The Best Campsites and Glampsites in Kansai

Beach camping
Beach camping | © Brandon Usmany / Unspalsh
One of the most under-appreciated activities in Japan is camping. If you’re looking to escape the cramped confines of capsule hotels, here’s our pick of the best campsites and glampsites in the Kansai region of Japan.

Camping is a beloved pastime of many Japanese people. Urban centres are typically very crowded and hectic so it’s nice to escape once and a while; luckily, Japan is blessed with a diverse natural landscape dwarfing its busy metropolises. The Kansai area exemplifies this. Composed of many close cities like Osaka and Kyoto, but also a mosaic of beaches, mountains and forests, Kansai is a camper’s paradise. Plus, Japan is so safe and accessible camping is worry-free, even for solo travellers.

Tomogashima Campsite

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
The ruins on Okinoshima. | The ruins on Okinoshima.

Tomogashima is a small island chain off the coast of Wakayama City. The most famous of these is the main island, Okinoshima, where a World War II-era military fort now sits abandoned. Reclaimed by nature, the sight of the crumbling, overgrown buildings are often compared to scenery from a Studio Ghibli movie. The local campsite is free and doesn’t require a reservation, but make sure you check that the ferry is running ahead of time.

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Kawayu Campground

Natural Feature
People bathing in the river. | People bathing in the river.

One of the most sought-after destinations along the legendary Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail is Kawayu. This onsen town is known for its river, which bubbles up hot spring water if you dig at the river bed. Kawayu actually means ‘river hot spring’. Kawayu Campground (Kodama no Sato) is perched directly on the river and is open year round. One night costs 800 yen (USD $7) for adults.

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Auto Campsite Grampus in Shirahama

Natural Feature
Campers on Shirahama Beach. | Campers on Shirahama Beach.

Shirahama is also on the Kumano Kodo route, but this town is actually known for its pristine beach and oceanside onsen. Shirahama means ‘white sand’ in Japanese; the sand is actually imported all the way from Australia. Yet there is nothing synthetic looking about this gorgeous stretch of coast. Auto Campsite Grampus, which includes tent pitching areas, RV camping and bungalows, is just a few minutes walk from the beach.

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Tsurumi Ryokuchi Campsite

A section of the International Gardens at Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. | A section of the International Gardens at Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park.

Tsurumi Ryokuchi is a massive and relatively unknown park in Osaka City. With multiple sprawling botanical gardens, it’s also one of the most beautiful. It’s a rare natural sanctuary in an otherwise hyper-urban area, making it one of the most convenient campsites in Kansai. The facilities, which include a restroom and barbecue area, are free to use. Camping is not allowed from 1 December to the end of February.

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Amanohashidate Auto Camping Ground

Natural Feature

One of the three most scenic views in Japan is the pine-covered sandbar Amanohashidate, ‘Bridge in Heaven’. Situated near the famous sandbar just 10 minutes from Amanohashidate Station is a campground of the same name. Nestled in nature but near the town, Amanohashidate Auto Camping Ground is both convenient and tranquil – it’s near enough to the beach to enjoy the soothing sound of waves by night. Camping is 1,000 yen (USD $9) a night. There are hot showers and an onsen available to use nearby for a small fee.

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Kyoto GRAX

Marshmallow roasting is one of the many fun activities available at GRAX. | Marshmallow roasting is one of the many fun activities available at GRAX.

Glamping is only just starting to catch on in Japan, but Kyoto GRAX knows how it’s done. GRAX offers stylish tents, trailers and bungalows equipped with everything you need, so you don’t have to prepare anything. Even tasty meals – like curry, barbecue and marshmallows – are included. There’s an onsen, a café and a swimming pool available for guests to use onsite. GRAX is accessible during every season; the landscape changes in each, but remains beautiful year round.

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Palm Garden Maishima

Experience camping in an Airstream trailer at Palm Garden Maishima. | Experience camping in an Airstream trailer at Palm Garden Maishima.

Another glamping site is Palm Garden Maishima in Osaka just beyond Universal Studios Japan. This artificial island is a perfect escape for city dwellers that feels much further away than it is. Stay in a fully-equipped Airstream trailer or a trailer house and enjoy delicious barbecue with a bayside view. Go-cart racing and telescope stargazing are among the many fun activities provided.

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These recommendations were updated on January 4, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.