outdoor guide to japanAaron Pylinski | Community Writer
- Always obey campground rules
- Check-in at the campsite office and pay in YEN ONLY.
- CANCELLATION: Call campsite office and always give ample time to be courteous to others.
- One tent and one car space is assigned to each site.
- Respect others' rights. Don't walk across another camper’s site - walk around.
There’s something to be said about memories from a family camping trip. The fresh, clean outdoor smell in the air. The distant chatter of happy little squirrels. Think of the first very real sense of isolation from being out in the woods and the escape from the rat race of everyday urban life. The tent is up, and the smell of campfire smoke wafts through the trees. This is summer. This is the refreshing, relaxing getaway every family should experience at least once in their life.
There’s no better way to catapult your way into summer than to go camping. Just because you’re in Japan, doesn’t mean you can’t get a similar camping experience like you would back home. Though the rules may be different and customs may not align completely with how we camp in America, there’s still plenty of places to roam outdoors in Japan.
Camping in Japan is referred to as camp-jo. And there are thousands of places to pitch a tent, pull in a camper, or hike to depending on your preference. It would be a good idea to take the Japanese culture into account when it comes to camping here. Most notably is taking your trash with you if bins aren’t designated, cooking in communal cooking areas instead of over a campfire, and gear rental available at each campground.
Whether you want to set up camp from the back of your car or a rucksack, MCCS has the ability to facilitate your outdoor needs on station with Outdoor Rec, the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX), and Information Tours & Travel (IT&T).
Outdoor Rec has an assortment of gear you can sign out for free (minus the $3 sleeping bag cleaning fee) and are available on a first come, first serve basis. Equipment includes tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, grills, camp chairs, canopies, and other outdoor equipment to satisfy any gaps you have in your gear list.
The MCX has an annual camping sale and IT&T has information on places nearby that offer camping, cabins, and cottages.
GO BY CAR, CABIN, OR ROUGH IT
Katazoe Beach Camping Site
Yoshiro Island is an island with natural beauty not far from the station. With sweeping mountainous terrain and sandy beaches, it is an easy getaway just south of Iwakuni. There is no shortage of hiking trails and beaches on the island. While there, be sure to check out Nagisa Aquarium and Aloha Orange Restaurant. The Katazoe Beach Campground is located on the eastern side of the island on a pitch of high ground that offers great views of the water below. They have gear rentals available onsite. Check with IT&T for information on what’s available and how much it costs.
Cost: Katazoe has 47 regular sites, 40 car camping sites, and 11 cabins. For the campsites, check-in is at 9 AM and checkout is 3 PM. For the cabins, check-in is 3 PM and check out is noon. The regular sites cost ¥3,600 per night, the car sites cost ¥5,140 per night, and the cabins are ¥13,370 per night (4-person cabin) and ¥15,420 per night (6-person cabin).
Pet-Friendly: Yes, just be mindful of the quiet hours. No one wants to hear a barking dog all night.
I’m told this is the best ocean getaway for those living on station. Hamada Beach camping at the Iwami Seaside Park is butted up to the Sea of Japan and surrounded by white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. The Aquas Aquarium is nearby and a large playground for the youngsters. IT&T can assist with renting gear at the campsite. Hamada Beach does offer tent and car camping as well as cabins. They have showers and communal cooking areas.
Cost: Campsites are ¥3,830 per night and if you want a site with a tent already up, the cost is ¥6,440 per night. There are three sizes of log cabins. Small cabins are ¥3,280 per night for up to three people, media cabins are ¥3,860 per night for up to five people, and large cabins are ¥5,920 per night for up to seven people.
Pet-Friendly: Yes, as long as you mention that you are bringing your pet while making your reservation and like always, clean up after your pets. Don’t be that pet owner that ruins it for everyone else.
- Be a good neighbor. When listening to music, please keep the volume down. Quiet hours normally start at 10 PM.
- Pets may not be allowed in most campsites but check when making reservations.
- Always abide by the posted speed limit.
- Be respectful of the natural environment - keep the trees and shrubs alive. They are not fuel for your fire.
- Do not burn anything but paper or wood in your fire pit. Bonfires are prohibited.
- Before leaving the campsite, clean your fire pit and your area for the next camper.
- Bring your garbage back or sort your garbage appropriately if there are bins available.
- Be a courteous camper and respect those around you, sound travels easily in the woods.
Jakuchikyo (Seven Falls Camping)
If hiking and waterfalls are top on your list when camping, then Seven Falls is your place to go. The campground is nestled beneath 4,386-foot Mt. Jakuchi and has, you got it, seven falls. Don’t be fooled by the name, though. There are numerous other smaller falls peppered throughout the park also. Seven Falls has gear rental options, so stop by IT&T to find out what is available and at what cost.
Cost: Seven Falls offers a few options for an overnight stay. Cabins are ¥10,280 for four people. For five people it costs an extra ¥1,500 and for six people it costs an extra ¥3,080. There are two tent options: for a tent site on a wood deck the price is ¥2,050 per night and to camp on the ground it’s ¥1,020 per night.
Pet-Friendly: Pets are not allowed at campsites or cabins.
MCCS OUTDOOR REC GEAR RENTAL CHECK OUT:
All rentals are free and are available on a first come, first serve basis. Equipment is free of charge for the first 1-3 days
Hours: MON - FRI 10 AM - 6 PM, SAT, SUN, & HOL 8 AM - 4 PM
Okunoshima (Rabbit Island)
Arguably the cutest place in Japan, who wouldn’t want to camp on an island overtaken by cuddly wabbits? Did I mention the island east of Hiroshima used to be a secret production facility for chemical weapons dating back before World War II? Either way, they have tent camping near the island visitor center and though the island is not incredibly easy to get to, if you want to wake up in the morning with a fluffle of cute little rabbits in your face, accept no substitutions.
Cost: Okunoshima offers three camping packages and you can stay up to five nights. Check-in time is 1-5 PM and check out is 11 AM. Package one includes a tent (set up for you), hammock, breakfast, and dinner for ¥7,500 per adult per night, ¥5,500 per child ages 7 and older per night, ¥3,500 per child ages 4-6 per night. Children ages four and younger are free. Package two includes a tent (you have to set it up yourself), breakfast, and dinner for ¥6,300 per adult per night, ¥4,200 per child ages 7 and older per night, ¥2,100 per child ages 4-6 per night. Children age four and younger are free. The do-it-yourself package where you bring all of your own gear and food includes a one-time ¥1,030 fee for the site and ¥410 per person (ages 4 and above) per night.
Pet-Friendly: Nope, obviously. But, if you have a service animal, they are allowed. In a perfect world your service animal should listen well and not want to chase the thousands of fluffy chew toys, right?
Camping Meda Forest is a quaint little camping area nestled in a valley about three hours drive from the air station. There is catch and release fishing at the campground and a playground for the kids. There are also hot springs and the Yakumo Wind Cave nearby.
Cost: Meda Forest has five options for overnight stays. There are 10 tent sites that cost ¥330 per night and include a shared cooking area, restroom, and showers. There are eight car camping sites that have a picnic table, grill, and electric hook up for ¥3,085 per night. The large bungalow fits up to 10 people for ¥8,640 per night. There are two small bungalows that fit up to four people for ¥3,240 per night (one of the small bungalows is on stilts with a picnic table underneath and looks pretty cool). Both small and large bungalows have electricity. The large bungalow has a toilet, cooking tools, and a futon (the futon costs extra). For those who require a little more posh in their outdoor experience, Meda Forest has three cottages. The standard cost is ¥18,360 for six people per night. You can add another four people for ¥1,080 per person. Each cottage has a bathroom, AC, fully equipped kitchen, and beds; posh.
Pet-Friendly: Yes, must be on a leash and you must clean up after your dog. No dogs allowed in the cottages. Their dog rule also states “No Big Dogs.” I find that to be a relative term here.
Near the city of Izumo is Kirara Beach which offers cottages on a picturesque setting on the Japanese coast. These seaside cottages are the glamping destination for the Shimane Prefecture. There are Finland-style saunas, a salon on site, and every cottages' porch overlooks the Sea of Japan. If you still want to rough it, though, Kirara does have eight auto camping sites with electricity (which will run you ¥300 on top of the cost of the site). There is a country club, hot spring nearby, and plenty of oceanfront property for summer beach time fun.
Cost: Auto camping is ¥2,900 per night. Cottage and log cabin options include four-person cottage for ¥11,900 per night, six- person cottage for ¥23,800 per night, log houses that sleep anywhere from four to eight people ranging from ¥15,200 - ¥32,400 per night. Reach out to IT&T for details on pricing, availability, and other options Kirara offers.
Pet-Friendly: Unfortunately, no.
Iya Valley Campground
The Iya Valley is one of Japan’s three hidden valleys and is home to vine bridges, misty gorges, and traditional Japanese thatch- roofed houses. Head to Shikoku Island for camping at the Iya Valley Campground. While you’re there, channel your inner Indiana Jones and traverse the dozen or so vine bridges that span the Iya River. The campsite offers bungalows and tent camping as well as river rafting and hiking.
Cost: Tent camping costs ¥1,000 per night, an eight-person bungalow is ¥6,100 per night, and a five-person bungalow costs ¥3,600 per night.
Pet-Friendly: Yes, in the tent camping, but not in the bungalows. And as always, please clean up after them.
Yasaka Camping Village
The Yasaka Camping Village is the best dam camping in the Yamaguchi Prefecture which straddles the Kose River upstream from the Yasaka Dam. There are two camping areas in the village. The first camping area is at the start of the Yasakakyo Promenade, a 2.7 km (1.6 miles) long nature trail that follows the Kose River and it has tent sites and cabins. On the other side of the river is car camping.
Cost: Cabin fees are ¥3,080 per night. Tent sites are ¥1,020 per night, and car camping is ¥2,050 per night.
Pet-Friendly: Yes, as long as you clean up after your pets.
Tsutsumigaura Natural Park
This little slice of heaven is tucked away on Miyajima, the island famed for its great water torii and the Itsukushima Shrine. Additionally, there are wild deer everywhere, just looking to devour your personal belongings. The Tsutsumigaura Natural Park offers plush cabins and tent camping as well as kitchen facilities for rent.
Cost: The park offers three groups of cabins and they are a bit pricey, but they do offer a number of amenities that are worth checking out on the web. Group Cabin A has six cabins that can accommodate up to 14 people and seven cabins that can handle up to 24 people. The price ranges from ¥650 - ¥2,800 per person/ night depending on age. Group Cabin B has two cabins that can accommodate up to 20 people. These cabins are more or less like beach houses with fully equipped kitchens and three large Japanese-style rooms for sleeping. These cabins range from ¥56,000 - ¥65,700 per night depending on the time of year. For the tent camper on a budget, campsites are ¥500 per night. The exception for this campground is they do accept credit cards.
Pet-Friendly: The nature park is pet-friendly and you can tent camp with your dog, however, pets are not allowed inside the cabins.
BACKCOUNTRY / HIKE-IN CAMPING
Shikoto-Toya National Park
BICYCLE TOURING AND BIKEPACKING IN JAPAN:
Bicycle Touring is popular in Japan and relatively easy to do considering it is legal in this country to camp in public spaces for up to 24 hours as long as you clean up after yourself and don’t have campfires.
Another popular, yet relatively new outdoor activity is Bikepacking. This steers away from the traditional touring bike set up with the pannier racks. Basically, you’re combining bicycling with camping and strapping your gear to your bike frame instead of on your back. A bikepacker usually has a more robust bicycle capable of off-road traversing, straying away from car friendly roads and taking to the many trails throughout Japan.
If either of these outdoor activities interests you, be sure to check out the MCX bike and outdoor sale on June 15-17 from 10 AM - 8 PM at the MCXtreme Bikes and More at Torii Pines to get the gear you need to hit the road or trails.
LONG DISTANCE HIKING:
Want to try something a bit harder and see parts of Japan that are off the beaten path? Try a long distance hike. Japan is home to five of the world’s 10 longest hiking trails. Here are a few options.
- Hokkaido Nature Trail
The longest of all long-distance trails in Japan, the Hokkaido Nature Trail spans 2,718 miles and winds around the island of Hokkaido. Highlights include hot springs and volcanoes.
- Tokai Nature Trail
This trail goes from Tokyo to Osaka and covers roughly 1,000 miles. The main claim to fame for this trail is epic views of Mount Fuji. For the enthusiastic, take a side trip and climb Fuji just for the heck of it.
- Shin-etsu Trail
The shorter of our three options, the Shine-etsu trail comes in at just under 50 miles, but meanders through beautiful beech trees in the Nagano and Niigata Prefectures. Enjoy this trail in the spring for full greenness or in the fall to take in the beautiful fall colors that Japan has to offer.