If you’ve been on social media during this pandemic, you’ve likely come across at least one influencer posting about how they quit their job, bought a van and are now travelling across the country. Moreover, you’ve likely seen pictures of some of the various bucket list natural wonders that they’ve encountered on their travels. Personally, I’ve definitely seen more than one of these types of posts and they never fail to make me wonder what it would be like to go on such an adventure. While I have no desire to buy a van myself, I am tempted to do the next best thing and rent a camper van for my next trip.
Today, there are a number of companies around the world that offer van rentals equipped with all the gear needed to comfortably enjoy a road-tripping excursion. Specifically in Japan, there is DreamDrive which was founded by Jared Campion in 2019. Campion’s mission is to provide an opportunity for others to explore Japan by van in order to share his love of road-tripping in a country that he believes is one of the best suited for doing so. These days it is easier than ever to venture beyond the overly touristic golden route between Tokyo-Kyoto-and-Osaka to see more of the real Japan, and a campervan road trip is probably one of the best ways to do this!
Travelling by campervan may cost roughly similar to travelling by public transportation depending on the route you plan to take. While you cannot necessarily go wrong when choosing a method by which to explore Japan, road-tripping does offer a unique adventure and an attractive alternative to the “Golden Route”. Do not let the uncertainties of it intimidate you as the unforeseen obstacles that may arise are exactly what help make the experience memorable! Getting outside of Japan’s notorious, bustling cities, campervanning means making your way through small towns and rolling hills of cropland which provides a more personal view of Japanese nature and life.
As Jared asserts, “Japan is one of the best countries to road trip in and that could be due to its reputation for being quite safe or due to the existence of “michi-no-ekis”. Michi-no-ekis are government and community run roadside rest stations where people can park and sleep for free.”
Typically, they offer not only parking, but bathrooms, restaurants and even onsens for travellers to use to refresh and recharge. If you are planning a road trip in Japan, make sure to take note of where these stations are located so you can plan accordingly and take advantage of the convenient services they offer!
There is so much to explore in Japan which can make planning a trip approachable, but perhaps a little daunting as well. Luckily, regardless of how you feel, the team at DreamDrive offers not only fully equipped van rentals (as well as purchases), but also specific and detailed recommendations for routes based on trips they’ve taken themselves. Below I have listed some of their recommendations and the corresponding links for videos and articles they’ve created to help travellers prepare!
Tokyo to the Nagano Area
Driving from Tokyo to the Nagano area only takes around 3 to 4 hours but don’t forget that when you travel on your own wheels you can make stops along the way at anything that catches your attention. Make sure to factor that possibility in when planning so you know whether to stay focused or let your eye wander while you make your way. Once at your destination, the beauty of campervanning is that you don’t have to worry about finding a hotel, you can either find a roadside pull out to park in for the night or option for more official camping grounds. If you head towards the Nagano region, DreamDrive has two recommendations for where to stay: Oguteko Camping ground and Akiko Lake.
Tokyo to the Shizuoka area, multi day trip
From Tokyo to the Shizuoka area, you only need to set aside about 3 hours for driving and don’t worry because there is plenty of beautiful scenery to make the trip more than enjoyable. You’ll pass through Hakone and Mt Fuji and can even stop at them depending on how much time you have. If you’re hoping for a weekend with ocean and lake views, consider looking at DreamDrive’s itinerary for a 4 day Shizuoka road trip because they have some great recommendations for places to park your van for incredible views. https://www.dreamdrive.life/ascenicshizuoka4dayroadtrip/
Tokyo to Yamanashi
One of the advantages of travelling by campervan is that it gives you access to places that may be out of reach if you’re only using public transportation. If you’re hoping to capitalize on this factor, Yamanashi is a great place to go. It is less than a 2 hour drive away from Tokyo and to help guide you, DreamDrive has outlined a great multi day itinerary that includes multiple lakeside sleeping spots at some of Mt Fuji’s five lakes. Among others, some of the sights DreamDrives recommends visiting are Aokigahara Forest, Lake Motosuko, Shoji Lake, Iyashi Village and Nishizawa valley. Check out the full details in their article at this link: https://www.dreamdrive.life/a-3-day-itinerary-in-yamanashi-and-fuji-lakes/
Moreover, if you’re heading in this direction, you could also opt for exploring the Hakone and Izu area as well. Whether you want to pass through or spend the night, using your campervan to get to these destinations offers a different perspective to some of Japan’s most popular attractions. If you are only able to do one trip from Tokyo, I would highly recommend one to the Mt Fuji area as it doesn’t require you to spend endless hours in the car but it still offers a unique experience that most tourists don’t get from their time in Japan. https://www.dreamdrive.life/the-perfect-3-day-camper-van-trip-from-tokyo/
Heading over there also prompts a great opportunity to check out one of Arigato Japan’s Mt. Fuji food tours! Check the link here for more information: https://arigatojapan.co.jp/mt-fuji/
Travelling by campervan offers the opportunity to not only experience Japan’s popular attractions in a different and unique way, but also reach other desired destinations that may be hard to get to otherwise. If you have the time and are itching for an adventure that takes you away from the city and into nature, this may be just what you need so add a twist to your travels and try out a campervan for your next trip — it’s definitely what I plan on doing!
Featured photo from Dreamdrive
Looking for more off-the-beaten-path destinations for your next trip, book a call with our expert team in Japan to get some recommendations!
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