Come And Join Us For A Road Trip! Hang Out In Nagano Prefecture With Campervan

Published Date Dec 19 2019
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We went on a road trip in a campervan, and the fact that the vehicle is a “campervan” was as much knowledge as we had about the vehicle – in fact, we didn’t even know if we could drive the thing with a regular driver’s license. So how did it go? Let’s dive right in.
We decided to go to Nagano Prefecture, renowned for having Lake Suwa, Zenkoji Temple, Togakushi Shrine, tasty soba and autumn leaves. Since we were traveling by a campervan, we wanted to make the trip more interesting by stopping by a service area and making some BBQ, so we made quite a few stops along the way.

Great Service In English! Let’s Apply For A Rental Campervan

camperven

For the trip, we rented “Toyota Hiace Robinson 771” from “Japan Camping-car Rental Center”, a car rental company that has a total of 17 different types of campervans to choose from. We were able to rent the vehicle with a regular driver’s license since all campervans are below four tons in weight.

Japan Camping-car Rental Center has an English website in addition to a

Facebook and an Instagram account, so feel free to send your inquiries their way.
*Please kindly make your reservation here.

It costs 22,000 JPY to rent for a total of 24 hours on weekdays, with a surcharge of 10,000 JPY on weekends. Types of campervans available vary depending on where you are thinking about renting, and a peak-season and/ or premium charge may also apply depending on when you are renting. They apparently have reasonable vehicle options available at certain locations, so do drop them a message for a quote.

Across Japan, Japan Camping-car Rental Center has 32 locations in 13 areas from which you can rent a campervan: Asahikawa, New Chitose Airport, Aomori, Fukushima, Tokyo, Narita Airport, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, San-in, Okayama, Hyogo, Amagasaki and Okinawa.

Picking Up Our Campervan at Ryogoku, Tokyo

Our trip started at Ryogoku, Tokyo.

ryogoku

Our campervan was parked right below an underpass

If you are thinking about renting a vehicle from Japan Camping-car Rental Center, please keep in mind that they can only meet you up and hand over the vehicle to you at a parking lot and NOT at one of their store locations.
We took a video of how we found our way to the parking where we got our vehicle. The parking lot is around Exit A5 of Ryogoku Station on the Oedo Line.

  • What you need to bring with you Your driver’s license from your home country, international driver’s license (or a Japanese translation will do) and passport. Some of their staff members speak English. Those who don’t speak English will have a translation device ready.

For emergency, feel free to contact their headquarters and speak to their staff in either English or Mandarin Chinese.

By the way, Igari here in this picture took good care of things for us in English when we met him at Ryogoku!

staff

Staff at Ryogoku

  • A Look Inside Let’s take a look inside our campervan.

seat

seat transforms a bed

drivers seat

kitchen

bunk bed

car navigation system

  • Ready to Hit The Road You need to remove your shoes first. There is a shoebox for people to put away their shoes on the left.

no shoes

Please remove your shoes

Igari showed us how all the switches work, how to open the windows, etc. While the labels are written in Japanese, there is an instruction manual with English translations, so fear not.

switches

The staff shows us how to use the switches

The windows can be opened and there are ventilation fans, too, so there will always be fresh air in the vehicle.
※ Keep the windows closed when the vehicle is moving, as the windows may hit objects outside and break.

windows

Open the windows!

ventilation fans

Ventilation Fans

The windows are one of the most vulnerable parts of the vehicle. They don’t seem to have a lot of replacement parts left in Japan, and it could easily take up to half a year to fix a broken window… please be gentle with them.

We Just HAD To Give The Local Food A Try! The Service Areas Are A Must-Go Where It’s At For Road Trip Travelers

Done with all the housekeeping, we are ready to hit the road!

Our campervan is 3-meters tall, so even people over 180cm can fit in easily. It’s also pretty spacious widthwise, and you can easily fit 4 people in the back and still have space left. The vehicle’s floor is carpeted so we felt totally at home.

After departing from Ryogoku, we dropped by the Ashigara Service Area in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, then headed for supermarkets around Lake Suwa, then finally made our way to where we were going to
barbecue.

Spot

Suwako Lake

History Beautiful Scenery
With a perimeter length of nearly 16 km, Suwako Lake is Nagano’s la...
Nagano 2.0 hour(s)

The Ashigara Service Area

If you drive for one and a half hour down the Tomei Expressway, you will be able to see the Ashigara Service Area.

ashigara servise area

We just got to Ashigara Service Area!

They had everything here – snacks, souvenirs, a food court, veggies and fruits. It was great that we could get our hands on some fresh food here because we would be needing them for barbecue later.

souvenir section

Souvenir Section

fresh food section

Fresh Food Section

And – lo and behold – we found wasabi here! Shizuoka Prefecture is famous for their wasabi, and you can actually buy individual wasabi here. ※ Remember to peel them with a grater before you eat them.

wasabi

You can get wasabi

Shizuoka Prefecture also tops the list when it comes to the quantity of canned food produced in Japan.
Grilled chicken, fried chicken, beef breast cooked in wine – they carry canned food here you most likely won’t be able to find anywhere else.

canned food

Shizuoka is the largest producer of canned food in Japan

And here is a picture of local restaurants you definitely need to try if you are ever here!

local food stall stand

We got some Kintaro meat buns, fried tuna, tuna cutlets and fried fishcakes. People from overseas love the fried tuna and meat buns.

local food

Local food that you can only eat here

There is a one-person seat right next to the four-people seat, which is nice for those who like to have a little bit of extra room!

campervan

Inside the campervan

The table is big and there are holes to place glasses or cups in. We had lots of fun enjoying the food on the way♪ Just need to keep in mind not to eat too much before the barbecue.
*Food placed on the table could slide when the vehicle brakes, so it’s probably a good idea to either hold it down or place an anti-skid over the table.

Barbecue, Here We Come!

And we are finally here at Lake Suwa BBQ Marina!

Spot

Suwako Lake BBQ Marina

Outdoor Activities Food & Drink
Suwako Lake BBQ Marina is a public barbecue area on the pier of Suw...
Nagano 2.5 hour(s)

The venue itself is located right on the lake. Food sure tastes different when you are surrounded by nature.
We are headed off to the venue now with all the meat, seafood and veggies we have.

We enjoyed seeing some fireworks at night, and the next day we went cycling around Zenkoji Temple and went around Lake Nojiri.
For details on what we did on the second day of our trip, check out the article too!

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An Unforgettable Road Trip Riding Through Japan in a Rental Car

fireworks

"WOW U" drawn with fireworks

cycling

It was a beautiful day for bike cycling!

Check Out All The Space In Robinson 771

camping car 360° picture! - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Some of you may wonder how it feels like riding in Robinson 771. The seats are cushioned and come with backrests, so it actually feels quite good. There is just one thing to keep in mind, though; certain parts of the campervan actually shake like a bus would because it’s so big, so for those of you who are prone to motion sickness, you are highly recommended to sit in the front passenger seat or sit facing the direction in which the vehicle is moving.

campervan

The vehicle is long, making a party of five adults and two children an easy fit.
This is what it looks like lying down on the double bunk.

bunk bed

This bed is on the same side as the driver’s seat (apparently you are supposed to sleep with your head pointing towards the back of the vehicle).

bed

The vehicle comes with a gas stove and a gas cylinder for those who want to do some simple cooking on the move.
*Please refrain from cooking things with a strong smell.

kitchen

Let’s take a look at how the four-people seat turns into a bed!

How it looks like when an adult of 180cm lies down.

bed

There is a trunk in the back that opens sideways, making it easy to store away heavy objects. The trunk can actually hold quite a few things, so we had no trouble bringing ingredients we bought at the service area and things we would be playing with.

luggage carrier

Some may find the thought of driving such a big vehicle a bit scary at first, but rest assured that Hiace has never once tipped over. It was pretty windy when we were driving and the vehicle did get swayed a little bit sometimes, but we all felt safe.

We spoke with the two people who took turns driving the campervan to see what they had to say. Apparently, the horsepower of our rented campervan is a little weak compared to that of your regular vehicle. They were also a bit worried that the sides and the roof of the vehicle might hit things on the way, but they got pretty comfortable driving it in no time. Also, the side brake is special in that you need to pull it for it to work, so make sure you check to see how it works before you hit the road.

You Can Also Get Optional Items

How did you like our road trip?

For people who had never gone on road trips before, I think we did just fine setting up our tents and made our time count.
We ran into some traffic jams on the way because it was a vacation season when we went, but lucky we were able to play some card games and made ourselves comfortable. It was great not getting tied down to a schedule and just being able to sightsee.

We had no previous experience going on road trips, but we still had lots of fun visiting all the places.
Don’t forget to gas up the vehicle before you return it, and keep in mind to return it on time!

※ If you can’t return your rented vehicle on time, please give them a call sooner than later.

Below is a list of optional items you can add to the vehicle you are going to rent to spice up your trip. (Items with ※ are available at stores in the Kanto Area only)

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On-board fan
Baby seat
Child seat
Sleeping bag
Coleman personal LED lantern
Wi-Fi router ※
Astronomical telescope Vixen Porter II A80Mf ※
Snow peak dog pit (for small dogs) ※
Digital SLR camera Canon EOS Kiss X7 double-zoom kit ※
Digital SLR camera Nikon D5300 double-zoom kit 2 ※
Omnidirectional camera Ricoh THETA S ※
Snow peak low table & low chair four-leg set ※
LayBag air sofa ※
Mahjong set ※
Mobile printer ※
Rice cooker “Takeru-kun DC 12V” ※

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Attention

While you can rent a campervan with your regular driver’s license (or an AT license), we strongly suggest that you stay off the wheel if you don’t drive on a regular basis. Be extra careful when trying to navigate through lower tunnels or bridges, or narrow roads.
Even our CEO, who is respected for his driving skills, was afraid of hitting a pedestrian bridge twice due to the vehicle’s height when trying to make his way through lol.

Click here for more information!
JAPAN campingcar rental center

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Other Nagano spots in WOW U is here.

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