The brand-new Mount Asama Campground is situated in Tsumagoi Village, along the highland route that connects Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture with Kusatsu Onsen and Manza Onsen in Gunma Prefecture. Positioned at an elevation of 1,400 meters (4593 ft), the spot offers a stunning view of Mount Asama, which stands at a height of 2,568 meters (8425 ft).
Visitors can also enjoy glamping with minimal luggage in "Geo Rooms." The campground is also equipped with kitchens and shower rooms.
Interestingly, this marks the first campground by Seibu Group, although it holds various outdoor-related assets in regions across Japan. This development aligns with the renewed surge in interest in outdoor pursuits triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Impact of COVID-19
To reach the campground, head north from Karuizawa Station on the national highway and the Onioshi Highway. As you ascend and cross the prefectural boundary, the landscape will transform. The lush green forest will suddenly give way, revealing the imposing silhouette of Mount Asama to the left. After a half-hour drive, you will have an unobstructed view of the campground spread across the expansive highland.
The landscape of recreation underwent a profound shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels and inns saw a substantial decline in guests, while campgrounds garnered renewed interest.
Solo camping, in particular, gained immense popularity. The pandemic appears to have given an additional boost to what was already being called a "second boom."
In the past year, the camping industry has been adapting to the post-COVID world. However, it also anticipates that the current popularity will persist.
Gazing at the Night Sky
Amidst these circumstances, two resting areas owned by Seibu Group in the Mount Asama Campground were transformed over two years.
Encompassing an area of approximately 12,000 square meters (129,167 sq ft), the campground is nestled within the Mt Asama North Geopark, one of Japan's 46 designated geoparks. The mesmerizing view of the starry night sky is one of its many attractions.
Additionally, notable tourist attractions nearby include Onioshidashi Park and Shiraito Falls. For those willing to venture a bit further, the premier resort town of Karuizawa and the renowned Kusatsu Onsen and Manza Onsen are perfect for relaxation.
Because of its location, the campground can experience strong northwesterly winds from the mountains, depending on meteorological conditions. As a result, it can become quite chilly even in the summer.
Ron Tanno serves as the representative of R.project, the company partnering with Seibu Group to manage the campground. He comments, "It would be wonderful if we could find a way to turn these inconveniences into something enjoyable as an integral part of the camping experience."
In a society that prizes convenience, Tanno advocates deriving enjoyment from what he calls the "benefits of inconvenience."
To make this possible, every effort is taken to ensure a comfortable stay. The campground's facilities are designed so that even beginners can relish the experience.
One such feature is "Geo Room Glamping." Each "Geo Room" has a pointed roof, with the interior lined with urethane foam and the exterior with tent fabric. This construction renders them resistant to wind and insulated against the cold.
Inside, beds tailored to various sizes eliminate the necessity for traditional tents. Out of the 12 "Geo Rooms" available, some even include their own dog run.
Plenty of Facilities
Guests staying in the Geo Rooms can use a kitchen located in a separate structure called the "Center House." This facility provides ingredients and various cooking instructions for dishes like bone-in chicken curry. A wide range of amenities, including private shower facilities, are also at their disposal.
Notably, some campsites within the campground feature charging stations for electric vehicles — a first in Japan. Cars and motorcycles can also be accommodated. There are even dog runs on some campsites.
The "Center House" offers an array of light refreshments such as coffee and hot dogs, along with a stock of firewood. Despite these lavish offerings, the spirit of self-sufficiency prevails, as campers are responsible for preparing their own fire and meals.
Upon its opening on June 2, Mount Asama Campground encountered several challenges due to a typhoon. However, since then, reservations have steadily gained momentum, particularly for weekends and holidays.
A spokesperson expressed their enthusiasm, stating, "The night sky is truly remarkable here. While the Geo Rooms are not widely known yet, we are working diligently to promote them as we approach the summer after the rainy season."
A bus from Karuizawa Station takes you right in front of the campground. Car rental shops are also available near the station.
- Motorcycle campsite: From ¥3,000 JPY (about $21 USD)
- Car campsite: From ¥5,500 JPY ($38 USD)
- Geo Room: From ¥30,000 JPY ($206 USD) per night including meals for two people
- Geo Room with dog run: From ¥38,500 JPY under the same conditions as above
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(Read the article in Japanese.)
Author: Masato Kazama