Outdoor recreation activities are increasingly popular in Japan amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, as they allow people to enjoy nature while avoiding enclosed spaces and other situations believed to spread the virus.
Operators of sites for "glamping," a luxury form of camping, offer accommodation and necessary equipment.
The seven cabins at Onsen Glamping Shima Blue, a glamping site in the Shima Onsen hot spring resort in the town of Nakanojo, Gunma Prefecture, are almost fully booked for September and October. "We are receiving an unprecedented number of inquiries," said Yoshinori Seki, 55, president of the company that operates the site.
"I think people like our site because they can enjoy nature without worrying about getting too close to others during meals and when taking a bath," he added, noting that the cabins have an open-air bath and a barbecue facility.
Hire demand for recreational vehicles is also on the rise. At Campingcar Inc., a Tokyo-based recreational vehicle rental company, sales in August have been up 20 percent from a year before.
The company suffered an 85 percent fall in sales in April, but in June started to see a rise in demand from domestic customers, including foreign residents in Japan.
People hire vehicles for shorter periods than before, and groups are smaller, a Campingcar official said. In the meantime, the number of customers departing from Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture is increasing, according to the official.
Customers tend to choose destinations about a two-hour drive from urban areas, such as those in Gunma and Chiba prefectures in the Kanto region and in Kyoto and other prefectures in the Kansai region, the official said.
"People want to go out with family members only, without inviting friends and without using public transportation," the official said, adding that recreational vehicles "are drawing attention as a new travel option for people who have been using Shinkansen bullet trains or planes."
An event dubbed Outdoor Fair is being held in the Daiba waterfront district of Tokyo until Sunday, aiming to give city dwellers a taste of camping and glamping. Families and others have been visiting mainly on Saturdays and Sundays, according to the event's organizer.
"We are on summer vacation, but we can't travel due to the novel coronavirus epidemic," said housewife Kayoko Kurihara, 42, who came to the event from Ota Ward, Tokyo, with her 5-year-old daughter.
Outdoor recreation is safe and relaxing, she added.
A 47-year-old company employee from Koto Ward in the capital said that he was very eager to try camping. "If it's a hotel, an enclosed place, I worry that I might get the virus, he said. “But as camping is outdoors, I don't worry too much."
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