The first time I went camping in Japan, I chose Okutama because it was close(ish) to Tokyo and easily accessible by train. While I can’t fault the setting – the emerald Tama river is exquisite – sleeping on a yoga mat on that rocky riverside left me dreaming of my comfy mattress back home. So, the next time, I decided to step things up a notch and booked a glamping experience in Yamanashi. With unbelievable views of Mt Fuji, endless toasted marshmallows and a mattress far more comfortable than my own, you’d think I’d be sold. But all that luxury came with a hefty price tag.
There have been other camping trips, too. One to Shikinejima, where at least my yoga mat was on top of beach sand but that was only after having to bed down on the unforgiving ferry floor for a night; one to Gunma where a sudden ferocious downpour made my tent collapse; and another to Fuji Rock, where my shower was an icy waterfall and I lost my way numerous times trying to locate my canvas palace in the dark.
So you can imagine my enthusiasm when I was introduced to Sacos’ range of camper vans. They could just combat all my camping woes.
Based in Kawasaki, Sacos was originally set up more than five decades ago as a construction equipment rental company and in 2013 they launched their camping van rental service. Depending on your budget, usage needs and number of travelers, you can choose from a lineup including light camper vans, HiAce size camper vans and cab conversions. They cater to businesses, too, so organizations looking to hire vans for team getaways or other purposes are welcome to get in touch.
Prices range from ¥11,000 (sleeps two) to ¥30,250 (sleeps five) per day, and discounts are offered on rentals for 10 days or more. The reservation process is quick and simple via the company’s English-language website, and all cars come with a complete warranty as well as the option of adding winter tires should you be venturing into snowy regions. Best of all, each van features a stylish, well-designed interior with sofas that convert into beds and heaters to keep things cozy.
Time to get rid of my yoga mat(tress)?
For more information about Sacos, go to lux-rentcar.sacos.co.jp/en/
3 Spots to Park Your Camper Van
Taking a day-trip drive through Japan’s nature-rich countryside is a treat in itself, but if you’re looking to stay overnight, here are a few recommended spots that aren’t too far from Tokyo.
Aonohara Noro Lodge Campsite
Snooze to the sounds of a babbling river and the scent of pine trees at this peaceful campsite in Sagamihara.
Wakasu Park Camping Ground
This camping ground is conveniently situated in Tokyo’s Koto ward. You get views of the ocean and Mt Fuji plus barbecue facilities.
Hana Hana no Sato Camping Ground
Pick a spot with a view at this Chiba car camping ground located on a hillside that was once a terraced rice field.
Top Road Trip Tip: If you’re traveling further afield and need to park somewhere en route for the night, Japan has plenty of highway roadside stations that allow free parking for camping vans. Be sure to browse the shops to get a taste of some of the specialty foods from whichever region you’re passing through.
Photographs by Rina Ueshima Ramshaw