. With public toilet (Nov ’16). gps: 33.448307 13002968
|Milkroad, across the Kabuto-iwa view point (Kyushu) |
Milkroad, across the Kabuto-iwa view point. Parking spot along the side of the road with beautiful views of the countryside and picknick tables. Public toilet. Coffeebar-cum-snackcorner-com-souvenir shop open during the day. During the summer, when in need of shade, you could drive down the track behind the parking lot that after meandering through hills ends in a forest. Seems a nice spot to camp (Nov ’16 / 943 mtrs). gps: 32.983752 131.01433
|Aso (Kyushu) |
Aso. Great michi-no-eki with public toilets and cars can hook up on electricity. It has good WiFi and a shop with good local produce and otherwise locally made products such as delicious rice cakes (Nov ’16 / 535 mtrs). gps: 32.937012 131.08088.
|Beppu (Kyushu) |
Beppu. Parking lot in the older, Kannawa area. Nothing special, just quiet place to spend the night and on walking distance from onsens (hot bath). Access WiFi (Nov ’16 / 460 mtrs). gps: 33.277969 131.447696.
|Usuki (Kyushu) |
Usuki. Parking lot of a tourist information that is nothing special but quiet and convenient. WiFi of the tourist information accessible during opening hours + use of their bathroom. At night cross the road to a public bathroom in front of the castle. Supermarkets in the same block. (Nov ’16). gps: 33.120553 131.80059
|Takachiho (Kyushu) |
Takachiho. Parking lot of Kunimigaoka is a good place to stay if you want to see a beautiful sunrise with cloud-filled valley in the early hours. But now, in November, it’s quite a bit colder here than below downtown. Public toilets available, and a quite place to spend the night (Nov '16 / 510 mtrs). gps: 32.718312 131.277425
|Takachiho (Kyushu) |
Takachiho. Michi-no-eki (roadside rest area) on walking distance from Takachiho shrine. Here it’s warmer than the former night at Kunimigaoka. Good place to spend the night: WiFi, public toilets, shop with local produce (Nov ’16). gps: 32.70856 131.30083
|Hyuga (Kyushu) |
Hyuga. Parking lot of Cape Green Park on the peninsula with view of ocean. This place was vast and empty with very basic public toilet. Perfect place for a quiet night (Nov ’16). gps: 32.41852 131.66998
|Huyga (Kyushu) |
Huyga. Parking lot of Sunpark Hot spring resort, right behind the michi-no-eki. You can camp at either place; the michi-no-eki has the toilets, the hot spring resort is quieter (Nov ’16). gps: 32.341411 313.626126
|Saito (Kyushu) |
Saito. A parking lot amidst a series of old burial mounds set in a lovely, green, agricultural area. Nice for a walk and quiet place for the night. Has public toilets (Nov ’16, 60 mtrs). gps: 32.122688 131.390307
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