My First Time Camping in Japan

I learned how to pitch a tent. It’s not difficult, but it is a lot to manage for one person. With the unrelenting heat bearing down on me, it made it seem like more of a task than it really was, but long story short, I have a new skill to add to the resume.

My first time camping in Japan and first time camping ever was on a small island 160 kilometers south of Tokyo called Shikinejima. I went with Tokyo Snow Club, a group that organizes outdoor adventure day trips and weekend trips for foreigners living and traveling in Japan. We camped on the grounds of Oura Beach, among the trees with the ocean at our doorstep. Visually speaking, it was indeed the setting of fairytales.

shikinejima oura beach sunset

Sunset at Oura Beach

With only a tent as my shelter, I slept on hard ground made of compact sand in a sleeping bag that offered next to no cushioning with my purple fleece Patagonia pullover as my pillow. I made the mistake of sleeping in shorts with my sleeping bag unzipped so I was a feast for the mosquitos. I didn’t bring any mosquito repellent because I foolishly thought they wouldn’t get me in a short 24-hour timespan. You live and you learn.

Throughout the night, the rain came and went, leaving puddles in the corners of my tent and soaking everything in its wake even with the tarp covering the windows. With little air ventilation due to said tarp, sweltering temperatures inside the tent had sweat endlessly dripping down the sides of my face and back all night. Evenings offered little relief from the heat so I surrendered to the fact that everything, myself included, would be damp for the entire weekend.

tomari beach shikinejima under water go pro

Exploring the clear water of Tomari Beach with my GoPro

The tent swayed with the winds, and it was peacefully quiet with nothing but crickets singing into the night and ocean waves crashing against the shore at a steady rhythm.

As nightfall descended upon the island, it looked like someone took a paintbrush and dotted the sky with white stars that grew brighter as the night grew older. I may have felt out of my element during the trip, but gazing at the stars offered a sense of peace. Looking up at such a magnificent canvas, I was reminded of how big the world really is and how little space I take up as a human being. We live in such a vast universe that there is undoubtedly other life forms out there. Why are we so afraid of other life forms or aliens, by the way? For all we know, they could be the most warm, welcoming, amazing, creative species out there. Just some food for thought.

Jinata Onsen Shikinejima

Jinata Onsen

Shikinejima is home to more roaches, centipedes, spiders the size of the palm of my hand, dragonflies, butterflies, snakes, fish of all sizes, and jellyfish than people. With only a handful of supermarkets, restaurants, and sights to see, Shikinejima was a pure getaway. The island is small enough that I was able to ride around the entire thing by bicycle, and I swam in the ocean with waters so clear, it was ideal for snorkeling. If I stood still long enough, small fish would approach my feet and nibble on them, and as I waded through the water, my feet slid across rocks covered in silk-like seaweed. The water felt cleansing against my skin, and I can always count on the ocean to wash away any built up negative energy. A day spent at the beach and swimming in the ocean is usually followed by a good night’s rest.

It felt good to get back to nature, as it always does, and a weekend camping trip took me quite far out of my comfort zone. I’d like to go again and again until I become more comfortable disconnecting and sleeping out in nature.

Camping Packing List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Pillow
  • Dry bags to keep expensive gear safe from the rain
  • Clothesline to hang wet clothes
  • Hiking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Bathing Suit
  • Towel
  • Sunglasses/Hat
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Cash
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Travel size bottles of toiletries, if there are showers
  • Hand sanitizer/wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • First aid kit
  • Open mind
  • Positive attitude

What are your best camping tips and packing list items?

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