Urban Camping in Tokyo

When one thinks of camping, one normally has the image of being in the wilderness, sleeping in a sleeping bag and tent in between hiking from place to place. If not, then it’s ordinary staying at a campsite along with friends for the sake of not being in the city and to experience nature a little more intimately.

However, such an activity might not be suited for everyone. For those that wish to experience something new, something different, urban camping might be answer they’re looking for. Urban camping is, in its most basic sense, camping like one would in the wilderness, but doing it within urban areas. This can be done in many places, with the most common being open air public parks, playgrounds or other such areas. Urban camping was invented, and is done, for a variety of reasons. Some use it as a means of cutting costs while backpacking as some locations, especially the larger cities, come with higher prices in terms of accommodation, prices that might not be covered by one’s budget. Others simply do it for the thrill of doing something new and to experience their city in a way they haven’t before.

Before one decides to try this form of camping in Tokyo, one should familiarize oneself with the customs of Japan and potential problems one might face. It is important, especially for foreigners, to distinguish oneselves from being homeless and merely being a camper as some do frown upon the activity.

There are many places in Tokyo for one to engage in urban camping – and for those trying it out for the first time, Japan is the land of creative and odd, so one might as well step outside of one’s comfort zone and learn something new.

There are many smaller and quiet parks in Tokyo’s outskirts, around the residential areas, that are ideal locations to set up camp in for a night or two. The ideal ones are the quiet parks that aren’t frequented by the homeless, who may not be a danger on any scale, but might make the experience less comfortable. If one is overwhelmed by the amount of noise and people downtown Tokyo seems to be simply home to, a common strategy among urban campers is to simply get onto a train and get away from the city by a few stations and then set out to find a quiet park nearby to camp in.

First image by flickr.com

Second image by usatoday.com

Exploring Kyoto on a Bike

Kyoto is one of the most interesting places to visit in Japan – no wonder given that it had been the capital of Land of the Rising Sun for well over 1000 years and still remains one of the most important to this very day.

There are many things to see and explore in Kyoto, and also many different ways to go about doing so. The city and prefecture offers much of the outdoor variety to its visitors, from the lively night market to the impressive Imperial Palace and scattered temples across the city and countryside.

One of the most dynamic ways of exploring Kyoto’s wonders is to rent and ride a bicycle. This is especially appealing to those wishing to save on transportation cost, which might be especially useful for backpackers on a budget who don’t want to compromise their experience of Japan due to the lack of transportation means. It’s also ideal for those with a liking for the outdoors and can be more convenient than renting a car or using public transportation for almost all year around – and for those who don’t mind the coldest months of the year, even all year around.

Cycling in Kyoto is truly a pleasure. Most of the city is evenly flat and like most other cities in Japan, is home to very well maintained roads and strictly enforced traffic rules and regulations that make the entire affair a lot safer than it might be in other southeast Asian nations. For those not quite as comfortable on a bike as others, or perhaps those riding with children, biking is still an option since it is legal, and commonly accepted, for bikers to ride on the pedestrian sidewalks. It is recommended that one rents a bike with a bell in order to warn those walking of one’s approach, though.

Even as a tourist, it is very easy to come by a renting station for bikes. Some even offer guide maps indicating the best spots to ride a bike to, while others offer guided tours that will take the visitors around the city with a guide providing insight into the local Japanese life in Kyoto and could be seen as a more fun and interactive version of a tourist city-tour bus.

There are specific zones designated for parking one’s bike, especially around the frequently visited tourist hotspots such as temples or other sights. They are generally safe and very much convenient and make exploring Kyoto on a bike a breeze.

First image by kyoto.travel

Second image by kyotoguide.com

Biking along Shimanami Kaido

Japan is the perfect place for all types of outdoor activities, especially given the nation’s generally mild climate being able to accommodate all types of requirements for enjoying adventures in the great outdoors. There are many things to do, see and experience and all it takes is the curiosity to see something new.

One of the most convenient and cost effective solutions to seeing many sights in a short amount of time is to ride bicycles. Bicycles are very common throughout Japan, regardless of whether one finds him or herself in a rural area or the metropolitan streets. There are hundreds of beautiful locations to explore on a bike in Japan, with the added health and family-fun benefits that potentially come along with riding a bicycle. Bicycles can be rented easily too and aren’t very expensive with prepaid terminals being around aplenty.

A great destination to ride a bike at is the Shimanami Kaido. The Shimanami Kaido is a road connecting the island known as Shikoku to the country’s main and largest island, Honshu. The road isn’t all that long with all its 60 kilometers (32 miles), but presents some beautiful scenery in its own right. What makes the road unique from an other ordinary bridge is the fact that it crosses over six smaller islands in connecting the main island with Shikoku. These small islands are located in what is referred to as the Seto Inland Sea, with the road also being referred to as the Nishiseto Expressway in some cases. Another notable part is that while the Shimanami Kaido is only one of three different ways to access Shikoku from Honshu and vice versa, it can only be traversed on foot or bicycle – and given that 60 kilometers is a distance longer than a marathon, mainly bicycles populate the road.

The six islands along the road are Oshima, Hakatajima, Omishima, Ikuchijima, Innoshima and Mukaishima. There are a several small towns on the way between the two islands and allow those travelling along the Shimanami Kaido to view truly unique scenery as well as take some very memorable pictures to show back home.

Another attraction of the expressway is the Hirayama museum, a gallery dedicated to the work of one of Japan’s most celebrated and renowned artists named Hirayama Ikuo. He had been born on the island of Ikuchijima where the museum is located and his works can be viewed there, attracting many visitors from all over Japan and overseas.

Images from japan-guide.com

 

Riding a River Bus

If there is one thing many people who have visited Japan can agree on, it’s that the Land of the Rising Sun is a country like no other. There are many things that make Japan unique in its own way – some a westerner might find odd, funny, quirky or even downright different. As a visitor to Japan, there are literally thousands of things one could do in the country to spend time in an enjoyable manner.

One of the things that stands out in Japan is the efficiency and effectiveness of its public transportation system, heralded as the best in Southeast Asia by a significant margin. Not only is it reliable, spread widely throughout the entire country, it is also extremely safe and as environmentally friendly as currently possible. Japan boasts a huge variety of things to do in its outdoors, and as odd as it may seem, one of the interesting things to experience in the Japanese outdoors is to ride one of their more unique forms of public transportations.

Busses, taxis, trains, trams and even jeeps are rather common in many countries throughout the world and are commonly accepted as the general forms of transportation. Few countries however have a developed and active ferry system – ferries used for local transportation and not long distance travel.

Making use of its status as an island nation an an abundance of bays and rivers, Japan has its own River Bus system. As the name implies, boats and ferries are used as if they were busses, ferrying people from point A to B for a small fee – exactly how a bus works in any other instance, only that this one rides on water instead of concrete.

Tokyo especially makes use of this system as the ferry companies are able to use very convenient routes at speeds that ordinary land transportation would not be able to hope to match. Simply the fact that there’s very little traffic on the sea and rivers gives the river busses an edge.

 

The River Busses generally cover distances used by trains, with one-way rides lasting between 20 minutes to an hour of travel time. Depending on the route, this could take twice as long on conventional transport. The boats have observation decks to take advantage of on a nice day, as well as panoramic glass windows on the inside to see the city of Tokyo was one commutes along the river.

First image by japan-guide.com

Second image by prafulla.net

Camping in Japan

Japan is often discussed for their high real estate cost and lack of space for real estate. What comes a surprise is the extensive camping opportunities throughout the country. Along side that, the nation is a hub of outdoor activity, able to cater to all tastes – whether traditional like sport, extreme like skydiving or mellow like hiking – everything is possible in Japan when it comes to the great outdoors.The Land of the Rising Sun is home to a large variety of scenic nature strips. Thus, should visitors prefer to experience the beauty of Japan without the high price tag of hotels and other forms of accommodation, they can take a more adventurous turn and try camping instead, which also has a plethora of added health benefits.

There are well over 2000 campsites to be found across Japan – statistically speaking that means there’s an average of more than 40 campsites per prefecture, which will of course vary by a prefecture’s size and environment. But the point remains – camping is a very viable type of accommodation when visiting or when one just wants to get from the busy nature of life in the city.

Entrance to a camping location.

Price wise, securing oneself a spot on a camping site normally costs 500-1500 yen per night, which translates into 5-15 US Dollars. Obviously, that isn’t that expensive. The downside is that some camping sites are difficult to access without a car – which might make it a worthwhile expense to rent a car when visiting Japan since the price of accommodation is already so low, plus the added mobility would making travelling around the country a lot easier. Some of the sites are accessible by bus, but anyone willing to go camping should make sure first.

A tent set up on a forested camp site.

When trying to find a campsite suitable to one’s needs, the Japan National Tourism Organization is a good point of reference. They offer a comprehensive index of all the camping sites across Japan, for every region and prefecture. Additionally, they provide information on the local attractions, as well as prizes and how to get there. Through some searches across the internet, interested campers can also find reviews of various campsites to see what visitors have to say or if they’ve any advice to share. There are also a number of free campsites across Japan, but with the generally low cost one shouldn’t look past the more expensive ones along the way.

First image by tripadvisor

Second image by kawakami.nagano.jp