When you hear the word “camper,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? You might think of a big camper, like a house on wheels with a bedroom, kitchen, shower, and living room. Hmm, that makes sense… But I would like to introduce you to more unique campers designed specifically for Japanese lifestyle.
Miniature Cruise Henro
Produced by Oka Motors in Kagawa
This camper was made for a pilgrim tour in Shikoku. On the outside, it looks like a perfectly normal Kei car (which is the name of the Japanese category for “small vehicles”). However, once you open the door, you are transported to the world of Japan.
Surprisingly, there is a bed mat of tatami-style fabric, which is 5 cm thick. It will help you to wind down after a long day. There are shoji-style windows here and there. The windows are made of acrylic resin, so it’s more durable than a real one. The left shelf has a shutter with a key. We can store valuable stuff in this compartment, such as the “Goshuin Cho,” which is a notebook for collecting stamps as proof of visiting temples or shrines, and so on. This camper makes you feel like you’re in Japan.
If you would like to know more about “Goshuin Cho,” please check this article written by Mrs. Chisato A.
There is a holder that can store two canes and straw hats, which are indispensable for pilgrimage. The canes, or walking sticks, are called “Kongo-zue” (金剛杖), which are often used by pilgrims. It is said to be the incarnation of Kobo Daishi (弘法大師), or Kukai (空海), who is the founder of Shingon Buddhism.
Therefore, the important cane storage area has been set up at the top of the camper.
You can set the table inside or outside, and it’s also able to be stored under the tatami-style mat. So, you can enjoy chatting with people over a cup of tea outside, or you’re able to let your hair down inside. You can enjoy your own style.
If you would like to know more about the Pilgrimage called “Ohenro,” please check this article written by Mrs. Rieko Azuma.
Produced by Mishima Daihatsu in Shizuoka
This camper was made based on a Kei truck. When Kei trucks are mentioned, you might think of cargo vehicles for work. However, it’s often used as a base car for campers. Let’s take a look inside.
The interior is made of wood. The chairs and a table fit snugly into the interior and easily convert into a bed. Those chairs are hollow, so you can also use them as shelves. Moreover, the wood used is Fuji Hinoki (cypress), which has excellent strength, durability, and humidifying properties. Have you ever heard of the cypress bath (ヒノキ風呂)? It’s famous for its scent and they say it calms the mind. Hopefully, this camper may relax you as well.
You can also install a refrigerator under the seat. After a long drive, an ice-cold beer would really hit the spot… but don’t drink and drive!
“Quokka” was named after an animal that lives in Australia, and it looks like it inspired a model for the Pokémon, “Pikachu.” Looking at its smile, it would heal your heart.
Produced by FIELDLIFE in Gunma
This camper was also made based on the Kei-truck, but it seats four people. Its body uses a Hydro vac panel which provides excellent heat insulation and great durability, and the floor is also insulated, so you can travel very comfortably. Can you see the roof rising like a tent? If you so choose, you can sleep under the roof as well. It does not open/close automatically, but you can easily do that on your own.
You could work remotely from here or you could just sit back, relax and enjoy your “Me Time.” The height of the room is 182 cm with the pop-up roof open. It’s the height that allows most people in Japan to comfortably stand. Another characteristic of Barocco is that the seats transform into the bed very easily. Just remove the table and slide the seats.
The room features a kitchenette with a table, sink, refrigerator, and a portable stove. With this camper, it seems that you can go on a trip anywhere whenever you want.
I introduced you to three campers that I’m interested in. Kei campers are very compact. Their most attractive point is that they are cheap to run. You don’t have to worry so much about where to park, and they’re super practical, so you can use them in everyday life.
Thank you for reading!
Born in Tokyo, raised in Saitama. Currently, I live in Ibaraki. I’ve been doing Pilates once a week with like-minded people since 2007. Back when I was young, I traveled a lot. I’m looking forward to traveling again after all my kids graduate.
9 Comments on “Let’s take a road trip: Camper version”
This is exactly what I’ve wanted, a thorough introduction, with photos, to Japanese campers. Now I know exactly what to expect next time I go to Japan. I will rent a camper from Tomoko’s employer and tour around the countryside. It’ll be fun. Thanks for the great, well-written article.
Aww, Thank you, Andy!
I really hope you can come to Japan several years down the line. I’ll be sure to introduce you to some campers! It means you should be included Ibaraki as well in the travel plan. I can’t wait♪(^∇^*)♪
My wife and I are going to Japan in March, 2023.
Where could I rent such a cute camper?
Thank you for having an interest in Japanese camper vans.
Unfortunately, these small camper vans are for sale, not for rent.
Most camper vans for rental are a bigger size.
I introduce some companies as follows:
1) RV Land
This company offers clean camper vans. You can also see the small camper vans I introduced here.
The website is in Japanese, but if you send a message in English, they can probably deal with you in English. However, you have to go to the company at Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture for check-in and checkout.
2)EL MONTE RV
This company is available in English, and they offer an airport transport service. They’re familiar with customers from abroad.
3)Japan camping car rental center
This company is also available in English. There’re many places where you can choose to rent.
If you want to look for a place to park, these websites might help you.
https://www.kurumatabi.com/ (New website, but only in Japanese)
https://rv-park.jp/en/ (Old website. It has an English version.)
In Japan “RV park” is a place where you can only park your camper van. You can’t use fire outside, but many places offer electricity, disposal of garbage, and so on. They are often located near hot springs or warm bath facilities.
2)Auto Camp site
“Auto camp” is a place where you can do firewood camping. You can drive inside the park and park next to your tent.
If you want to take a rest and get some local food, these facilities are best.
Roadside market (道の駅)
However, this website is only Japanese, but you can find there’re so many roadside markets here and there in Japan.
Click the top right, “都道府県から探す,” and click the map where you want to go, then you can see each feature of the shop.
I hope this information helps you.
From the end of March through to the beginning of April is the best season for cherry blossoms. I wish you can see fully bloomed cherry blossoms and have a wonderful time in Japan.
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to send me the information pack.
It is full of useful information which is entirely new to me.
Looking forward for the cherry blossoms.
mr.tomoko can you please advice me about the price of the third kei car please and if so please share me the link on where to inquire more about its condition.anyways i am a long term resident here in japan who is really interested in camping thats why im trying to find lower price kei camping car.
Thank you for having an interest in my article. The third camping car, “Balocco”, is the highest price of the camping cars I introduced. If you get a brand-new one, it’ll cost you over 4,000,000 yen, and there is a 2-year waiting period because of hand-made modifications. However, some companies might have a display one or a used one, and they might be able to sell it to you as quickly as possible.
The manufacturer is “FIELDLIFE,” and they have distributors. I’m attaching the link. I hope it will help.
OMG (oh my god)! This is so amazing!!! These vans are just so cute and at the same time awesome!
I, like Andy, would love to visit your shop next time I’m in Japan and rent one of these camper vans!
Although come to think of it, I’m a little worried my husband might be a bit too tall for them, since he can barely fit in a standard bed in Europe! (Haha)
But still, I’d be really curious to check them out. Well done Tomo!
I’m so glad you read my article. (*^_^*)
As you mentioned, it might be a little small for your husband. Haha.
Actually, the campers I introduced are only for sale.
But don’t worry about it, most of our rental campers are bigger like in the first photo. If you get a chance to come to Japan, I’d love for you to stop by our shop. Until then, I need to study English more and learn more about campers. (^_-)-☆