One of the most challenging things about living in a foreign country is adapting to a new climate if it varies greatly to that of your home country. As both the temperature and weather conditions in the UK are consistently middling, I had never experienced weather of any real extremes before moving to Asia. While summer in Japan doesn’t get ridiculously hot, it is still pretty uncomfortable if you aren’t used to it and finding somewhere cool to escape to in the summer is a top priority. If you can’t afford to fly up to Hokkaido for a refreshingly chilled summer break, consider a trip to Ebino Plateau instead (where summer temperatures rarely exceed 20°C) and stay at the Ebino Kogen Camp Village (えびの高原キャンプ村).
Ebino Kogen or Ebino Plateau at Mt. Kirishima, Miyazaki Prefecture is 1,200 meters above sea level and requires a rather windy ride to get to the top. Public transport to the plateau is limited and is probably jam-packed during peak seasons, so coming by car is probably the best bet. The plateau boasts a number of hikes ranging from gentle climbs that take about two hours to complete, up to full-on all-day hikes that should certainly be planned in advance. If serious hiking isn’t your thing, the area around the plateau has a couple of flat spots for short walks and deer spotting – particularly in the open picnic area near the campsite.
While most visitors to Ebino only come for a day, if you’re looking to get away from it all and just chill out in peace and quiet for a couple of days, that is entirely possible too. There is a large swanky hotel up on the plateau, and just behind it is the campsite where we stayed for our recent visit.
Mid-week in June, off season, there was only one other couple staying at the campsite and we had it pretty much to ourselves – the kind of place that probably gets fully booked throughout the summer but is near deserted at other times of the year. The Ebino Kogen Camp Village is only open from April 1st to October 31st and from December 20th to January 10th of the following year.
Guests can choose from hiring out the purpose-built cabins or bringing their own tents to pitch in the tent area. There isn’t much to say about the tent accommodation other than that there are raised wooden platforms and grassy patches that have been divided into terraces, and that there is a communal area with outdoor picnic benches, etc. You can also hire tents to use if you don’t have your own.
It costs 1,440 yen per night to hire a small tent and if you bring your own tent, it costs 830 yen per night for one person or 1,130 yen for two persons. Plus, there appears to be a general camping charge of 310 yen for adults and 210 yen for children which includes use of the hot springs.
As for staying in the cabins, I’m not sure whether or not the website has been updated since the renovations, but there are several brand new cabins that have just finished being built. So whether or not there is a difference in price, I’m not sure. We stayed in one of the new cabins and it was beautiful – fresh out of the packet, and it looked like it had never been used before.
The ground floor was spacious and clad in pristine tatami, and up a frighteningly steep ladder was the small upper compartment, roughly the size of a large double bed, which is the area we chose to put our bedding in.
The smallest cabin accommodates up to 5 people, and the biggest up to 24, which I guess must have been in a different part of the Camp Village because I didn’t see any cabins of that size! Prices vary depending on the season, and this is another reason why visiting Ebino off season is a great idea (aside from the lack of people and the mildness of temperature). Off season, cabins are priced per person per night ranging from 1,650 yen to 1,950 yen for adults, and from 1,030 yen to 1,330 yen for kids.
During the summer (July 5th to August 31st), cabins are charged per unit per night rather than the number of people filling them. So in the summer, the 5-person cabin is 9,560 yen per night, the 8-person cabin is 13,060 yen per night, and both the 12-person and 24-person cabins cost 19,540 yen per night. If you compare those prices to accommodating 24 people in a swish hotel in the middle of high season, it’s definitely a complete bargain!
There are hot spring bathing facilities on site (not available from December 20th to January 10th) that are usually open from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm, but may be subject to availability. From the outside (which was quite overgrown and unkept at the time of our visit), it looked a bit run-down and small, so be prepared for a queue if you’re going in the summer. Other general facilities include toilets, a food preparation area (with nothing in it at all – you need to bring your own gas cooker, pots, pans, etc.), coin laundry, and fire pit.
Along with bringing your own cooking utensils (and ingredients – you should plan this before coming up to the plateau because the nearest convenience store is about a 30-minute drive away, near Maruo Falls), you can either hire or bring your own bedding as the cabins don’t have anything in them when you arrive. If you are bringing your own, remember that the temperature will be much colder up on the mountain (especially at night) so bring enough warm bedding. At the camp village, you can hire blankets for 190 yen to 230 yen, electric kotatsu (Japanese heated table) for 720 yen to 1,440 yen, firewood and campfire, and other items at per night costs.
Other things to note about your stay at the camp village:
- Deer roam freely through most of the grounds but there are sections where there are protected wildlife and deer can’t go in, so please keep in mind to carefully close all gates behind you.
- Just outside of the camping area is a picnic field with a performance stage – a great place to sit quietly and watch the deer creep out of the forest.
- With milder temperatures up on the plateau, mosquitoes are not such a big problem as in other places but do bring all the necessary sprays and such things with you, just in case.
I’m not a camping fanatic (before Ebino, I can’t actually remember the last time I went camping), but spending a night up on that cool, quiet hilltop is one of my favorite memories from Japan. Tucked up in our cabin with nothing but the quiet sounds of the wilderness around us, the glorious morning sunlight through the trees, and the crispness of a new day – it was beautiful, relaxing, and refreshing. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get away from it all and chill.
Ebino Kogen Camp Village Website *Japanese only