Finding a good place to camp in Japan isn't very difficult. Finding one that matches my nostalgic vision of "camping" as a child, that's a different story.
I've camped a few times in Japan, but my girlfriend and I and our three-day, two-night adventure at Motosuko Lake in mid-September was the first time I've been able to enjoy it like I wanted—although it took a bit of "sleuthing".
After our many-hour struggles of trying to find the perfect place to meet my "vision", my girlfriend and I finally found the Motosuko Camp-jo (Motosuko Campground).
Here's my concise list of why camping on Motosuko is the best camping I've done in Japan:
- Immediate crystal-clear lake access from campsite
- Surrounded on all sides by mountains
- open-air, on-ground campfires OK
- Middle of the woods = tree cover/shade (for cool mornings)
- Plenty of hiking/climbing
- Easy access from Tokyo (straight-shot by bus from Shinjuku)
- Perfect weather (900m above sea means it's cool)
Aside from these points, there are some other reasons why this place provides such an amazing camp experience.
Motosuko Camp-jo is truly an as-you-like campground.
You can set up where you like, pay however you like and show up whenever you like! Our neighbors set up by the light of one lantern at 8:30 at night! There's no reservation system for tent camping and in the morning, the staff cruises around collecting payment. Another option is to go straight to the front desk and pay in advance if it's open (6:00pm is closing time as of writing this).
One night, per tent is 2,500 yen.
Once we were set up our first night (after paying in advance like good patrons), we pulled out our foldable chairs, and got straight to building our campfire. We managed to find a spot that was a little "off the beaten track" and so there was no firepit set up for us. Not a problem. I gathered some big stones and made a makeshift pit a few meters from our tent. From there, it was ice-cold beers and my Japanese girlfriend's first attempts at roasting marshmallows (a "blazing" success). We bought the firewood from the campground's little shop which also had some snacks, ice, drinks and other simple necessities.
There are three downsides to camping at Motosuko Lake.
- The first is that there are no supermarkets or convenience stores in walking distance. That means that unless you bring the food yourself, expect to eat lunch and dinner at one of the few restaurants in the area.
- Second, everything in the area closes early. If you don't have your needed supplies by 7 PM, you'll have to wait until morning. These first two points considered, having a car is ideal.
- Three, being one of the five lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji, the odds of falling prey to Mt. Fuji's cloud-forming power is high. We had a good start, but rain and drizzle the second night while we were sleeping made the next morning's clean-up a nightmare.
Overall, my girlfriend's first camp experience was a success and we had a great time. We've already decided to head to Motosuko Lake and the Camp-jo again next year. Next time, we may just spend the extra money and rent a car.
Motosuko Lake is truly an amazing place. Although we were antsy to spend the night in a real bed, the second we got home, we were ready to go back.
If you feel like you just can't wait and need to experience Motosuko Lake as soon as possible, I encourage you to open up your wallet, pull out a 1,000 yen bill and flip it over...
Who knew you held the beauty right there in your pocket this whole time?!