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Rocks on the Road: Vanlife with Dogs in Japan Part I

Updated: Jun 5

On March 21st, Rocky (also known as Rocks, Rocka or Rockabebe) and I embarked on a three-month adventure in Japan. To make things more affordable and dog-friendly, we rented a Kei camper* from Tokyo and headed towards Niigata in search of snow. *Kei short for kei-jidōsha meaning light /compact automobile - Japan’s smaller cars with yellow license plates which makes driving winding country roads much easier

With it being mine and Rocky's first time living the #vanlife in a foreign country, we thought we would share our experience travelling Japan by camper van!

#Vanlife The facilities

Our compact camper offers a lot in a tiny package. We’ve got a pop-top roof, internal lighting, sub-battery with USB outlets, microwave, sink, and plenty of storage cubbies. It’s spacious for the two of us and comfortable enough to have friends sleepover for a couple of nights too.

Parking & Rest Stops

For sleeping, we’ve relied on Japan’s great network of government designated rest stops called Michi-no-Eki, which translates to “roadside station”. There are more than 1,000 of these spread across the country. Some are small and simpler nestled deep in the mountains whilst others have been newly built with multiple parking lots, restaurants, playgrounds for children, parks for dogs, and Onsen bathhouses. All of them offer clean toilets, vending machines, shops showcasing local produce, and allow overnight parking for free.

Dog-friendly Japan

Many places allow dogs to enter but always require them to stay on leash, sometimes even

Rocks and Philippa in Narai-juju Old Town

specifying a tether no longer than 2 metres. We’ve also been surprised to find some beautiful sightseeing spots allowing dogs to enter at no extra cost. So far, Rocks has spent very little time on her own in the van and we’ve been able to enjoy a lot of the sights together. We’ve met a few travelling locals with their pups and learned a little about the culture and etiquette of dog-owners here. Despite Rocky’s low growl at strangers and her tendency to feel protective of the area we might be seated at, everyone has been so kind and calm towards her. Same goes with driving here— people have been very giving and courteous on the road so as a foreign driver it’s been a smooth and fun way of exploring new territory.

Our Dog Gear

Tractive GPS XL

This GPS tracking device is waterproof, sturdy, and reliable with a good battery life. Compared to their original, which requires charging every 2-3 days, their Tractive GPS XL can last two weeks without tracking! Tractive doesn't deliver direct to Hong Kong, but you can order through Amazon and it is well worth the investment, as it tracks so much more than their location, but activity and sleep as well.

Wilderdog Waterproof Neck Collar

Waterproof collars are really handy for travels on the road as they're easy to clean and durable. We use Wilderdog's waterproof collar, who specialise in outdoor gear for dogs.

Apple AirTag

For peace of mind, I added an Apple AirTag to Rocks' collar in addition to her Tractive, and tracked her arrival at Baggage Claim as soon as we landed.

Rogz Utility Lead

There are plenty of multi-puprose leads these days which have multiple clips and allow for different leash lengths, but we like the Rogz Utility Lead. A quick click around the waist and you’re hands-free!

PetSafe Bucket Seat Cover

Protects the rental car from dirt and hair, whilst adding that extra layer of comfort for your dog.

Kurgo Car Harness

With us being on the road so long, we got the crash-tested Kurgo Car Harness for safety. The buckles are based on rock-climbing safety and the harness comes with a padded chest plate for comfort. The plus side is it's machine washable, so it makes for easy washing after mucky explores!

Thanks for taking the time to read about our little trip! Rocks and I are 2 months into our 3-month journey - tune back for part II and suggestions on where to visit in Japan. In the meantime, if you’d like to stay in touch with mine and Rocky’s movements, give us a follow on Instagram @for.theloveofdog 🤎


Philippa & Rocky.

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