The Complete Guide to Traveling Japan by Camper Van in Winter

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Winter in Japan is a magical time, with crisp air, snow-covered landscapes, and a unique charm that captivates travelers. If the idea of driving in winter gives you pause, worry not. We have the ultimate list of things to do in winter in Japan. We can help you prepare for the winter weather and with the right precautions. So you can explore the country by renting a camper van without any worries.

Step-By-Step Guide To Japan Winter Travel

In this complete guide, we’ll walk you through the essentials of Japan winter travel, from renting a camper van to enjoying the best winter destinations. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Rent a Camper Van

a. Choose a Reliable Rental Company

To kick off your winter camper van journey, select a trustworthy rental company like Samurai Campers. Such companies stand out for their camping van rental in Japan, offering safety checks, winter tires, and efficient heating systems to ensure a cozy and secure winter travel experience.

b. Get Used to the Camper Van

Driving a camper van, especially in winter conditions, is a learning experience. Remember to drive at a moderate speed, keeping both hands on the wheel. Be cautious of the wind, especially on exposed roads, and when passing larger vehicles.

c. Use Winter Tires

Winter tires are a must-have for navigating Japanese roads in winter. These tires offer adaptability to various winter conditions, making them a suitable choice for your camper van adventure.

d. Have Snow Chains As Backup

In case you encounter heavy snow on private roads, it’s wise to have snow chains for your camper van. Practice attaching them before your journey to ensure confidence. Look out for designated chain-changing areas with proper lighting and safety measures in areas prone to heavy snowfall.

Step 2: Have Plans For Battling the Chill

a. Parking Heaters for Cozy Nights

Winter nights can be chilly, but many camper vans have parking heaters. These run on diesel from the engine, ensuring they won’t drain the van battery. With external exhausts, they are safe for overnight use without additional ventilation.

b. Embrace the Firewood Tradition

While outside, embrace the winter tradition of gathering firewood. Despite the need to bundle up when outdoors, knowing you have a warm van to return to makes the winter experience delightful.

c. Use Extra Insulation

Make the most of your duvets for maximum warmth. Attach window covers at night for additional insulation, ensuring a snug and comfortable sleep.

Step 3: Find Ways For Staying Fresh

a. Hot Springs for Refreshing Breaks

As camper vans may lack bathrooms, plan for toilet breaks and showers during your journey. Take advantage of Japan’s hot springs, especially in winter. Hot springs offer a haven of warmth and often boast stunning views amidst snow-covered landscapes.

b. Onsen Towns and Day Access

Explore onsen towns like Nozawa Onsen or consider day access for hotel onsens. Prices for fancy hotel onsens can be around ¥700, while public baths typically charge the national set rate of ¥420. Many camper vans come with towels, making Onsen visits convenient.

Step 4: Know Where to Park and Unwind

a. Winter-Ready Auto-Campsites

Most auto-campsites remain open throughout winter, with reduced hours on weekdays. Winter tires ensure access is smooth and tracks and paths are cleared. Arrive in daylight for better navigation, especially in snowy areas, and to avoid ice patches.

b. Roofed Campsites for Snowy Nights

In areas with heavy and continuous snowfall, choose campsites with roofs to prevent your van from getting trapped overnight. Shovel snow around the vehicle as a precaution, allowing for easy departure once the surroundings are cleared.

c. Roadside Stations

Opt for camping in roadside stations if you prefer staying on main roads. These stations are cleared of snow and equipped with toilets and food facilities. Camping at roadside stations ensures safety and convenience, especially in case of unexpected challenges.

Bonus Tip: Japan Van Life Destinations

When looking for things to do in winter on your Japanese holiday, select activities that combine your ideal winter destinations with hot springs for the ultimate camper van adventure; you can also explore Kusatsu or Nozawa Onsen, both within reasonable distance of Tokyo and accustomed to keeping roads clear. These locations offer a perfect blend of winter charm and relaxation.


Winter in Japan unveils a unique side of the country, and traveling by camper van enhances the experience, allowing you to embrace the beauty of snowy landscapes while staying cozy and comfortable. Follow these tips, choose your winter destinations wisely, and embark on a memorable camper van journey through Japan’s winter wonderland.

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