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

On March 21st, Rocky (also known as Rocks) and I embarked on a three-month adventure in Japan, and briefly discussed living the #vanlife in our last blog; Rocks on the Road: Vanlife with Dogs in Japan Part I. In Part II we will discuss a few more things you need to take into consideration when planning a road trip across Japan with your dog!


First of all, we were in Japan from March to May, which means it’s mostly sunny in the daytime and cools down in the evenings. It’s not so hot that it’s uncomfortable to sleep in a car overnight. We’re in a compact kei van without a washroom or air conditioning (we actually used the heater on a few chilly mornings) so when overnight temperatures drop below 10°C a good sleeping bag is necessary! We got Rocks' waterproof sleeping bag from Amazon here.


Travelling with Rocky’s own blankets makes settling her into new spaces easier and helps to protect rental equipment or hotel sheets from dirt and hair. We got Rocks' waterproof bed spread from Amazon here. She also likes the comfort of her light down blanket, which we also got from Amazon (link here). As for me, I use a camping pillow from Decathlon. It’s firm and comfy for a fidgety sleeper, plus Decathlon is a trusty sports brand with affordable gear.

Your Dog's Meals

Pack some of your dog’s regular kibble to begin with and then find a larger pet store chain such as PETEMO or PET PARADISE for healthier dry food and treat options. Rocks eats Wellness Core at home, which I haven’t come across in Japan yet, so she’s enjoying Orijen from PETEMO at the moment.

Note: If your pup has a sensitive tummy and requires a particular or more regular diet, I would suggest you bring what they know from home and make sure it’s sealed and in its original packaging in order to go through Customs at the airport when you arrive.


If your route involves hours-long drives at a time, then definitely invest in a proper crash-tested car-safe seatbelt and harness for your dog. Consider your pup’s usual harness for their daily walks as there are so many choices available. I learned that Rocky has more of a greyhound build with a thin neck and deep chest so a lot of body harnesses rub her underarms and give her blisters. Right now we’re using the Kurgo Tru-Fit Car Harness as mentioned in Part I.

Note: Depending on the car rental company, you might have to keep your pup in a crate inside the vehicle at all times. Both Toyota and Nissan allow dogs for a small fee in certain vehicle classes, you just need to tell them in advance, sign a consent form, and respect their rules for pets on board. Our campervan is from 3rd Place Camper based in Meguro City, in Tokyo. They have been so friendly and accommodating for Rocky, and we highly recommend booking their green Suzuki Every light campervan. We’ll share more about its specs and details in another post!


On the road, we’ve met quite a few local families travelling via van with their pups and we often meet them at Japan’s Michi-no-eki Roadside Stations that welcome overnight parking and sleeping in your car. Some locations even have a dog run (an off-leash park). These are usually rather small but it is a designated zone that allows dogs to play off-leash. Rocky and I have spent most nights at these roadside stations as their 24/7 toilet facilities are clean - plus, it’s free parking! Each location also offers something different whether it’s the architecture, scenic views, local produce or food.


Designated campsites are another great option for overnight stays, though you need to check ahead if they allow dogs as this will often incur an added fee to the booking fee for your camper van or tent setup.

Many campsites also offer day passes so you can enjoy the scenery, have a BBQ, and use their shower or sauna facilities. Again, best to check ahead of time as some sites are so small they might not be open if they’re not expecting you - or you might need to book day-use in advance. So far, shower facilities have cost between ¥300-550 per person. My arms are covered in tattoos so I haven’t been making use of all the public baths and Onsen that are attached to some roadside stations, as these are banned in Japan. So if you're the same, booking these to use the shower facilities will allow you a good night's rest and a chance to freshen up when you’re on the road.

Where to go Potty

Japan offers a convenience store around every corner and all of them have clean toilets to use for free. Outside of the cities they also have free parking for you to take a break, stretch your legs or even take a quick nap - though no overnight parking is allowed. Rocks is pretty good at choosing to potty on green spots which keeps the parking lot clean. If your pooch is not the same, you will need to plan ahead and pin some of the parks or Roadside Stations to stroll around to give your dog their potty break.

Note: Like Hong Kong, it’s expected you dilute or water down your dog's wee with water no matter where you are. Poops also need to be bagged and taken away with you, and not thrown in the park bins or human toilets - I found this odd too. I dump them in our larger rubbish bag that we dispose of daily.

With that in mind, it’s great to have a couple carabiner clips on you to carry used poop bags around hands-free. That, and a good squeeze bottle to quickly spray your dogs wee spots makes things much easier. If your pup’s at all like Rocks and wants to mark almost every bush and cranny then you’ll know a bottle with a good nozzle really makes all the difference.

Thanks for reading! Tune back next week, where we will share some suggestions on places to visit in Japan! Until next time.


Philippa & Rocky. @for.theloveofdog

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