You bring the marshmallows, we’ll bring the pics.

Camping has been having a bit of a renaissance in Japan recently, with people challenging themselves to go camping with only 100-yen-store goods, or cooking awesome festival food over the campfire.

And my wife Abbey is no exception! She’s been an avid camper in Japan for over two years, going to dozens of different camping locations.

A recent place that stole her nature-loving heart was Mt. Jinbagata, and here we’ll share her experience so that, while Japan’s borders still remain mostly closed to tourists, we can all take part in some outdoor adventure together.

▼ Here’s the view from the top of Mt. Jinbagata… that you don’t even have to hike to!
Usually to get a view like this you’d have to walk for hours.

Mt. Jinbagata is located in Nagano Prefecture, 2.5 hours north of Nagoya or 3.5 hours west of Tokyo by car. Standing at 1,445 meters (4,741 feet) above sea level, it boasts a panoramic 360 degree view of the valleys and Minami Alps that surround it.

The view is breathtaking, and has even been featured in movies, anime and manga, such as Laid-Back Camp

▼ Here’s Shimarin from the manga camping at the same place.

Mt. Jinbagata has a very exclusive campground at the top with a limited amount of 18 camp sites. They get snapped up pretty quickly, but Abbey was lucky enough to snag a site from a last-minute cancellation.

Like many campgrounds in Japan, Mt. Jinbagata utilizes an online reservation system on their website. You can make a reservation directly there if there’s an opening available, or you can do like Abbey did and sign up at Nap-Camp and get notified of when cancellations happen.

▼ Abbey packed up her trusty scooter and made her way there!

It took about four hours for Abbey to get from our home in central Gifu Prefecture to Mt. Jinbagata via her scooter. Renting a car is the best way to get there, but if you’re brave you could also take a train via the JR Iida Line to Ijima Station, then ride a 45-minute taxi to the campground from there. Just be prepared to pay about 9,000 yen (US$79) or more to be driven the 20 or so kilometers (12.5 miles) up the mountain.

When Abbey arrived, she checked in (check-in is from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) at the lodge with the campground manager Ichise-san, who was very excited about having an American stay at the campground. He told her all the details about the best viewing times, and also mentioned the local fruit juices and American craft beers that they carried in stock.

It cost 3,500 yen (US$31) total to stay one night: 2,500 yen for the site, and 1,000 yen for one-person’s utility usage. Prices vary depending on which site you choose, how many people you’re camping with, and when you go during the the open season of April 20 to the end of November.

▼ Abbey set up her tent right next to the lodge, mostly because the other spots were taken… and she likes being close to the bathroom in case of nighttime emergencies.

▼ She used a Visionpeaks two-to-three-person cotton polyester tent. Expecting it to be cold, she brought her tent made with thicker/warmer material than nylon or just polyester.

The Mt. Jinbagata campgrounds are evenly divided into three different groups: Mori (“Forest”) aimed at family camping with large sites near the forest, Kuu (“Air”) aimed at solo campers like Abbey with smaller sites, and San Roku Maru (“360”) the most expensive and highest up area with the best 360-degree view.

Even though she was camping in the Kuu area, anyone could still walk freely around the campground, so it was time for her to see the legendary view for herself.

▼ Keep an eye on that weather tower!
Because it was only about a five-minute walk to get to…

▼ …this majestic scenery!
You’re seeing Iida City, Komagane City, and a bunch of other small towns from here.

▼ Here’s the 360-degree panoramic shots from the peak.
See how close the weather tower is? It was only about a five minute walk.

▼ Be sure to right-click these panorama shots and open them in a new tab for their full glory.

▼ Here’s the Minami Alps, with just a dusting of snow as they stretch toward the horizon.

▼ The path up and down from the peak is paved with wooden stairs. It’s the most you’ll have to exert yourself to get to the top of the world… or just the top of Nagano.

▼ The perfect place for selfies!

With her hunger for beautiful views satiated, it was time to feed Abbey’s other appetite: camp food. Even though campground lodges in Japan typically carry a variety of instant ramen, rice, and other foods, this one sold only sold drinks, so you have to bring your own food.

Back at the tent, for dinner she cooked up some kimchi udon on a gas stove, along with some hot black tea.

▼ Once it was cooked outside, she brought everything inside and feasted at her Laid-Back Camp fold up table. Who says you can’t camp with anime goods?

After the sun had set and the stars had come out, it was time a real campfire. In the absence of sunlight, the air had cooled off significantly to about 3ºC (37ºF), and Abbey began to feel the biting cold of the mountain winds nipping at her.

▼ Thankfully some baked Nagano apples warmed her belly and hit the spot!

Finally, it was time to sleep. In preparation for the trip, she’d brought two sleeping bags for double warmth, plus a fuzzy fleece blanket to keep warm. She’d also dressed in layers to brace against the Nagano cold: Uniqlo heat-tech leggings, hiking pants, heat-tech top, T-shirt, sweater, and fleece jacket. 

But even that was not enough. As the heat the fire began to fade into dark, chilly shivers, she had to crack open 20 kairo — adhesive hand warmers — and made a hot water bottle to put under her covers.

Thankfully that did the trick, and she slept like a baby until dawn.

▼ Waking up is always hard when it’s freezing cold, but having a spectacular sunrise to catch makes it a lot easier.

For Abbey, watching the sunrise while boiling water for more kimchi udon for breakfast and coffee was surreal. Not having a hike up to this spot gave the whole experience a dream-like quality to it, as if she’d entered a cheat code into the game of life.

Getting here should have been hard and left her aching, but there she was, no aches or pains, just a once-in-lifetime view of Japan below her and a delicious hot breakfast in front of her.

Check-out for Mt. Jinbagata campground was at noon, so she packed up after breakfast and headed out. As she rode down the mountain on her scooter, she found herself smiling, completely smitten and wishing she could’ve called out of work the next day and stayed longer. Perhaps she can return in the winter, when the mountain is covered in a big blanket of snow.

Although if she does that, she may have to ask Go Hatori for advice on how to best wear 100 kairo heating pads at once!

Campground Information
Jinbagata Kyanpujo / 陣馬形キャンプ場
Address: Nagano-ken, Kamiina-gun, Nagagawa-mura, Ogusa 1636
Camp Season: April 20 to end of November, peak viewing area open year round

Images: ©SoraNews24
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