Never in my life have I had to do so much research for an outing. But camping in Japan was this elusive activity. Trying to find information on locations to camp is painstakingly difficult as you sift through the translated webpages. I had no idea what to expect for our first camping experience here. I was pretty sure we wanted an auto camp-jo as opposed to a camp-jo. The way I understood it, an auto camp-jo is similar to the campgrounds in the states. You camp next to your vehicle instead of backpacking with your gear and setting up camp. So with our list of campgrounds in hand from the outdoor rec office we packed up the car and set off. Hubby pulls out of our parking space and asks “which campground did you decide? Can you put it in the gps?”
“Uhh, I wasn’t in charge of picking one, I was packing!”
So we just drove, in the general direction of the Izu Peninsula.
And then the fun began. We first tried the cluster of auto camps near Kawazu. All were off of Prefecture Rd 14. The first one we came to I think was either Kawazu Nanaduru Auto Camp or Kawazu Auto Camp. I wasn’t able to tell. A friendly English speaking Japanese man kindly told us it was going to be 7000yen/night (about $70/night) to camp there. You see Japan campgrounds not only charge for the camp site, they charge a per person admission fee/night so the rate quickly adds up. Up the hill we went to Adventure Family Auto Camp. Supposedly open year round but they were closed. So onward to Sasano Auto Camp which looked like the best option for us. They had sites right on the river…nothing special, but at least we’d be able to hear the water at night. They were also supposed to be open year round and were closed. By this time we were running out of daylight and needed to make a decision, so back to the first campground we went…and they had closed for the night too. So we wandered on towards the beaches in search of Auto Camp Izu Katase, which from the map, looked to be right on the beach. So we drove…and drove…in circles, following the directions over and over again. One route led us to the narrowest one-way compact car road over the rocks with the ocean down below. And I’m just praying there’s a place to turn the car around at the end of it.
I’m convinced the Izu Katase camp doesn’t exist. Or maybe they sold the land and developed it. We’ve never failed at camping before. Feeling defeated I started looking for local hotels to stay in for the night. But hubby found one last auto camp (Izuimaihama Auto Camp) in the area on google maps, so we headed over there just as the sun was setting…and there was no one there. *sigh* I didn’t get it. It was gorgeous weather out. The forecast was for the mid 60’s during the day and low 50’s at night. You couldn’t ask for better camping weather. Where were all the campers?! In a last ditch effort, hubby called what he thought was a phone number on a note on the door. Finally we got a person, who didn’t speak any English. But he didn’t hang up on us like the last few. We stumbled through our Japanese book and waited a few minutes wondering if he actually understood we were there now. A few minutes later he drove up in his little utility truck and $60/night later we were camping!
For all those who want to camp in Japan, set your expectations low. Our first camping experience was not like camping in the states. You will pay a ridiculous amount of money for a tiny plot of land. No fire ring, no picnic table or lantern pole. This was the 4th campground we had seen that day and by far had the biggest sites. We pulled all the way towards the back of one of the landings, which held 5 sites. I don’t even know where they put them all or how the cars get in and out if they need to. Luckily we were the only campers there and had free run of the place. The owner gave us a 5 gallon paint can for our fire. So, after we rushed to set up camp and make dinner in the dark, we huddled around our tiny paint can fire and since I promised the boys s’mores, the lessor of the two evils was to let them roast marshmallows over the propane BBQ. After the boys went to bed, hubby and I had to laugh about the day and enjoyed our wine and the sounds of the train nearby.
Here’s some pictures of the Izuimaihama Auto Camping Ground. They do have showers and Japanese style toilets and a cold water sink area for dishes. Dogs weren’t allowed in any of the campgrounds we tried except for the Adventure Family Auto Camping Village, which just to warn you, was plots of dirt roped off like a parking lot. The feeling I had was dogs are considered a nuisance when you have so many people packed into a small space. I think the more rural areas are more accepting of them though.
This was our rough start to an amazing weekend. Stay tuned for pictures from the Izu Peninsula…