A new luxury camping experience redefines what you can expect from a night in Tokyo.
After savoring a multi-course gourmet dinner accompanied by a few glasses of champagne, you’re basking in the soothing waters of a bath. The stars twinkle above you and a Swedish torch fire crackles in the outdoor lounge. Following a soak, your luxurious tent, appointed with antique furniture and a queen size bed, awaits. Tomorrow morning, as you have breakfast, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the sunlight as it sparkles on Lake Okutama and on the mountains that surround your weekend getaway.
It’s hard to believe that you’re still in Tokyo.
Okutama is a far cry from the crowded streets, busy trains, and the bright lights of the Tokyo megalopolis. But while it’s not in the heart of the city, it is within city limits, and that’s one of the things that makes Circus Outdoor’s first permanent glamping location so uniquely unusual.
The glamping operator Circus Outdoor has developed something of a cult following over the past three years by launching popup events around Japan, in locations ranging as far south as Kyushu. Up until now, the company has been something of a moveable feast, but that’s changed with the opening of their Okutama location.
Circus Outdoor’s CEO Manabu Ishiyama wants to bring the feeling of camping to people who might not be interested in lugging gear, pitching tents, and missing out on creature comforts. They do this by providing a level of luxury that allows for people to experience the great outdoors and the beauty of the Okutama region, while also being surrounded by the finer things in life: elegant furniture, high quality cuisine, indulgent amenities, and unique entertainment and activities. A hallmark of the Circus Outdoor experience is that time seems to slow down just a little bit in and around their tents, and they’ve captured that same magic here.
The glamping grounds are set on about 4,000 square meters just up a hill from Lake Okutama, and the permanent setup means that guests will be welcome year-round. While the Okutama region is best known for its fall foliage that turns the lake area into a kaleidoscope of color, it is beautiful throughout the year, whether it’s sporting the cherry blossoms and the lush green leaves of spring or the clear, cold air and the stunning views of winter.
Amidst these stunning natural surroundings, Circus Outdoor has set up five different whimsically named glamping tents, at five different price ranges:
- Jump’n Jackalope (¥35,000 per person; groups of up to four)
- Sheep Ship (¥55,000 per person; groups of up to two)
- Blueberry Unicorn (¥60,000 per person; one to three guests)
- Pink Elephant (¥90,000 per person; one to two guests)
- Royal Griffin (¥150,000 per person; one to two guests)
With the exception of the Jump’n Jackalope tent, which has one queen size and one single size bed, all tents include a queen-sized bed and a sofa. The tents are about five meters wide and three and a half meters tall in the center. Once you step inside, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually in a tent. All of the spaces are tastefully appointed with luxurious furniture – extraordinarily luxe when it comes to the Royal Griffin, whose furnishings are valued at about ¥10 million, or $100,000 (definitely the opposite of roughing it!). The common area includes a bath where guests can refresh themselves.
All of the food is prepared by the glamping restaurant Otto, which creates different multi-course meals based around seasonal Japanese ingredients. Chef Hiroyuki Kimizuka says that following the grand opening, they will be serving dishes that highlight wasabi, Okutama’s best known food product. During our preview of the glamping area, we were treated to a meal that featured Isumi pork, which was succulent and expertly prepared. Cuisine is truly one of the standouts of the Circus Outdoor experience, and the chefs are happy to work with guests in order to meet most individual dietary requests. A stay at the Royal Griffin includes private dining, with tables that boast a beautiful view of the lake.
Starting at the Blueberry Unicorn tent and going up, guests receive a welcome drink service; a free flow service throughout the day and evening is available for Royal Griffin guests. In the evening, guests in the Pink Elephant and Royal Griffin tents are treated to Swedish torch campfires and a night service that includes snacks.
In addition to being able to stroll along the shores of neighboring Lake Okutama, guests will be able to take part in a variety of activities. Every day, there will be deep breathing workshops with Satoko Oki, a well-known yoga instructor, while other workshops and activities will be added in the months to come. (In case of bad weather, some of these activities may change, so check with Circus Outdoor when you’re making your reservations.)
Although Circus Outdoor will be just getting started in Okutama in March, Ishiyama already has ideas about how he’d like to expand and develop at the Okutama glamping ground – Japanese-themed glamping, perhaps featuring Japanese cultural activities, is one idea that he’s exploring. Ishiyama says that they have plenty of other luxurious and interesting surprises awaiting guests. Intrigued by what we saw on our visit, this is definitely one overnight experience that we can’t wait to try for ourselves.
As Circus Outdoor’s Okutama glamping ground is just opening for business in March, some details and service offerings may change.
Photographs by Robert Kirsch
For more Japan glamping spots, read our feature “Where to Go Glamping in Japan.”