Picture of Bike Camping in Japan- on a shoestring
I spent four weeks bike touring on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido for less than $1000 including airfare. I enjoyed good food, met great people, and immersed myself in amazing scenery as well as numerous hot springs.

Here are some tips on how I did it, and how you can too.
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Step 1: Plan Your Trip

Picture of Plan Your Trip
I picked a good area and time to visit-
Hokkaido in September was a good choice, in spite of the fact that it rains (a lot). Campsites are plentiful and cheap, and there are loads of natural hot springs, mountains and good roads. August would have been crowded, and October would have been cold. I rented out my apartment, which gave me a $1000 credit toward my plane ticket. That was $1230 RT from San Francisco, CA to Asahikawa, Hokkaido.

Asahikawa is well situated. My plane was late, but I still had time to assemble my bike and gear, and ride the 14 km to a free urban campsite, where I bought fuel and food for my trip.

I brought my own bike-
ANA still flies your bike for free, and will guarantee that policy on connecting flights- even if you have to spend a night in Tokyo and switch airports. They are nice, the food is good and they even allowed me to return with overweight bags. Twice - no charge.

I packed light-
I put my bike in a Japanese bike bag for the flight, and used compression sacks to get it all in there, tent, bags stove- the works. I can carry it by myself, even with the bike packed up. This means I can take a bus or train should I break down on the road. You might use a bike box, or consider buying a "rinkyou bukuro" bag for your return trip. That way, you can ride back to the airport and pack your bags.

I flew to my start and endpoints-
JapanRail passes are a great deal, but it's very hard to pack and carry your full sized bike and get it on and off trains. Perhaps you should save it for another trip or a trip- or use it with your folding bike.

You might take a Japanese Class-
Or go to a local Japanese restaurant with a phrase book or dictionary and chat up the staff. It was easy for me to find and trade language skills in San Francisco, but I got so much out of a conversational language class that I really have to encourage you to do it. People will really want to talk to you if you show some interest in learning Japanese.

Get hold of a Touring Mapple-
The Lonely Planet guide is fine, sure, but you want to travel Japanese style and meet Japanese people, right? You might want to cut out some pages, and leave it at home. The Touring Mapple is an amazing tool- if a bit mystifying at first. Find your next campsite, hot bath and ATM. Convenience stores have 1000yen maps by Mapple, and are adequate in a pinch. Your new Japanese friend can help you order one on line, and tell you what the symbols mean, or you can take your chances and try to buy one when you get there. Many large department stores have book shops (as well as supermarkets!) There is also a magazine called 0Yen Mapple, and if you can get it for your region, you should.

tsavo3 years ago
Very impressed - even more so after realizing only around slide 8 'ish that you were/are female. More impressed. Nice job, thank you!
diane whitmore (author)  tsavo5 months ago

Not sure where you're going with that (female comment), but thanks for the kudos anyway.

blam1110 months ago

I would like to know how much should I budget each day for a trip like this?

diane whitmore (author)  blam115 months ago

I would say- budget $50/day and spend $20. That way you're covered in case stuff goes wrong. This was my second trip, and I'm a pretty advanced budgetter with some language skills. On your first trip, and especially without language skills- you'll want some comforts and some cushions.

buenoben1 year ago
Thank you for all that advice. I went to some onsens last year on a Japanrail trip but bike camping on a shoestring sound's like a great way to do it. There's a great book called touring Californias hot springs that came in handy for a recent car camping hot springs trip i did in November last year.
stemmei2 years ago
Thanks for Sharing! I can understand you really enjoyed your trip in Hokkaido.
csoldier833 years ago
Japans an awesome PLace.
Its really nice no need to be scared. my cousin and his friends, when they are bored they take a train to any random destination and work their way back home. My cousin got free meals as well :D
GoDu23 years ago
Nice Instructable!
mkslocomb3 years ago
thank you very much. you make me want to travel (after I learn the language)...
chuckr444 years ago
A link to a video might be helpful in showing the hand signals you mentioned. And also how to pronounce the Japanese words you have here. Great 'ible.
I was stationed at Yokosuka in the earlr 60's. I would take off on the weekends on a little 200cc Honda and travel thru Japan. Japan is a very easy and safe country to travel in. The people are great and will go out of there way to help you.
Mr.Sanchez4 years ago
Tottally awesome...
aaron-k4 years ago
awesome! did the same thing with my dad during this past holiday... only in china, we left shanghai and just kept going! we had planned on just sleeping in our backpacking hammocks but it turns out that's illegal in china. What isn't? however, we got bailed out by a local who told the cop we were his house guests. so overall bike-camping in Asia= great idea! as long as you hang your hammock in a discreet place. haha
darkclaw424 years ago
Wow. Bicycle tourist? You are cool. Really cool. I cant even bike down to the local grocery. Nice job, I love this! Now I want to bike over to Japan..
onrust4 years ago
You F'n rock! Keep it up and do not stop........... you animal you!
it was a fantastic write up, especially for women. thanks!
zac72blazer4 years ago
Nice write up. We live in Aomori prefecture and you are correct camping is not cheap on the main island. Being in rual Japan is nice & the people are friendly.
mikeasaurus4 years ago
Cool adventure, thanks for sharing!
You might want to include where your trip originated (guessing San Fran from Step 1), as flight cost can vary depending on location.
diane whitmore (author)  mikeasaurus4 years ago
Done. Thanks for catching the oversight!
kelseymh4 years ago
What a tremenous writeup! Thank you for putting this together, and for including all of the personal photos!