Moose Family Camp Resort, Nasu, Tochigi
American Style campsite with pool, jacuzzi and lots for the kids
First, let me tell you a little about Ervin and Rika. An American expat and native Japanese couple who recently bought the derelict campsite formerly known as Captel. They have a huge job ahead of them restoring the retro campsite in Nasu, Tochigi. But that’s not what’s special about them. Well it is, but that’s only a small part of the narrative.
There are plenty of campsites around Japan with kind owners and managers. But Ervin and Rika take it to the next level. I have never received such hospitality anywhere in the world. From the moment we arrived at Moose Family Camp Resort to the moment we left we felt not only welcome, but- as crazy as it sounds after just a short encounter – at home. I don’t think I’ve ever personally had that experience as a paying customer of any establishment.
These are special people though. Despite being physically exerted and financially restricted trying to get a campsite of the ground with little help, their energy, kindness and generosity knows no bounds. Not only when you are a guest at their quaint campsite, but in life in general – volunteering in the community and running the We Love Tohoku Charity.
The campsite was in a major state when they took it over after years of it being abandoned. There is still a lot of work to be done, but when it is finished it will be a top class theme camp. Right now, well to use Ervin’s words on his website “its not a 5 star hotel”. But I would personally give it 5 stars for its activities for the kids:
Activities for the kids
**No extra charges, all included in the price of your stay**
- Swimming pool
- Bikes galore
- Basketball machine
- Basketball hoop
- Other sports equipment including balls of every variety
- Indoor play room
- Arts and Crafts
- Wildlife and bugs!
Other Services and Facilities
They have facilities for babies such as diaper changing room and there is a baby’s bath too. There is a laundry area. You can rent the private family bath, a certified hot spring, for just 1,500 yen. They offer a meal plan with all your food catered for at a reasonable extra charge (cost depends on plan). You can rent their party room and / or book their outdoor kitchen. They organise birthday parties and other celebratory occasions too.
Moose Family Camp Resort has events on throughout the year. The next event is firefly viewing from June 20th to June 30th. They celebrate several seasonal events such as Halloween and Easter. And Christmas is BIG in Moose Family Camp with Ervin being a regular Santa Claus. I mean literally! One of his many charitable deeds is to bring Santa to the Tohoku region annually.
The current accommodation choices are to bring your own tent, your own camper or stay in one of the old trailers. The tent sites are a little small and wouldn’t fit a large tarp living area, but they have a small patio on which you can barbecue and place a picnic table.
The trailers and camper vans are older models, perfect for experiencing a retro camp which is all the rage right now. They only cost on average 12,000 per night, which might seem steep for their age, but I’ve stayed in a shack in Nagatoro that cost twice that. We’ve also stayed in something the size of a K truck that charged double too, and both the shack and the K truck had literally nothing but futons in them.
The trailers in Moose Family have a kitchen sink, a bathroom with toilet, sink and shower, fridge freezer, gas rings for cooking, table and chairs, even a TV. They also have air conditioning for an extra charge. And of course they have beds. The bedding is new and clean, but there are parts of the trailers that are grubby from age and not having been used for so long.
There are newer type of accommodation choices in the works too, one has already been completed. The sky tent went up this month and is available for rent. Currently Ervin is building some unique wood cabins and there will be tree houses in the future too.
Another benefit for expat families of English speaking background is that the main language of the campsite is ENGLISH. The official website is in English, the Facebook page is in English, the brochures and signs at the camp are in English and the main language spoken on site: English! It was so great to spend a weekend speaking English and to hear my kids interacting with everyone in English rather than Japanese for a change.
Its the little things that matter
We say in Ireland “its the little things that go a long way”. One of the reasons this trip will forever be embellished on my family’s mind is the little extras that left a big impression. For example, each family get a custom made coin to take home as a souvenir of their visit. But more than that it is the hospitality.
Throughout our trip Ervin and Rika bestowed us with such kindness. Bringing the kids treats to eat, making extras of their party food for us to taste, playing basketball with the kids, teaching them about wildlife and even helping them find snakes. Despite having a campsite to build and run! My girls cried leaving the Moose family, the way they cry leaving Nanny and Granddad back in Ireland.
The Hilton it may not be, and it is sort of rough around the edges so to speak, but Moose Family Camp Resort is the kind of place you can relax, let go and be free. And be with honest-to-God good people. If you book a stay at Moose Family Camp Resort there’s the extra feel good factor that you know you will be helping people get a business of the ground, who’ve spent their whole lives helping others for free.