vanlifejapan - Kamakura
After purchasing the biggest vehicle we have ever owned, Nissan Serena, for a completely different purpose to Vanlife, I began to think what’s like to stay in the car while travelling. Then came across the term Vanlife and decided to explore what others are doing.
When I started to research where we could go, in terms of places to park the car to stay for the night in Japan, there were very little information on the net. Even tried to find some books on this but had no luck so far.
So we have decided to document where we travel, comment on the places we have stayed to create Vanlife information for travellers coming to Tokyo.
As for the first time, we have decided to go somewhere close to Tokyo, Kamakura, Kanazawa Prefecture. It’s only about 60km from where we are based, Nishiogikubo (Tokyo), where our car is parked.
One of the best part of Vanlife in my opinion is to reduce cost of travelling.
To do that, we have decided to travel at night on Friday after work. This usually avoids traffic getting to the destination and depends on where you are going, we can avoid using highways and toll roads to reduce cost.
Avoiding highways of cause means takes little longer to get to the destination.
So it was time for us to eat and prepare for the journey.
When it comes to Nishiogikubo, there is no shortage of great local dine out spots. This time, we have decided to go to Ryozanpaku.
It’s a Ramen/Chinese place and they are famous for their fried rice with sticky meat sauce called Niku-Anakake Fried Rice.
We have tried this last time so this time, we have decided to go with Ramen with similar sticky meat sauce on top. Both of us really enjoyed what we have ordered and definitely prepared us for the drive ahead.
This place is recommend as they have parking spot, which is unusual for small place like this but it tends to get busy after 7pm so better to get there early to avoid the cue for the carpark.
After filling ourselves up with delicious Ramen, filled up the car with gas.
We always choose self serving gas stations whenever we can as it tends to be cheaper. As you have to put cash in first before being able to fill up, you usually put more money than you think you need in first as once the gas is full in your car, you get your change back (of course).
This time, I just put 5,000 yen in for the trip.
The navigation was telling us that it would take about 1 hour and 50 min to get to Kamakura, so the journey began towards Kamakura. The route was taking us though Yokohama, then down to Kamakura from there.
At Yokohama, we have decided to stop for a coffee to have little break from driving and as a bathroom stop. It was approaching 9 pm so chose the easy option, Starbucks.
At this Starbucks, we picked up this children’s book called The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein. It is a little adventure book about life to discover missing piece in life to fill. It was simple but really deep.
The funny thing is, the reason for us getting interested in Vanlife was to find or fill the missing piece in our lives.
We both work and live in Tokyo and both running our own business.
After discovering Vanlife, we thought this was a perfect solution for giving us relaxing time, travel and work cost effectively. As work is very important for both and is basically our lives, being able to work in a different environment, waking up by the lake, mountains or new city and just work anywhere looked appealing.
We got to Kamakura area just after 10pm and started to look for a place to park for the night… so this took us a while.
Drove for another hour or so, looking for a good spot to park. Have searched online for some recommendations but there was nothing so decided to do this ourselves and find spots we can recommend people.
Sadly, we did not find a perfect spot to park a car, like locations you see on Instagram 😔
So ended up finding a quite coin parking, away from the main street and people. This cost us 600 yen for the night as we were only there for 6 hours.
We had to take the car out by 6 am to avoid getting charged every 30 min!
We could not sleep well that night for some reason. The car is big enough for both of us to sleep and can fold down the seats basically flat however, we were not able to get comfortable and could not sleep.
On top of that, there were earthquake, around M5 which kept us up even more…by this time, we were convinced that we need to modify the car so we can do this comfortable and started to discuss some ideas on how we may be able to do it by the morning.
Even though we did not get much sleep, we have decided to explore the area and made some list of places we wanted to go.
First stop, morning Farmers Market in Kamakura.
This local verge market is well known and in the morning, local restaurant owners flock to purchase local produce. This market is called Kamakura Farmers Market and is located close to the Kamakura Station.
We have purchased some freshly picked vegetables to take home.
Inside the market, there is an interesting looking cafe called Paradise Alley Bread & Co. On the internet, it said it opened at 7:30 but it wasn’t. They looked like they were still getting ready to open so we decided to ask anyway. Luckily they did let us in as we were both freezing cold, being at the farmers market at subzero temperature.
Had simple coffee and assortment of bread with an boiled egg 😃
We didn’t plan anything else for the trip so decided to go for a little drive towards Enoshima, which is only 10 to 15 min drive from Kamakura.
It was cold morning but was a beautiful day. Could see Mt Fuji clearly and there was no wind. Thought it would be a great idea to try and find a cafe near by the sea to enjoy the weather and the view!
We found a cafe called Pacific Drive-In, on the way towards Enoshima from Kamakura on the beach front.
It is surrounded by the car park and wanted to park there for the night but it closed at night. Perhaps to avoid people like us parking there for the night.
The cafe is in Hawaiian style setting and offered simple food but after just having assortment of bread, I was still hungry.
The location was exactly what we were hoping for. By the sea, looking over the calm ocean and on to the side, perfect view of Mt. Fuji!
If you have something from the cafe, you can get 1 hour or so parking for free so I would highly recommend visiting pacific Drive-In.
Over all, the first trip was relaxing despite not being able to find a good parking spot to have a good sleep. Other activities such as cafe’s, local markets and ocean view with Mt. Fuji was well worth the short trip.
This experience certainly have motivated me to do some modifications to the car so we can get good night sleep in the car to enjoy better Vanlife.
Once we start modifying the car, the process will also added to the blog for your information.
We hope to provide useful tips for Vanlife near Tokyo and look to expand beyond near Tokyo area so stay tuned for more tips and locations!
Thanks for reading and happy Vanlife!
Ramen x 2 + Gyoza: 1800 yen
Gas: 5000 yen (probably only used 2500 yen worth)
Starbucks: 750 yen
Parking: 600 yen
Farmers Market: 1400 yen
Parking: 100 yen
Paradise Alley Bread & Co: 1500 yen
Pacific Drive-In: 1500 yen (Coffee x 2 and 1 x breakfast)
Total: 12,650 yen (- 3500 yen for the gas still left)