How to Spend 13 Days in Japan—Our Japan Road Trip Itinerary

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When you think about traveling across Japan, you probably envision going to Tokyo, hopping on bullet trains, and hopscotching around Osaka and Kyoto to tackle some of the most popular sights in Japan.

However, my family and I recently took a slightly different route approach for our Japan visit. We rented a 16 ft camping car.

Side note: I recently wrote a post on what I wish I’d known before renting an RV in Japan, such as how to find a great rental company or book your campsites. You can read that article here.

Then we drove it around some of the less touristy parts of Japan. Some of these places you’ve maybe heard of, but some of them you probably haven’t. And yes, we of course visited some of the popular spots too, AND with a one and three-year-old our trip would not have been complete without a trip to Disney.

In this video, we’re sharing our 13-day RV road trip itinerary across Japan, in case you ever decide to hop in an RV or van and make your way across this amazing country. For each day we mention in this itinerary, you can learn more or watch our vlog from that specific day by clicking the card we link to in the upper right-hand corner.

And stay tuned for the end of the video where I’ll share some numbers from our trip, such as the cost of our campsites, RV rental, and how much we paid in toll roads.

You’ll see more details, like links to where we stayed, below.

Day 1: Tokyo

Where we stayed: Shiba Park Hotel

What we did: 

We flew directly into Tokyo. What trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to this amazing city? Not ours. 

Before arriving in Tokyo, we searched for family-friendly accommodations. One recommendation that popped up was the Shiba Park Hotel. Upon looking at their website, I noticed they had rooms with bunk bed configurations and with two little ones, we jumped on it. 

The location was great, and we were just a short walk away from the Tokyo Tower and an epic playground for the kids. 

We had a short stay in Tokyo but tried to fit in as much as possible. Here is what we squeezed into one day:

  • The Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens are located right next to the Shinjuku Train Station, the most popular train station in the world. The gardens were an oasis in a bustling city and we were even able to see cherry blossoms in their full beauty in the garden. 
  • If you have kids (or just if you want to hit up an animal cafe), we spent our first afternoon in Tokyo at miPig cafe, which was a hit with our one-year-old but our three-year-old couldn’t get out fast enough. It was a cool spot just a two-minute walk from Takeshita Street. 
  • After hanging out with the pigs, we found a kid-friendly karaoke bar in Tokyo called Rainbow Karaoke in Shibuya. They had soft serve on tap and we jammed to Disney classics. Fun was had by all.

Day 2: Tokyo

Where we stayed: Shiba Park Hotel

What we did: 

Our second day in Tokyo we hopped in a cab visit to DisneySea. Despite traveling with a baby, both of our kids could do the majority of the rides in the park. On the day we visited, it rained almost the entire day but we still had a blast. If you visit while in Tokyo, you’ve got to hop around all of the popcorn stands and try out all the unique flavors. Our favorite was the white chocolate matcha!

Even jetlagged and in the rain, everyone had a great time!

Day 3: Picking Up Our Camper Van!

Where we stayed: Onoji Family Camping Ground

What we did: 

On our third day in Japan, we picked up our RV rental from El Monte RV. We’d researched and found a few different RV rental companies in Japan and because we were visiting during peak cherry blossom season, availability was challenging. El Monte had good reviews and two locations in Tokyo. The team was very responsive over email, so we booked with them. (And yes, this is the same El Monte you see in the States!)

The pickup process was relatively seamless and the staff were amazing. We did a walk-through of the RV, learned about the systems, and loaded up on supplies at the grocery store across the street.

One last-minute decision that helped us out a ton with our rental was adding on an ETC card, aka an electronic toll collection, so basically a toll pass. The majority of the roads we would travel across Japan were toll roads, so having this card allowed us to easily pass through each automated toll gate without having to stop and pay. (I share the total amount we spent in tolls at the end of the video). 

We opted to drive straight out to Mount Fuji with our new to us RV. And because of a wrong turn on Google Maps, we ended up detouring through downtown Tokyo. What was originally supposed to be an hour and a half drive turned out to be much longer!

Still, we made it to our Onoji Family Camping Ground before it closed and woke up the next morning to the most epic views ever.

Day 4: Mount Fuji

Where we stayed: Fumotoppara Campground

What we did: 

We woke up to crystal-clear views of Mount Fuji, which is rare in Japan. The campground was the very first auto park in all of Japan, built in the 70s. We were one of a few different RVs and most people camped in tents.

We woke up to everyone outside cooking their breakfast and making coffee and had the best time making friends with locals from Tokyo who had driven out for a weekend camping trip.

From our campsite we drove out to Lake Kawaguchi, which was supposed to be one of the best places to get a vantage point of Fuji. Other people got this memo too. It was a cute town along the lake and we were there on a weekend, so it was a bit packed.

We then drove over to the Chureito Pagoda. There were a lot of stairs to the top, but the views were worth it.

We ended the day at Fumotoppara Campground with the most epic sunset of Mount Fuji.

Day 5: Magome-Juku

Where we stayed: Hokonoko Camping Ground

What we did: 

After a morning at Fumotoppara campground, we set out to explore a small postal town called Magome-juku. 

It was idyllic Japan, with cute waterwheels and pathways that wind through an ancient village that has been restored and preserved over centuries. 

The town is right on the Nakasendo trail, which stretches from Tokyo to Kyoto and is a famous walking path. We walked a quarter mile of the path up to an epic viewpoint, but not before trying out some of the local street vendor food—that we ended up going back to for seconds.

We camped at Hokonoko Camping Ground, which felt like camping in a national park. It would also be the place that would seriously test my driving skills as I tried to drive out of it the next day…

Day 6: Cafe KuraKura

Where we stayed: Cafe KuraKura

What we did: 

On day 6, We drove toward Yoshino NP and what would be our favorite campsite of the trip.

But first, after three days of traveling, it was time to fill up the gas tank. This cost about $100. At this gas station, there were attendants who filled the tank for us, saving us from accidentally choosing the wrong fuel. 

Using Google Maps, we found a cafe with three campsites behind it and booked one. BTW, almost every campground in Japan requires advanced reservations. We made all our reservations online before leaving the States. (If you book at KuraKura with a camping car, we recommend the “Jungle” campsite!)

Our Campsite at Cafe KuraKura was a highlight of our entire road trip in Japan, mostly due to the amazing family who hosted us. Upon arriving, they let me drill holes into freshly cut lumber that was set up to grow their organic shitake mushrooms. 

We ate an incredible lunch, played at the playground next door, and for dinner, Heath went out and cut down one-month-old bamboo with the owner who taught us how to season and boil it. It was the type of experience that will stay with us forever.

Day 7: Green Tea Plantation

Where we stayed: Mizuno Camper Base

What we did: 

On day 7 we visited the small town of Wazuka to tour a green tea plantation. This town has been home to green tea plantation farmers for generations. However, there’s one farmer in town who sticks out as a first-generation family to make green tea products. Their business is called D: Matcha and it’s not too far outside of Kyoto.

We spent an afternoon getting a tour of their farm and learning how they bring their matcha products to life. It was a mixture of a history lesson, matcha tasting, and a delicious meal all wrapped into one experience. It rained on us most of our tour but nobody seemed to mind and umbrellas were provided.

Day 8: Kyoto

Where we stayed: Miami Beach Auto Campground

What we did: 

On day 8 we woke up at Mizuno Base campground. While it felt isolated in nature along a river, it was just a short drive into Kyoto where we were set to explore the famous bamboo gardens and take the kids to the monkey park.

We were able to easily find a parking spot within a short walking distance of the bamboo garden. However, if I could go back and do it again I’d aim to arrive earlier in the morning. By the time we arrived, we were shoulder to shoulder with other guests and it made navigating the area a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, the bamboo garden was still magical. 

For lunch, we walked across the river and found some of the best desserts we’d had so far in Japan. We ate mochi balls, soft serve matcha ice cream with fried sweet potato, and a dessert called a Mont Blanc, which looked kinda like spaghetti noodles on top of ice cream. 

In the afternoon, Alyssa and Ellie walked over to the monkey park. To visit, it cost about $5 and requires you to walk up 20 minutes of stairs and switchbacks. Once at the top, you’re surrounded by monkeys climbing and swinging around you. Our 3-year-old had a magical time getting to see the monkeys and play at the park. We barely scratched the surface of what you could do in Kyoto, but in such a short visit, it was time to move on to the next thing.

Day 9: The Sea of Japan

Where we stayed: Hakusan Yoshino Auto Campsite

What we did: 

On our 9th day in Japan we woke up at Miami beach campground (yes, this is the real name of this campground). This campsite was one of our favorites. We had an epic view of Lake Biwa and a massive campsite for the kids to run around and explore.

This day we wanted to make our way to a highly recommended city called Kanazawa. We discovered that it would only take us an extra hour or two to drive a route that went right along the sea of Japan, so naturally we opted to take that route.

The coastal route didn’t have much information online, but we found plenty of road side gems that made for an epic day of driving— castles, waterfalls, jagged cliffs we could hike, and even a jellyfish aquarium that gave the kids a chance to stretch their legs and run around for an hour.

Day 10: Kanazawa

Where we stayed: Kanazawa

What we did: 

On our tenth day in Japan we explored the town of Kanazawa after camping 20 minutes outside the city. Kanazawa was described to us as “older Japan”, but much of what we explored felt like a newer city. We had no trouble finding a place to park our van in the downtown area!

Highlights for us in Kanazawa were walking the Kenroku-en gardens, seeing Kanazawa Castle, and stumbling on a street market with some amazing local vendors.

On this night due to the heavy rain, we grabbed a hotel so we could stay in the city of Kanazawa instead of heading 45 minutes away to our next campsite.

Day 11: Our First Onsen!

Where we stayed: Okuhida Spa Auto Campsite

What we did: 

On our 11th day we drove into Chubu National Park. The drive into the national park was littered with waterfalls, mountain views, and rushing water. 

The campsite we found for the night was stunning and right along the river. Best OF ALL, it had an onsen right on site. We’d seen a hundred different onsens as we drove across Japan, but few of them allow young children. We finally found one that we could visit from the comfort of our own campsite with the family. To top it off, we were the only ones at our campsite so we had it all to ourselves.

Onsens are very common across Japan due to its high volcanic activity. Many of them are fully nude and there’s some basic etiquette involved when going to many of them, such as showering beforehand, not going in with a towel, and following whatever rules they have posted on site. 

Day 12: The Day We Blew Up Our Plans! ❄️

Where we stayed: ?!

What we did: 

Our plan for our 12th day was to do a waterfall hike in the National Park. But even in late April, most of the national park was closed from snow! We did not expect this at all! We couldn’t make it to any trailheads to hike. This was a major bummer, but we knew the kids wouldn’t like hiking in the cold snow and we didn’t have the right gear with us, so we decided to take a major pivot and get back to warmer weather. 

While the kids napped, we hightailed it back toward Tokyo for redemption. 

The kids did great with so many adult activities during our time in Japan, so we parked the RV back at Disney Sea for round two of Disney. This time around, the weather was sunny and perfect and there were no crowds at all. We walked onto every ride and the kids had a great time.

Day 13: Disneyland!

Where we stayed: Resort parking just outside Disneyland. You can walk (there’s a walkway over the highway) from the lot to the parks or walk to the Ambassador Hotel and grab their shuttle to the parks. It’s not too far of a walk.

What we did: 

For our last day in Japan, we ended on a high note with Disneyland. If we could do it all over again, we would’ve driven into Osaka during our trip to visit Universal Studios Japan, but we were worried about driving and parking the van in cities—which ended up being easier than we thought it would be! 

Quick Stats and Costs: Japan by Van

We all had an amazing time touring Japan by campervan! 

All in all, our trip covered 1,647 kilometers across Japan (1023.4 miles).

Our average nightly campsite price was $36 or 5,000 yen.

The cost of our RV rental for 11 nights was $1,779.24 USD (roughly $161.72 per night).

And we paid $204 for the many tolls that we crossed through during our trip. Basically every road is a toll road, so this was less than I would’ve expected!

Tips Before You Go

There were a few things we did during this trip that made our lives significantly easier.

  1. Printed out all reservation confirmations in advance. Because we don’t speak Japanese and to eliminate any confusion upon arriving at our destinations, printing out our confirmations was a huge peace of mind. Plus, they were in Japanese which made it even easier for our host. When we rolled into our nightly campsites I could simply hand them our confirmation print out and it made the process very smooth.
  2. Downloaded Google Maps for offline use in Japan. I wasn’t sure how well our cellular signal would be across Japan, so before our trip, I downloaded Google Maps. As it turns out, we had solid cell signals almost everywhere we went and this was a nonissue. El Monte (and I’m assuming other rental companies) will have hot spots you can rent with your RV rental. 
  3. Pre-purchased our sim card from Japan Wireless. There’s a handful of companies you can pre-purchase a Japan sim card from. We bought ours through Japan Wireless, picked it up right at the airport in Tokyo, and had no problems throughout our entire trip. 
  4. Adding cookware and bedding onto our rental because many of these items did not come with the base rental. 

There are probably more items to mention, but these were some of the top ones that come to mind.

 Driving this RV across Japan was truly a dream come true for us. We’ll be planning more international campervan adventures, so if you want to see more videos like this — it would mean the world if you could subscribe to our channel and stay in touch. You can watch our entire Japan series here for all the details of our experiences in this country. 

And if there are any more questions you have about driving an RV across Japan, please drop a comment we’d be happy to answer any of them! 

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