Glamping in Japan: How to travel off the beaten path (without getting dirty)

By now you’ve probably heard of glamping, an unlikely combination of the words “glamorous” and “camping.” It’s a travel trend that has earned followers around the globe. Japan, a country that loves camping almost as much as luxury, is no exception. As Rakuten Travel’s recent list of the top 20 list of glamping destinations demonstrates, the country now boasts some of the world’s most unique glamping locations.

From volcano views to tents with ensuite bathrooms and the island nation’s ubiquitous onsen (Japanese hot springs), here are a few ways glamping in Japan is different than anywhere else.

Enjoy the sunset at Calm Lanai Harbour in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Enjoy the sunset at Calm Lanai Harbour in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Cultural Rules Still Apply

While glamping may be a great chance to connect with nature (in a more luxurious way than traditional camping), it doesn’t mean you can track the great outdoors back to your bedroom. Before you enter the premises, don’t forget to take off your shoes.

Mt. Fuji, anyone?

Japan doesn’t have a monopoly on beautiful volcanos, but it does have some of the world’s most iconic ones ⁠— and glamping outfits around the country have sought to capitalize on this. Even luxury accommodation providers like Hoshinoya have gotten in on the act with their 5-star glamping destination Hoshinoya Fuji, which offers postcard views of Japan’s symbolic peak, among its many, many, many other amenities.

A dip in the onsen

Onsen (hot springs) at Yamamizuki resort in Kochi Prefecture.
Onsen (hot springs) at Yamamizuki resort in Kochi Prefecture.

If volcanic views are your thing, there is a good chance you’ll also appreciate Japan’s abundance of geothermal onsen. Bathing options for regular campers typically only include a frigid mountain lake or stream, while the glamping upgrade might be a hot tub or shower. But in Japan, it often means access to one of its amazing onsen, which number in the thousands and are destinations in their own right. Onsen Glamping Shima Blue at Shima Onsen in Gunma Prefecture and Yamamizuki Resort in Kochi Prefecture are but two stunning examples of onsen-centric glamping spots.

Glamping hits the road

Japan is renowned for the nation’s amazing rail networks, which are simultaneously the world’s most complicated and punctual. Its network of expressways may be less well-known, but are no less impressive. But it’s only when you venture out in a car or bus that you’ll discover another of Japan’s unique pleasures: expressway parking and service areas. With amenities ranging from the basic (washrooms, vending machines) to the extravagant (shopping malls, theme parks and onsen), these special highway parks can offer enough entertainment to fill a weekend.

When you take one of the world’s safest countries, combine that with the ability to legally sleep in a parked car (if it is legally parked), and throw in easy access to resort-worthy roadside amenities, you have near-perfect conditions for a glamping tour. The only thing missing is the car and the bed. And that’s where services like Dream Drive come in. They rent vehicles retrofitted with wood paneling, window shades, bedding and other camping amenities so users can choose their own glamping location.

Glamping options galore

Glamping may still be in its relative infancy in Japan, but travel operators are raising the bar each season. So, if you want to explore Japan off the beaten path, but without getting dirty, check out Rakuten Travel’s Top 20 list of glamping destinations.

Panoramic views of the Pacific at Kochi Prefecture’s Yamamizuki Resort.
Panoramic views of the Pacific at Kochi Prefecture’s Yamamizuki Resort.
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