Japan Campervan Road Trip – Tokyo to the Alps

It was an impromptu travel decision to travel to Tokyo back in January this year. We made use of the Krisflyer Spontaneous Escape redemption discount for business class tickets to fly SQ this time round. It will likely turn out to be our last destination for whole of 2020 due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

We flew into Tokyo and stayed for 3 nights before picking up our campervan in the city. Japanese road tolls are expensive even with ETC card. We were unable to get the ETC card through the rental company so we paid mostly by cash or credit card along the way. This itinerary consists of 3 days in Tokyo and 7 days in a campvervan. The best thing about a campervan road trip is that you can stop anywhere in a Michi-noEki (rest-stop) and park overnight without rushing to your booked accommodation. Since the campervan we rented did not come with showering facilities, we made full use of the onsens in Japan to enjoy and clean up. We paid about $300 a day for the campervan, probably not the best deal because of the last minute travel plan. The price was inclusive of insurance and taxes. Despite the price being on the high side, the experience was hard to come by and turned out to be one of our best trips! We got our campervan from Rental Camping Car Japan.

Day 1 & 2 – Tokyo Ningyocho

Choose to land in Narita or Haneda depending on where you are staying. Narita is further away from the city center as compared to Haneda so the cost of transfer should be higher. If you land earlier in the day, you can check out some attractions. You can get around Tokyo easily through the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subways. The systems are a little confusing for beginners so make sure to purchase your tickets carefully. I advise to plan the itinerary beforehand so you know whether to get the day card or pay per trip.

Tokyo is a foodie paradise, alongside with Osaka and Kyoto. We stayed at Ningyocho area and got most of our food from the area. Ningyocho is an old historical district, also know as a ‘doll-town’ due to doll makers operating puppets in that area. Check out one of the oldest Oyakodon place at Tamahide. It is basically chicken and egg over Japanese rice. We queued almost an hour for it! We love Izakayas and visited this restaurant at the junction of Ningyocho station located at 〒103-0013 Tokyo, Chuo City, Nihonbashiningyocho, 3 Chome−7−13.

Look at the long line outside Tamahide

Day 3 – Disneyland

Since you are already in Tokyo, do not miss out Disneyland. This one is the first establishment outside of USA and is highly recommended for friends, couples or families. We visited Disney World in Florida a couple of years ago and felt that the one in Japan is equally as awesome as well!

Day 4 & 5 – Nagano

Ideally, you can pick up your campervan in the morning and set off for Nagano, the nearest city to Jikougudani Valley. This is also where the famous snow monkeys can be found soaking in the hot springs. It is a long drive to Nagano via E17 and then E18. It was already evening when we reached as we stopped along the way for lunch and shopping. One of the best things about Japan is that there is food everywhere so there is no need to cook your own meals. It was our first day with the campervan and so we spent some time sorting out our little living space.

Spend the night at roadside station Kitashinshu-Yamanouchi. It functions as a day stop area but you can park overnight for free. Across the street, you can find the 7-11 which operates past midnight. We spent 2 nights at this rest stop and woke up the 2nd morning to a fresh coat of snow!

Marugame Seimen Sinsyunakano in Nakano serves fantastic oyster udon and all kinds of tempuras

Day 6 – Kanazawa

Continue on E18 which merges on to E8 into Kanazawa. If you have the time, head to Noto Peninsula. Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa prefecture. Check out Kanazawa castle and the Higashi Chaya District where you can find a lot of old Chaya (Japanese Tea houses). Since it is right next to the sea, it is known for its fresh sashimi selections among the locals. The best place to have a seafood feast is at Omicho Fish Market.

Spend the night at a rest stop in Nanto, 1201 Tatenoharahigashi, Nanto, Toyama 939-1835.

Great selection of seafood and food shops at Omicho Fish Market.

Try whipping up your own okonomiyaki!

Day 7 – Shirakawa-Go & Takayama

Head back on the highway to Shirakawa-Go which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You may also check out Gokayama if time permits. Parking in Shirakawa-Go is strictly only at designated parking spots. They are clearly marked on maps and signs help too. This is to prevent traffic congestions and the bus loads of tourists that goes in during the peak seasons. From the parking spot, we crossed the bridge to explore the village. Visit Tenshukaku Observatory to get the classic Shirakawa-Go shot, you can either walk up there through the village or drive up through the back road access.

Takayama has a rich history preserved in the old town portion known as the Sanmachi Suji District. You can imagine what old Japan looks like centuries ago. Walk through the streets and there are shops to discover at every corner. We really like the old Japan feels when strolling along the streets and not to mention the delicious street food.

These charming houses are perfect for the gram!
View of Shirakawa-Go from Tenshukaku Observatory

Day 8 – Shinhotaka Ropeway & Matsumoto

Head east to Shinhotaka ropeway for a cable car ride to the Hida Mountains. Rise above the clouds on a double decker gondola and you will be met with magnificent views of the surroundings. There are two sections on the ropeway and I advise to head to the summit early to avoid the crowds. You can head out to the viewing platform and there is also a small cafe located within the station. Outside the station, you can explore the surrounding nature and roll in the snow during winter.

If you have an extra day in your itinerary, the best hike with stunning scenery will be at Kamikochi. It is packed with hikers and tourists during the summer months so plan your trip accordingly.

Continue on to Matsumuto to visit the Matsumoto castle and Nawate-dori streetThe street is filled with souvenir shops and street food.

Plan your night rest spot close to Mount Fuji so that you can reach there early the next day.

Our typical breakfast inside the campervan

View from the cable car on the way up to the station

-6 degrees celcius in the middle of winter

Day 9 & 10 – Mount Fuji

There are plenty of attractions around Mount Fuji so it is is advisable to spend a little more time here. There are couple of lakes around Mount Fuji and we chose to explore Lake Kawaguchi. I recommend to try out different type of onsens which includes the private and public ones, they each come with different experiences.

Visit Hotel Clad for a upscale experience and stunning views of Mount Fuji, you can plan a stay here too. It is located right beside Gotemba Premium Outlets. This is perfect for travellers who want to shop from opening till the shops close.

Spend the night at Oishi Park, we parked here overnight and woke up to an epic sunrise scene of Mount Fuji.

Sunrise from Oishi Park



We parked the campervan overnight at Oishi Park

Day 11 – Tokyo

It’s time to head back to Tokyo to return your campervan or you can continue your trip to other parts of Japan. Do you have other road trip ideas? Feel free to share with us!

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