Most visitors to Japan choose the train as their main mode of transportation, but if you really want to get off the beaten track and take to the open road, a campervan adventure is the way to go.
A campervan (or camper van), is a vehicle that provides both transportation and sleeping accommodation. Also known as a caravanette or simply a camper, these transports come decked out with both comfortable bedding and a host of amenities that allow travellers to store and cook food without resorting to eating out in restaurants every evening.
Types of Campervans
In Japan, there are two main types of campervans. The main type is a “van-size” camper, which is modified from a minivan. The van-size is perfect for up to nine passengers to travel in during the day, while allowing two adults and two children to sleep comfortably at night.
There is also a “truck-size” camper, which converts the rear hauling area into a small residence. Truck-size campervans have a riding capacity of six passengers and a sleeping area that can accommodate an equal number. There are wide beds for up to 6 adults, a kitchen that may mirror what you have in your home, a small dining area and sometimes even a shower. This is an ideal option for a large family or multiple families traveling together. Most campervans in Japan are this size and based on a one-ton truck.
There are also "microbus" campervans with increased capacity. Still only a standard driver’s license is all that is required as long as there are less than ten passengers.
Almost all Japanese campervans are customized from factory production cars, meaning you can be sure you are receiving a top-notch vehicle that has been diligently serviced.
Where to park
Nowadays, there are over 1,000 roadside stations, also known as michi no eki, in Japan. Located everywhere from urban areas to more remote locations, these stations offer a host of facilities, ranging from fresh markets and small grocery stores to restaurants and gas stations. Some roadside stations have shower facilities, with a select few boasting natural hot spring baths. A recent effort has also made many of the michi no eki Wi-Fi friendly.
Travelers are advised to find a roadside station before too late of an hour, to take advantage of the food or bathing facilities before they close. In certain areas or at busy times of year (ie Golden Week, Obon or summer school holidays), parking lots can fill up quite quickly so it pays to come at a decent time to secure a spot for overnight. The atmosphere amongst the other campers can be quite convivial so feel free to say "Konnichiwa" to those parked around you.
Where to go – Example Campervan Itineraries
Very few places are off-limits to those traveling by campervan and the freedom of having one's own vehicle opens up many potential sites off the traditional tourist routes. The following example itineraries are an excellent start to those looking to plan their own campervan adventure:
- Exploring Hokkaido by Campervan
- Exploring Kyushu by Campervan
- Exploring Chubu by Campervan
- Exploring Tokyo by Campervan
How to Rent
JapanTravel now provides potential campers with booking services for both types of campervans. Please use our booking form.