If it seems to you that everyone and their brother are going to Japan, you’re not wrong.
Japan is currently a hotspot for two major global sporting events: the 2019 Rugby World Cup is taking place in Tokyo on the 20th of September (but the final match will be held in Yokohama). And a year from now, there’s the Tokyo 2020 Olympics from July to August next year.
For many visitors, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know more of Japan beyond the oft-visited dazzling megacities like Tokyo and Osaka.
Many travellers to Japan have said that their most unforgettable moments in the country are when they explored outside the big cities. If you’re interested in exploring the countryside of Japan, this blog may be your best resource (click on the English button) for information.
Driving is the best way to explore the countryside of Japan
Public transportation in Japan is quite possibly the most developed and efficient in the world. You may all remember this Japanese rail company that issued an official public apology after one of its trains departed 25 seconds early.
However, as punctual and organised Japan’s public transportation is, it only extends so far. There are still many places around Japan, especially off the beaten track countryside areas that are accessible and best explored by car.
Renting campervans and RV’s (recreational vehicles) has been a popular way to explore Japan’s countryside. In fact, it’s been reported that a month prior to the Rugby World Cup, there’s been a surge in RV rental in Japan, particularly from Australian and French visitors.
Can Foreigners Drive Around Japan?
Can foreign visitors drive around Japan? Absolutely.
Just take note that in Japan, it is necessary to obtain an International Driver’s Licence in order to rent a vehicle, and drive.
For Australians wishing to drive in Japan, you can get more information how to get an international driver’s licence here.
The cost for this is AU 42.00 and you must be over 18 years of age, hold a valid Australian drivers licence, and you need to also submit a recent passport-sized photo (less than 3.5cm x 4.5 cm)
Driving in Japan: Which side of the road?
It’s important to know that Japanese cars have their steering wheel to the right side of the vehicle. While driving, you must keep to the left side of the road.
This means that for drivers from the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, etc- there’s no change in the way you drive.
For drivers from most European countries, US and Asia , you will have to drive on the opposite side of what you’re used to.
Where to park or rest your RV?
It may be worth noting that along with the surge in tourism, Japan is currently experiencing a shortage of hotels.
And while this has not deterred visitors from discovering their way around Japan by Campervans or RV’s, it still affects how people plan their road trip.
MICHI NO EKI – Roadside Stations
With the lack of hotels around Japan to act as a pit stop for drivers and travellers, there are over 1,000 Michi No Eki’s around Japan. These are government-designated rest facilities found along Japan’s roads and highways.
There are restrooms, local shops that sell snacks, and tourism information found in these roadside stations.
And while they were established and designed to help promote local tourism and make things more comfortable for travellers, it’s crucial to know that parking or resting your vehicle overnight in these roadside stations is not allowed.
Let me repeat that – it is prohibited to park or rest your vehicle in a Michi No Eki / Roadside station overnight.
The direct translation from the website reads:
Q: Are people / drivers allowed to stay overnight at Michi no Eki?
A: Because Michi no Eki are rest facilities, at parking spaces, we do
not allow people / drivers to sleep overnight at Michi no Eki.
In order for us to prevent any accidents, it is ok to use Michi no Eki
24 hour freely as rest facilities that it is okay to take a nap.
So with the shortage of hotels + prohibition to stay overnight in roadside stations, what’s a camper / traveller to do?
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and Carstay is the perfect example of that.
Carstay is the solution to the dilemma of having little accommodation available combined with the roadside stations prohibiting overnight stays.
What does Carstay do?
Carstay is a camping accommodation service that connects campers who need a place for their RV’s, and hosts who can provide parking spaces or local tour experiences.
Call it the Airbnb for campers or travellers: it has definitely made travelling around Japan so much more convenient and fun.
How does one use Carstay?
1.) Search for your desired location or area from their site. If you’re having a hard time choosing your destination, you can check out Carstay’s recommended areas. For instance, here are their recommended Carstay areas and activities around Okinawa.
2.) Compare rates, reviews and facilities. Once you have chosen your accommodation or local experience / activity, make a reservation with advanced credit card payment.
3.) Drive and Stay. Follow your GPS until you reach your destination. To complete your check-in process, upload photos of the parking space along with the cone. (this is probably the coolest / most unusual type of check-in process I’ve heard of)
4.) HAVE FUN! You can choose from hundreds of experience sites in the area. Some accommodation spots come with a local site host, who will provide unique and fun local experiences and activities.
Carstay is more than just a parking space – it’s a great way to meet locals
Carstay is definitely more than just having a parking space and accommodation. Carstay is also a brilliant way to meet locals and do unique activities with them.
Some Carstay hosts, such as my friend Ikuma – pictured above with his adorable daughter, are also available to take you around the area and take you on unique activities. You can also liaise with them prior to arrival if you need advise and recommendations on what to do. They will be the best persons to ask, as they are locals after all!
Travel has become so convenient these days that most tours and itineraries have already been done a thousand times. What makes a travel experience stand out is when you go beyond the usual tourist spots, take the road less travelled, meet locals and experience one of a kind activities. And you can experience all these with Carstay.
Carstay has not only solved the RV parking predicament, but has provided travellers a chance to choose their own adventure that they will likely never forget.
Other recommended Carstay spots:
The Old Bus is located directly opposite side from Mt. Fuji over the sea. It is a secluded area and you there’s a feeling that you are staying at a private beach. If the sky is clear, you can see Mt. Fuji over the sea.
The area is so called “The Old Bus” because it is located right next to a refurbished old bus bar. You can also make a reservation at the bar and enjoy the private view. And because you will be parking your RV right next to the bus, you don’t have to worry about driving!
You can exclusively enjoy 3306 square metres of auto camper spot to yourself. This spot offers extraordinary experiences because at night, you will be sleeping under a stadium of stars!
It has a log cabin and a roofed wood deck on a site of 500 square meters, kitchen facilities including refrigerator & loft, flush toilet, external power supply, and facilities for long-term stay.
Natural groundwater (Water quality checked) flows out of the premises.