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Summer is a flourishing time for activities all over Japan. These months are filled with the likes of festivals (matsuri), firework shows (hanabi), and outdoor events in many corners of the nation. However, the one downside to Japan in the summer is the unbearable heat! What if there were activities you could enjoy, while still being mobile in the comfort of a home-like environment? Here’s a list of unique ways to have fun this summer without having to give up air conditioning and other comforting amenities. Let’s hit the road in an RV camper van!
1. Road trip around to Japan’s National Parks and stop at Michi-no-Eki in between (everywhere)
For its small size, the country of Japan has more than half the number of national parks that the United States has. The 32 National Parks stretch throughout all the islands of Japan from north to south, east to west. The parks all vary in climate and culture and you can experience bright blue beaches and coastlines, snowy mountains and volcanoes, and everything imaginable in between. Camp at the hundreds of available campsites throughout nation, or take advantage of michi-no-eki (roadside station). These roadside stations located all over the country serve as short or overnight rest stops for road-trippers, and are packed with tourist information, food, and many other traveling needs. Some stops can become attractions on their own, with onsen hot springs, activity grounds, and even apple picking!
2. Attend a Music Festival (various regions)
Japan is full of outdoor music festivals that also incorporate camping to the experience – this is an aspect to the festivals that you don’t want to miss! Camping at the music festivals let’s you party and fully enjoy the weekend without having to shuttle back before midnight to your lodges or worrying about missing the last train. Though stories brought back from these events are mostly filled with positive recollections and smiles, there are chances of poor weather like heavy rain, or lack or amenities like sinks and fridges. Camping in an RV will give you a lodge-like feeling without having to give up the late night dance parties, chilled food, or a comfortable bed to sleep in. This amenity will keep you going all weekend feeling fresh and ready for every new day, which you’ll want – trust me! Some notable camp out music festivals in Fuji Rock Festival, Sea of Green, and Mammoth pow-wow.
3. Enjoy an active weekend at the base of Mt. Fuji (Shizuoka prefecture)
The only time to climb the tallest mountain in Japan is between July and September. But if you want other ways to enjoy Mt. Fuji without having to conquer the treacherous trek, there are countless activities at the foot of the mountain. If you want to escape the heat by feeling the breeze high above the ground, this is a beautiful place to try paragliding (my personal favorite!). How about taking a swim in one of the five lakes or adventuring down slippery slopes by white water rafting? You can even venture underground to check out the beautiful Fugaku Wind and Ice caves, or leave the camper van behind to bike around with a view of the mountain. At the end of the day, you can return to your camper to enjoy a nice BBQ and escape the mosquitoes indoors by bedtime. Here is a list of suggested campsites.
4. Zip line, fish, and join a huge community campfire (Hiroshima prefecture)
Zip lining courses are becoming more of a popular activity for all ages in Japan. It’s a cool way to feel like Tarzan, swinging from tree to tree, and challenging yourself and others to even face some fears. One notable zip line course is in Hiroshima at Osorakan Ecology Campsite. This community offers more than just a killer zip line course; take a hike to waterfalls, attempt your hand at making pizza from scratch, fish at the onsite lake, and make sure to join the enormous campfire at the end of the night!
5. Experience Hanabi in peace (Niigata prefecture)
No summer in Japan is complete without watching the world-famous fireworks (hanabi) this country has to offer. The fireworks are usually accompanied by festivals (matsuri) along rivers and fields filled with food vendors and games like goldfish scooping. Because these events can get so crowded, it’s too common to not get a good spot to sit and enjoy the fireworks. If you’re willing to skip out on eating chocolate bananas on a stick, the wiser option is to watch fireworks while camping. Higashiyama Family Land (Japanese only) is a perfect campsite to watch the annual Nagaoka Fireworks from. Though you won’t experience the intensity of the fireworks up close, you will get a killer view of the whole show without any heads or distractions around you! Music for the show can be synced by streaming FM Nagaoka from the camper van, because they do a radio segment for the event each year. So enjoy the VIP show from top deck (aka the rooftop of the van) while cooking dinner or drinking. and without the worries of driving afterwards or fighting big crowds.