Ogawayama in Nagano prefecture is the place to go for those who are looking to get off the grid and spend some time in nature. While this is arguably Japan’s most famous rock climbing area, there is no shortage of hikers and campers sharing the immaculate campground. Whether you choose to be on or simply amongst the rocks, Ogawayama is a destination that offers the traveler action and relaxation in their purest forms.
If you bring your own tent, a campground costs just 700 yen per night. You can pitch your tent just feet from your car, so don’t worry about having to carry anything on your back. Firewood is obtainable for purchase and building fires within a stone fire-pit is permitted. There are bathroom, dishwashing, and fresh water facilities on the premises. Showers are also available in a small lodge near the restrooms for 100 yen. If you would rather stay in the lodge, it will cost about 6,000 yen.
What to do
Trails surrounding the campground will take you throughout the park. These trails weave through some of Japan’s most stunning and remote nature. Climbing trails are marked separately, so it may be a good idea to invest in a guide book if you are looking to climb. In the front lodge you can inquire about trails and maps, and also stock up on needed supplies at your convenience.
The large and spacious bath house in the lodge costs 400 yen and is open until 7pm. It is the perfect remedy after a long day of hiking or climbing. Alternatively, there is an onsen about a twenty minute drive from the campground called Healthy Park. The onsen costs only 300 yen and boasts several baths, including a cold bath, and a sauna.
Where to Eat
An essential part of camping is cooking over an open fire. The lodge sells charcoal and rents grills so you can cook up yakiniku in the evenings. For supplies, head to Nanas, a supermarket that is roughly a fifteen minute drive from the campground and has just about everything you might need for all of your meals while camping.
Nagano is famous for its fresh and delicious soba. There are several soba restaurants within a 15-20 minute drive of the camping area that offer a great meal and a uniquely Japanese dining experience. Certain restaurants hand-make the soba right after you order, guaranteeing one of the freshest batches of soba you may ever have.
If you are looking for a fun day trip, Rock Brew Pub is only about a 45 minute drive from the campground. This venue serves a variety of German foods and brews its own German-style Yatsugatake beer. The surrounding restaurants in Kiyosato also offer interesting experiences and surprisingly spot on takes of foreign food. The Country Robin, for example, is a cowboy-themed American restaurant that fulfills the craving for a burger or a good steak.
A Priceless Journey
At night you can hear only the sounds of your crackling campfire and tiny life buzzing around you, and when you look up you’ll see stars bright in a sky that is unobstructed by city lights. The purity of Ogawayama resets you in a way that only nature can. A trip to these mountains will leave you with an experience that captures the ethos of Japan itself.
Given the remote location of Ogawayama, getting there can be a bit difficult. The easiest and recommended way to get to there is to rent a car. There are several car rental hubs in Narita airport and cars are also available to reserve online via Narita’s English website.