While the bustling Tokyo-Yokohama metropolis has much to offering the way of sightseeing and cultural experiences, just a few hours to the north and west of this area there is an abundance of quieter places that are prefect for camper van travelling featuring historical architecture, relaxing hot spring town, and beautiful national parks.

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1100km trip distance

10 day roadtrip

Camper Van recommended

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Nikko, Tochigi

Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture

Nikko is a city that has many historical sites, and it is also a region that features many hot springs and a national park boasting an abundance of beautiful nature.

Toshogu Shrine: World Heritage Site

On the outskirts of the city of Nikko visitors can explore the World Heritage Site Toshogu Shrine which is a magnificent memorial to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Located in a beautiful forest, the shrine complex features buildings with numerous wood carvings and gold-leaf decoration not seen anywhere else in Japan.

Okunikko: National park and hot spring (onsen) area

Okunikko is a scenic area located north and stretching to the northwest of the city of Nikko and features mountainous, marshlands, waterfalls, lakes and hot springs. It has long been a destination for those seeking to escape the summer of heat of the Tokyo area, and offers year-round outdoor activities.

Kinugawa: Hot spring (onsen) town

Kinugawa, to the north of the city of Nikko, is a famous hot spring town in beautiful river surroundings with exceptional autumn foliage. A variety of hot spring options are available along with Tobu World Square and Nikko Edomura theme parks.

Kusatsu, Gunma

Gunma Prefecture

Gunma prefecture, to the Northwest of Tokyo, offers year-round outdoor adventure in its many mountains and rivers and hot springs that are considered some of the best in Japan.

Takaragawa Onsen

Located on the banks of the Takara river and surrounded by lush forest, Takaragawa Onsen is a hot spring destination off the beaten path where time slows down. There are a variety of baths and even an open-air mixed gender bath where guests wear bathing suits.

Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen is a hot spring mountain town that boasts water that is said to have a variety of health benefits from beautifying skin to curing illnesses. In addition to the hot springs, winter offers skiing with hiking trails to be enjoyed the rest of the year.

For parking and overnight camping, here is a roadside station just a 15-minute walk from central Kusatsu Onsen.

Nagano

Nagano Prefecture

Northwest of Tokyo lies Nagano prefecture which boasts spectacular natural scenery at its many national parks, hot springs and historical sites. Home to the Japan Alps, Nagano provides all who visit with spectacular year-round scenery, outdoor activities and cultural encounters.

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Visitors to Jigokudani Monkey Park have the unique opportunity to see Japan’s native monkeys bathing in natural hot springs. The park is open year-round with the best time being December to March when snow covers the area. From a free parking area, it is a 30-minute walk through the forest to the park and sturdy shoes are recommended especially in winter.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle, completed in the early 1600s, is a national treasure of Japan. As one of the few original castles, it is worth the visit especially in spring when the cherry trees bloom providing the beautiful contrast of the soft pink blossoms with the castle’s black exterior.

Kamikochi: Scenic mountain area

Kamikochi, located in the Chubu Sangaku National Park, is a popular summer destination due to cooler temperatures, the blue sky, crystal-clear river and lake and fabulous mountain views. Hiking is readily available with hikes ranging from one hour to five hours, allowing visitors to choose the trail that best suits their plans. In order to protect the natural environment, cars are restricted in the area, so the local bus service must be used.

Gifu

Gifu Prefecture

Gifu, located to the west of Tokyo in the center of Honshu, features expansive nature where living cultural sites and hot spring towns take you on a journey back in time.

Hirayu Onsen Town

Just a short mountain drive from Kamikochi, Hirayu is the oldest hot spring town in the area. It features various Japanese inns (ryokan) and claims to have waters that cure a variety of ailments.

Takayama (Hida-Takyama)

Takayama, located in the Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, features a wonderfully preserved old town that dates back to the Edo Era which transports its visitors back in time. For those visiting in April or October, be sure to take in the famed Takayama Festival which is considered one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals.

Shirakawa-go: World Heritage Site

The village of Shirakawa-go is nestled in a scenic river valley in northwestern Gifu prefecture and is famous for its traditional thatched-roofed farmhouses some of which are more than 250 years old. This world heritage site is a functioning village where visitors can shop, dine and even spend the night.

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