“Is there shampoo in the cabin?” I had doubts but asked anyway.
“No shampoo, no soap. You’re camping. Welcome to Yamanakako!” Fumi, the friendly Aussie-Japanese dude at the reception grinned, handing me four comforters, four pillows and four futon covers.
Often the best of times can be found in the simplest things. At least for our family, we have come to realise that we can also find 5-star experiences even in the cheapest accommodations and most basic adventures.
I remember during our Paris holiday five summers ago that there was an evening where we chose to forgo a fancy dinner for a laid-back picnic on the grounds of Champs de Mars with just a takeaway pizza and cans of Coke. There was no dramatic sunset, but the view of Joaquin rolling on the prickly grass, plus the Eiffel Tower that happened to be there too *wink*, were enough to make Paris unforgettable.
And then there was that summer in Lake Tekapo in New Zealand, where we choose to stay in a campsite because the thought of ‘camping’ tickled us, made us feel active and adventurous. We rented a small cabin, ¼ the price of the hotel nearby. We did not pitch a tent but we all agreed that the cabin was the closest thing to camping since it only had basic beds and very limited toiletries. But I remember waking up to a breathtaking view of the calm, turquoise-coloured lake. And barbecuing by the lake at sunset was unbeatable. It didn’t matter that we only had some pork slices, Nissin noodles and cheap wine for dinner. For us, that experience was 5-star.
And so just last summer when we went to Japan, we wanted to experience ‘camping’ once more, be close to nature, go back to basics, and Mount Fuji seemed like the perfect place to do all those.
Unlike New Zealand, it was quite a challenge to find a campsite in Mount Fuji. Most of the websites were in Japanese and I wasn’t even sure if they had English-speaking staff. Anyway, thanks to Google translate and Google Maps, I managed to find Odakyu Yamanakako Forest Cottage at Lake Yamanaka. Lake Yamanaka is one of the five lakes around Mount Fuji. The biggest, more touristy, and most developed with many hotels, ryokans and restaurants is Lake Kawaguchiko. It did not seem to have any campsite by the lake, though. Lake Yamanaka is smaller, less crowded, rugged and it had the campsite we were looking for.
The campsite has several types of cabins and camp facilities. Most are located in the forest with a few of them even having facilities for dogs. They only have three cabins by the lake, though, and we were lucky to have secured the last one available.
In front of our cabin was a small space for lakeside autocamp where people can put up their tents and mobile homes, or cars. Right in front was the lake.
It was very far from glamping but our cabin had some conveniences too like the kitchenette complete with a rice cooker, a small fridge and utensils, as well as a small living space, a sleeping area on the mezzanine, and a balcony equipped with barbecue equipment.
My hubby and kids started the barbecue as soon as we reached our cabin, while I, I had to make the beds. Apparently, that’s what the four futon covers, four blankets, pillows and comforters were for.
The temperature that night dipped to a chilly 8 degrees Celsius. We were glad we chose to book a cabin and not pitch a tent (which can be rented at the reception).
The following morning, we took a walk, went to the playground and cycled around the lake. That’s another beautiful adventure I’d write about on my next post. 🙂
Meanwhile, here are the other pictures at the campsite.
What we thought about camping in Lake Yamanaka: It was another unforgettable experience and we wished we stayed for another night.
Some tips from our family:
- Bring warm clothes. It’s cold in that part of Japan even when the rest of the country is already 27 degrees Celcius.
- Book the forest cabins if you have small children and grandparents with you. The sleeping area in the lakeside cabins is on the mezzanine and can be accessed only using a steep ladder. Our kids loved this detail though.
- Bring your own toiletries and towels.
- Walk down to the lake. It’s just a few metres from the cabins anyway.
- Book at least 2 nights if your family is like ours – ready for adventure even if there are a few inconveniences.
Here are my earlier posts on our family’s 2018 Japan summer holiday: