Camping Gunma – Our 2019 Golden Week Camping trip and first tent pitch of the year brought us completely off the beaten path to a rural campsite. We “camp” monthly, but during the early spring, late Autumn and throughout winter we stay in log cabins or trailers rather than the expose the kids to extreme weather. April is a great month to get the tent out of storage…
We stayed in a campsite in Shibukawa City in Gunma. The term “city” is misleading, because the part of Shibukawa we were in is far removed from city life. It is tranquil countryside immersed in nature. The Tone river runs through the terraced valley bordered by rock cliffs abundant in foliage. There are a few houses dotted around the terraced fields, some of them abandoned, most of them old style Japanese farm houses.
Hisuruma Camping Grounds
The campsite, Hisuruma Camping Grounds, is as tranquil and scenic as its surroundings. There were a handful of yaezakura in bloom during our visit. Yaezakura are a late blooming fluffy pink cherry blossom variety. The “sousakara”, Japanese primrose, where in bloom too. In early April cherry blossoms line one side of the campsite.
Even without the splashes of colour from flowers and prunus, the campsite is beautiful regardless as it is a set in a wood of mature and magnificent trees of several varieties. Currently the cherry blossom trees are fresh with “new green” as they call it in Japanese. The area looks and feels vibrant and refreshing. I imagine the area is also breathtaking in autumn when the leaves are changing colour.
Down by the river is also very picturesque. I just loved the formidable cliff front flanking the turquoise green river with a white sand beach on one side. On the end near the administration office there is a beach of stones and rocks. It is also quite pretty with lots of unusual shaped and coloured rocks.
A highlight for me (as I’ve become a bit of train nerd after all my years in Japan), was the view of the steam locomotive (SL) chugging along a quaint arched bridge over the Tone River. It is the beloved Degoichi of Gunma, a class 51. In early April, just as the season opens (see information) you can get a shot of the steam locomotive with cherry blossoms. When we were there at the end of April I could get a snap of the SL with the yaezakura and river.
Hisuruma Campsite is the wildest camping grounds we have stayed in to date. The sites are not plotted out. You can choose your location on a a first come, first served basis. You can also take up as much room as you wish, within reason. As such it is ideal for a group. Which is what we were. There was plenty of room for our four families tents and tarps. And we were able to create a generously sized living / kitchen area with lots of room to make the bonfire away from our sleeping quarters. There was also lots of space for our four cars, beside our tents.
There is no electricity at each of the sites and as such it is not an ideal campsite for first time campers. There is electricity in the one washing up area (but no hot water) and in the toilets. The toilets are in a transformed portacabin. They are clean and modern with washlets. There is no hotsprings or showers at these camping grounds. According to online blogs, there used to be old coin showers at the site. They haven’t replaced them yet. However, they have a great playground for kids…
Playground & River Play
The playground at Hisuruma Camp was a big hit with my four kids and the other kids in our party. And indeed all the kids in the campsite. Much to my surprise (and delight) the kids never lost interest in the playground despite playing there on and off for three days. They loved the large swing that a dozen kids can sit on together and sway back and forth. The climbing was quite challenging, and a bit dangerous truth be told, but with proper supervision even the youngest in our party was able to enjoy it. A zipline, stepping stones, a long wooden spring ride, see saws, pull up bars, swings and slide completed the playground.
The kids also really enjoyed playing on the rock and white sand beaches. There is an area of the river near the white sand beach that kids play in during the height of the summer. But the section along the rock beach is not suited to water play. It is quite deep and there is a relatively strong current in that area. And that is why it is popular with rafters, who you can see at least once a day. In this section of the river you can see the boats speed up as they twirl and bounce down the river.
Bonfire and fireworks
Fires, even bonfires, are no problem at this camp. The owner even leaves out tree branches and cut trees you can use for free. You can buy charcoal at the small management office when the manager and his assistant are there. They also allow sparklers and firecrackers. When we were there, there was even a group letting off small fireworks much to the delight of all the kids at the camp.
Despite having no electricity and only basic facilities, Hisuruma is very kid friendly and there is a great familial atmosphere. It is my fourth favourite wild (no plots, no lecky, no frills) campsite to date. And just outside my top ten favourite of all types of camping grounds. (You can read about my favourite here).
The owner / manager of the campsite is the kindest and most laid back campsite manager I have ever met. He is also very personable and plays with the kids and families at the site. I was very impressed that he knows (without a computer) who his repeat customers are and who are first timers.
The majority of his business at this campsite in Gunma seems to come from repeat custom. Hence, there is very little advertising online and I’ve never seen this camp featured in offline material either. But Hisuruma has been around for a long time by all (blog) accounts online. Apart from families, which is probably 80% of the custom, the camp attracts a lot of bikers. Between the setting, the owner and the customers, there is a really laid back and relaxing atmosphere at Hisuruma. It is one of only a handful of camping grounds I can say with certainty that we will visit again.
Hisuruma Campsite Information
Season: April 1st until mid to end of November (end date changes slightly depending on weather etc)
Check in and out: Check in is very lenient. I believe the official time is noon, but it is perfectly fine to arrive before that. Check out is 11 am. Again: it is not enforced strictly.
Cost: 3,500 yen per site
Address: 167 Kamishiroi, Shibukawa, Gunma 377-0201
There is no official website. The Akagi Yama area tourism website has a little information.
Camping Gunma ~ Hisuruma Access
Hisuruma Campsite is an approximate 15 minute drive from the Akagi Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway.
Although you can see the Joetsu Line from the campsite, this camping ground is quite difficult to get to by public transport. There is no bus that stops nearby, you would have to walk quite a distance. Also, as they do not have any equipment to rent, you would need to bring all equipment with you. As such it is not ideal location for camping Gunma if you are coming by train / bus.