We used to spend almost every weekend each August in the Chichibu area, mainly Yokoze and Nagatoro, before we had kids. It is one of my favourite areas in Saitama due to the abundance of nature. It is a very beautiful part of Saitama, and indeed the Kanto area. And due to its accessibility from and proximity to Tokyo, it offers a weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. Some areas are so remote that there isn’t even any phone reception. Blissful!
Chichibu was the perfect choice for our first camping experience with children. We hadn’t been camping in eleven years so it was also a great place to do a bit of reconnaissance for future camps. We chose Nagatoro Autocamp for a number of reasons (outlined below), but mainly because it had piqued our interest when we had passed it once on a boat ride down the Arakawa River.
If you have ever had the pleasure of taking the Nagatoro Line river ride, you may have noticed it too as you can see all the tents and families playing riverside. We decided to ease ourselves into our re-acquaintance with camping and didn’t go for a tent this time. Well actually the choice was made for us as the tent sites were actually booked out! We chose a cabin or as they call them a bungalow. The cabin we got was extremely basic, so while we might not be able to say we “camped”, we didn’t quite “glamp” either, it was somewhere in between!
We were very lucky to be able to get a booking for Nagatoro Autocamp on short notice. The popular train carriage cabins were all booked out, as were the cabins with air conditioning / heating. What we ended up with was a log cabin that was literally just a floor, a roof and four walls. The latter had windows, with no curtains, and lots of holes and cracks, but it kept the rain off us when a thunderstorm exploded and for the most part kept the insects out. The cabin had a roofed barbecue area with seats and nearby there was an area for washing dishes. Our cabin was the furthest out with the most space around it as it is usually used for dog owners. We were a bit far from toilets and other facilities but we couldn’t complain. We had a beautiful view of Houraijima Park, specifically some of the famous rocks, and the river back-dropped by a wood with azalea offering bursts of colour. Another advantage of our location is that it was quieter than being in the main camping or cabin areas.
What has Nagatoro Autocamp got to offer?
Some of the reasons Nagatoro Autocamp is suited for (a first) family camping visit(s), especially with babies, toddlers and young children:
- It has a baby and nursing room
- There are showers
- You can rent fridges
- A nice playground for small children
- A reading room with books in a converted train carriage
- Plenty of clean toilets including barrier free
- Fuji Mart and Seven Eleven Convenience stores only a 5 minute drive away (mapped on a Google My Map Below)
- Also Minano hospital only a 10 minute drive away (mapped on a Google My Map Below)
- You can just daycamp
- BBQ set available
- Walkways are lit up at night
- There are washing machines and dryers
- They rent camping gear including kitchen ware and BBQ goods
- The Onsen is only a 5 minute drive away
- Accessible by train (more information below, also mapped on the Google My Map below)
- Different accommodation choices
- You don’t have to bring your rubbish home; there is a rubbish center
- Pet friendly
- Dog run
- You can grape pick in season in neighbouring vineyard
- Particularly good for Water play (in the Arakawa river)
- The area is also known for fishing
- And for hiking
- Plus in the summer you can do canoeing nearby
- Suitable for large groups
- Vending machines selling drinks, including one with hot coffee
- Close to the famous and very stunning Kita Sakura Street Cherry Blossom Tunnel and Mt Hodo ropeway
Free wifi in Nagatoro
There are two ways to avail of the free wifi in Nagatoro. One is for Japanese and residents of Japan. Download the “Japan connected free wi-fi” App, open it and record your details. When you get to Nagatoro open the app and you will receive a 60 minute free wifi connection. There is no limit on the amount of times you use. The other method is for visitors to Japan. When you arrive in Nagatoro go to the information desk and present your passport to get a ID and pass for the free wifi. You can use it for two weeks.
- Tent Site
- Train Carriage Bungalow
I don’t think the cabin we got is value for money for what you get. Especially considering that before we had to start paying for the children we could stay in a lodge in Tokinosumika (Gotemba) with a kitchen, bathroom, toilet and beds for the same price. The camp sites are much better value. Please see the official website for accurate up-to-date prices. I can only guess that the campsite is a little more expensive than others due to its location and popularity.
All in all, while we were very happy with our experience, there is something we can’t put our finger on that was missing for us. The accessibility is convenient, the riverside location really is excellent, the facilities are better than most and it truly is very family friendly. We may go back someday, but we’ve a lot more camping grounds to try out in the meantime. It may appeal to us even more after comparing it to its competition. 🙂 And while it isn’t in my top ten family get away locations, I have no hesitations in recommending it as a suitable place for a first family camping experience in the Greater Tokyo Area.
Nagatoro Station is on the Chichibu Tetsudo and Steam Locomotive Paleo Express lines. It is about 2 hours from central Tokyo. The main connecting stations to get the Chichibu Tetsudo line are Hanyu station on the Tobu Isesaki Line, Kumagaya Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen / JR Takasaki lines, Yorii station on the Tobu Tojo / JR Hachiko lines and Ohanabatake station on the Seibu Chichibu line.
Nagatoro Autocamp is about a ten minute drive by taxi, but it is almost the same on foot (about 13 minutes) as there is a foot bridge you can use to cut the journey if you are walking.
About a 20 minute walk from Nagatoro station you can take a ropeway to the summit of Hodosan:
Car information and map below inserted article.
Steam Locomotive Paleo Express | KUMAGAYA TO CHICHIBU
ãInformation Shareã Featured photo of Steam Locomotive with Cherry blossoms by ã¢ã©ãã¯Â is used with permission. The Steam Locomotive (SL) Paleo Express that runs between Kumagaya and Chichibu is the câ¦
About 25 minute drive from the Hanazono Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway. Plenty of parking available at the camp site.
PHONE: 0494-66-0640 between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm
An additional note on choosing camp sites
We used 3 different camping books as reference to choose a campsite. Each one of them had Nagatoro Autocamp in them, but each one of them also had an error about the facilities at the camp site. One book said that there were no sinks; there are plenty of them and judging by the look of them they’ve been around for many years. One of the books said they don’t have playground equipment; it does. And one of them said that there is no onsen nearby, but not only is there one five minute drive away, it is heavily advertised on the campsite. Two of them were printed in 2017, one in 2016. When in doubt you can ring the campsite to check exactly what facilities they have.
Kita Sakura street with a tunnel of cherry blossoms in bloom from early to mid April:
Moss phlox in Chichibu, 30 minute drive away:
Stunning Shibazakura Moss Phlox at Hitsujiyama Park | CHICHIBU
TheÂ renowned Shibazakura or Moss Phlox of Chichibu’s Hitsujiyama Park are currently in full bloom. Since the 400,000 moss phloxÂ of nine different varieties were planted in 2000 the shibazakurâ¦