One of the best things about campervanning in Japan is that there are endless places to stop for the night and it really doesn’t require much forward planning. A lot of public places are fair game and no one thinks any less of you if you sleep in the 7-eleven car park!
Here are some of the Park’n’Sleep options available in Japan and a map of the ones we used during our road trip.
- Rest stops/Michi no eki roadside stations: Convenient and easily accessible option offering basic overnight facilities. There are over 1000 of these stops in Japan which can be found along all main roads. You’ll be in good company in these car parks as many other Japanese couples and families pull up in the evening to sleep. They don’t necessarily even have proper campers – just recline their seats for the night instead! Often they get moving again bright and early so don’t be surprised to wake up to a near empty parking lot if you’re a late riser.
- Convenience store car parks: Sleeping the night at FamilyMart or 7-eleven was a completely foreign concept to us before driving through Japan but they quickly become one of our favourite options. No, they don’t sound too classy but they definitely are convenient! Most Japanese convenience stores are open 24hours, have free wifi access, clean toilet facilities, ATMs, a huge range of snacks/drinks/meals/toiletries etc., free boiling water to top up your ramen or thermos for your morning coffee and are quiet and safe. Many stores are also centrally located if you want to park and explore city areas at night. It’s so normal to spend the night at the convenience store in Japan that you’ll find designated sleeping bays at most FamilyMarts, Lawsons and 7-elevens! (See pic) *If a store doesn’t have a sleeping bay sign or it’s a small car park, you may need to check if you can park for the night there as not all stores have the capacity for sleeping bays.
- Public car parks: We found a few fairly scenic free car parks with 24hour public toilets located close to popular tourist attractions which is great for beating the crowds and early morning exploring. Our favourites were the car park at the entrance to the Snow Monkey Park and the park outside Okudoin at Koyasan.
- Off the map: It’s illegal to just park on the side of the road in Japan, so as long as you’re parked safely off the road and not in a privately owned car park, there are probably plenty of places you can stop for the night in the wilderness. We chose to explore the wild by car during the day, and spend most of our nights closer to town but it all comes down to personal preference!
- Camp grounds: There are hundreds of camp sites throughout Japan, some are paid and some free. Available facilities such as showers will differ and not all sites are car/van accessible (tent/bike only) so make sure you check before you go! Camp sites are usually further from main roads and a more scenic overnight parking option. Hatinosu is a great resource for finding camp sites in Japan with information for each one such as prices, opening hours and facilities. The site can be translated to English on Google if you don’t speak Japanese.
- 24hour Family Restaurants: We’re not 100% sure if its a done thing to park and sleep in these car parks, but at a stretch you could probably get away with it. These include chain restaurants like Denny’s, Sukiya and Maccas.
- Camp grounds: See above.
- 24hour Coin Parks: These parks can be identified by big bright signs out the front of the car park with a big ‘P’ and ‘24hours’ written on them. There will be a flat rate for a 12hour stay, which is typically in the ballpark of 800 – 1200 yen in more rural areas but double or sometimes triple that price in inner city locations. These car parks don’t usually have toilets or any other facilities on site but they are centrally located if you want to be right in the midst of the urban action. We found convenience store carparks to be a better option since most are also centrally located and they’re free!