Where have we found camping spots or other forms of accommodation thus far?
Staying with People
We hospitality of Japanese people has overwhelmed us and we have stayed with a number of people. This has always been a privilege and we recommend taking up invitations when receiving one!
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 busy months of the year.
Free Camping in Japan
On Yakushima Island we free-camped on the coast, uphill from the Hirauchi Onsen.
There have been two reasons that 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. Additionally we opted for a six-week stay in the severe winter with lots of snow in Hokkaido. To keep the car as warm as possible we opted for protected parking lots rather than camping in the wilds. But no doubt Hokkaido must ofer good rough camps in spring and summer.
- Even when 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. One beautiful spot we did stumble upon was on the beach of Nijinomatsubara, just outside Karatsu (island of Kyushu).
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).
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).
You can’t do your hand wash here but you will find coin laundries throughout the country.
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 scenery isn’t the requirement.
An additional advantage of the 7 Eleven: the ATMS accept foreign credit and debit cards.
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 Waypoins 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.
|Akan Crane Center |
Akan Crane Center. Stayed at the michi no eki. Nothing special but convenient to walk to the Crane Center across the road the next morning (March ’17). gps: 43.144113 144.146531
Asahikawa. Michi no Eki. Very convenient. On walking distance from the Ice Sculpture Festival and the road station has a large food court with good WiFi where we worked for a couple of days (Feb ’17). gps: 43.759793 142.34831
|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.
|Fukuoka (Kyushu) |
Fukuoka. We camped in a parking lot next to the Ohiri Koen. This was tricky. Its 300 yen per 24 hours for a car, and 3000 for a bus/big truck. So we expected to pay the 300, got our ticket from the machine and parked the vehicle. When wanting to leave 3 days later the machine told us to pay 9000 yen! Shock. A man phoned from the booth on the spot to the relevant company. No problem, we could leave without pay. In hindsight, we noticed 2 vertical yellow beams at the entrance and we assume this measures your vehicle and probably because of the height of our LC (2m70) registered it as a big truck. Apart from that it was a convenient place to stay to go for hikes in the park, use WiFi at Starbucks and from the main road take the metro downtown (Jan ’17). gps: 33.586138 130.38031
|Ginzanso Onsen (Honshu) |
Ginzanso Onsen. We parked in one of the many parking lots here. It’s not interesting for parking / spending the night, but it’s a quaint little town not mentioned in guidebooks. Walk down, and about halfway of the town you’ll find a white building on your right which is a small, basic and cheap onsen for 300 yen (260 mtrs / Feb ’17). gps: 38.572828 140.52549
|Hagi (Honshu) |
Hagi. We camped in a free parking lot, with public toilets, in front of the beach north of the old section of town. Quiet place to camp and from here easy to walk into town (Jan ’17). gps: 34.415976 131.389054
Hakodate. Stayed in the parking lot of a 2nd Street shopping mall for the reason that inside is a café with good WiFi and we needed to work (March ’17). gps: 41.819197 140.73468
|Hirado (Hirado Island) |
Hirado. We camped in the parking lot of a government building across from the former Dutch trading warehouse. Beautiful place from where to watch the city with the early morning sunlight. No facilities (Dec ’16). gps: 33.370794 129.55716
|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
|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
|Kirishima (Kyushu) |
Kirishima. Michi-no-eki with public toilets, shop with local food but not much fresh produce. With good weather the nice view of the area is a bonus (Dec ’16 / 520 mtrs). gps: 31.863361 130.85164
|Kussharo Lake |
Kussharo Lake. While camping is not allowed, we parked alongside the onsen for the night. Not a problem in winter but I think in summer it is, but there is a campsite on walking distance from here, when you enter the peninsula which must be open in summer. Beautiful area for hikes, and good outdoor onsen (mixed) as well (March ’17). gps: 43.579345 144.31064
Matsumoto. We camped along the road but at a beautiful spot along a flowing river line with hundreds of flowering cherry trees. There are a couple of (basic) public toilets along the parking strip as well (April ’17). gps: 36.22842 137.98672
|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
|Minimata (Kyushu) |
Minamata. Michi-no-eki is another good place to spend the night (Dec ’16). gps: 32.199108 130.381786
|Miyajima (Honshu) |
Miyajima. Took the car ferry to the island. Note maximum height for vehicles on the ferry is 3m40 (for our 5m vehicle + 2 persons) we paid about 3700 yen. On the island we camped in the parking lot of the ferry terminal for free. From here you can walk downtown and to the famous torii, or hike into the mountains (Jan ’17). gps: 34.302639 132.32366
|Miyajima (Honshu) |
Miyajima. Our second campsite on the island was a beautiful spot on the beach on the other side from the town and ferry terminal, with deer around the car (Jan ’17). gps: 34.279159 132.43348
Morioka. Beautiful spot along a lake and stunning views of mountains. With public toilet (March ’17). gps: 39.723802 141.14722
|Nagashima (Amaksu Islands, Kyushu) |
Nagashima (Amaksu Islands). Michi-no-eki with public toilet and shop. It’s right along the main road so a bit more noisy from traffic than most Michi-no-ekis, but in exchange you get - weather permitting - a stunning sunset over the ocean! (Dec ’16). gps: 32.161988 130.109072
Namerikawa. Camped in the parking lot of the michi no eki and tour agency where we wanted to sign up for a boat trip to see the bioluminescent firefly squid at night in the bay (but all tours are cancelled for 2017). Convenient, also good place to go for a hike along the shore (April ’17). gps: 36.774485 137.34487
|Near Nukabiro Lake |
Near Nukabiro Lake. We stayed in the parking lot of the visitor center not far from this lake. The center is well worth a visit btw. Quiet place to spend the night. Nothing special but a good starting point for the next morning walk to the lake (where you can only park along the road and has no parking lot to spend the night. In winter you can walk across the ice to a stone bridge ( 550 mtrs, Feb ’17). gps: 43.365477 143.19344
Nemuro. Stayed at the michi no eki. Nothing special but a good base from where to hike along the lake and watch birds (March ’17). gps: 43.26193 145.43824
|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
Nikko. Camped in the parking lot of the michi no eki, for no other reason than having a free spot to spend the night. It’s not on walking distance of the old-temples complex (March ’17). gps: 36.724483 139.68782
Niseko. We stayed at a michi no eki amidst stunning snow scenery (Feb 17). gps: 42.799348 140.70241
Noheji. Camped in the parking lot along the road but with a stunning view of the sea, including a sunset. Public toilet closed during winter but adjacent is a Lawson (March ’17). gps: 40.87529 141.138584
|Nojii (Kyushu) |
Nojii. Michi-no-eki with public toilets, shop full of produce and locally-made food such as rice cakes and bentos (Dec ’16 / 170 mtrs). gps: 31.964631 131.081586
|Ohashi (Ikisuki Island) |
Ohashi (Ikisuki Island). A beautiful located michi-no-eki along the waterfront below the bridge connecting Hirado with Ohashi. Small shop and public toilet (Dec ’16). gps: 33.3555321 129.433676
Omazaki, Camped along the shore at a small harbor. Beautiful view. Public toilet on the plaza nearby (March ’17). gps: 41.545258 140.916427
Otaru. As we were here during the Snow Festival, this proved a good parking lot, at a Family Mart, as it was downtown and the festival all around us on walking distance (Feb ’17). gps: 43.19803 1410004
Rausu. Stayed at the michi no eki. Nothing special but convenient for toilet and WiFi (March ’17). gps 44.017418 145.19222
|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
Sapporo. Downtown, near the Snow Festival, are very few parking lots and if, then paid. We ended up at this parking lot of Lawson (we asked for permission to stay as it’s small), which is nothing special but it was still on walking distance from the festival (Feb ’17). gps: 43.077277 141.35672
|Shirahige / Blue Pond |
Shirahige / Blue Pond. Amidst Daizesuzan National Park. Beautiful area for hiking, including to the Blue Pond which is lit in the evening and - in winter - a frozen waterfall (Feb ’17). gps: 43.473535 142.638159
|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
Takayama. Stayed in a parking lot for convenience: a 7/11 and Starbucks for WiFi, a supermarket, and on walking distance to the old part of the town to see the Spring Festival (recommended) (April ’17). gps: 36.142358 137.2473
|Tsuwano (Honshu) |
Tsuwano. We camped at a Michi no eki just outside town and enjoyed its onsen (600 yen pp). Free WiFi, quiet place, nothing special (Jan ’17). gps: 34.450888 131.75987
|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
Wakkanai. We stayed in the parking lot of the train station. Perfect. Free of charge, and at the train station you can use the bathroom, and use WiFi. It has an open area with tables and chairs to work. It’s not particularly quiet as it has a kids’ playroom as well, but we enjoyed working here for a day (Feb ’17). gps: 45.417419 141.67768
|Yagen Onsen (Honshu) |
Yagen Onsen. Parked in the parking lot of an onsen (hot bath) right in the middle of the forest. The world was covered in snow, we were all by ourselves and it felt quite magical to be here, especially after all the nights spent in parking lots of urbanized areas. This onsen costs 200 yen (75 mtrs / Feb ’17). gps: 41.387128 141.045746
Yoichi. Stayed at the michi no eki. Closed in winter but convenient because it’s next door to the Nikka Wisky factory and museum which we thought was well worth a visit. The visit includes tasting wisky and since alcohol and driving is strictly forbidden in Japan, spending the night here was perfect (March ’17). gps: 43.188948 140.788906
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