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WOW! JAPAN

Is it illegal to camp on the beach in Japan?

"Is it illegal to camp on the beach in Japan? Like, not in a camping area. Actually on top of the sand?" I asked my RA. He assured me that, while it's not really a good thing to do, it's not illegal. Which was exactly what I needed to hear. I was going camping. I borrowed a tent from one of the guy's in the hiking club I belong to and then grabbed my friend and we drove in his car the 1.5 hours to the shore. However, I picked the absolute worst time in Japan to go camping. Rainy season. It sprinkled a bit on the drive and I kept watching the dark gray clouds overhead, willing them to disappear. It looked sunny in the distance, towards the shore, so I held on to hope.

When we got to Joetsu, I stopped by the surf shop where I would always rent my surf gear this past winter. "You're camping on the beach??" My friend Yumi, who owns the shop, asked incredulously. "You know a storm is coming tonight right?" The word for "storm" in Japanese, arashi, sounds so ominous. But I laughed it off and told her it would be fine. And it was. The evening was magical. The sand was soft and fluffy, the ocean calm and blue, we got the tent up no problem, and there was a momentary break in the clouds where we got to enjoy the sunset.

Naoetsu Beach Resort

Mushuiwato, Joetsu, Niigata

Swimming, drinking and fireworks!

We even put our suits on and sat admiring the ocean from our tent flap, before I turned to my friend and said "Umi de oyogu no?" (Want to go swim?) He looked up, shock evident on his face, then grinned and we sprinted into the freezing ocean. After our refreshing swim, we got some convenience store dinner, alcohol, and fireworks. Then we ate, drank, and lit fireworks back at our tent.

Japanese sparklers are super awesome because there are ones that change 10 different colors in a single sparkler!! We had so much fun lighting them, dancing around with them in the ocean, and drinking Strong Zero. My friend kept tossing the fireworks high up in the air and watching them fall down into the sand where they were snuffed out.

Falling asleep to the sound of waves... and thunder?

Around midnight we finally retreated to our tent and passed out. Perfect night, right? Not too fast. That pesky storm was growing ever closer. Two hours later, I was awoken to rain (we'd forgotten to put the rain cover on) and lightning. The tent has metal poles! I realized. Freaking out, I shook my companion awake and moved us to the car. Because we don't have sleeping bags, I'd taken my futon for us to sleep on so we moved that to the car too. Then we slept in there for another two hours until the sun rose and woke us up. The rain had stopped, so we moved back to the tent. It was soaked inside and the tide was coming up, so I moved it farther up the beach and put the rain covering over the floor of the tent. Then we moved the futon back in and slept until 7am, at which time the wind picked up and threatened to blow the tent over. It was time to go, I decided.

As we drove off, I looked out again at the rough waters and the sand blowing up in the wind and appreciated the calm, beautiful evening we'd been lucky enough to experience the night before.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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