The most common question we get asked about van life in Japan is: “how do you take a shower while living in a van?” It is understandable why this question is asked frequently because when living in a normal house, it’s standard practice to have access to running water and be able to take a daily shower.
In a van there is no access to running water but there are a few different options we have found for when it comes to taking a shower while living in a van.
In this blog post, we will introduce 8 different ways you can take a shower while living in a van in Japan.
One of the best things about van life in Japan, is the availability of onsens and sentos everywhere in the country. This is something unique to Japan and hard to find while enjoying van life in other countries around the world.
Onsens can usually be accessed for a minimum fee of ¥600 and the water for bathing in is usually from a natural source and enriched with minerals which are good for your body and health.
Onsens also offer amenities such as hairdryers and complimentary shampoo, conditioner and body soap. If you visit special onsens in hotels or ones which offer nice views while you bathe, you can expect to pay more.
Sentos are public bath houses and don’t usually offer special water for bathing in. They are usually located in towns or cities and can be accessed for around ¥400.
Sometimes sentos can be very old-fashioned and we are sometimes a little nervous to enter since they are usually full of locals but they are a very good budget friendly option for van lifers.
Everyone is usually very friendly and chatty so it’s easy to feel welcome. Sentos sometimes offer shampoo, body soap and hair dryers but it’s not always guaranteed so it is advised to bring your own just in case.
3. Public Beach
Some beaches in Japan which are often used by surfers will sometimes have free showers to use. The only thing is that the water is usually cold and it’s forbidden to use shampoo or body soaps. If you can handle the cold temperature, this is a budget option for taking a shower while living in a van!
4. Shower At A Roadside Station
We have visited many roadside stations while travelling in our van and sometimes they offer showers. It’s not common but we have seen it!
It’s a good idea to check at the information desk inside the roadside station and they will be able to advise you if they have a shower available to use for a small fee.
Some campsites in Japan have showers but they are more often found at campsites where you need to pay. Free government owned campsites don’t usually offer showers.
If showers are included in the fee for your campsite then it might be good value overall since you won’t need to spend money on going to an onsen or sento that day!
6. Solar Portable Shower
A solar portable shower is a very good option if you are wanting to save money and keep costs low while travelling in your van. The solar shower is basically a big bag of water and you can fill it up in the morning and leave it sitting in the sun all day and it will warm the water.
These are popular showers for surfers also since surfers use them to wash the salty water off their wetsuit and surfboard after surfing. If it’s not a sunny or hot day, then you can boil a kettle and mix boiling water with cold water to make the shower a comfortable temperature.
We hang our solar shower on the roof carriers and it works well, but it can also be hung from trees or other tall structures.
If you are staying in a busy campsite, you can use a portable changing room to ensure you have privacy or wear a swim suit while showering.
7. Use A Water Heater
This is another option we have seen other van lifers using in order to take a shower while living in a van, however we have not personally tried it. If you want to use the water heater, you will need access to power so it can work.
It seems that this type of water heater uses around 900 watts so it will require a high capacity portable battery to operate it.
The heater is placed inside a tank of water and it heats the water to the desired temperature. According to reviews we have read on amazon, it takes around 30 minutes to heat 20 litres of water to a comfortable temperature for showering.
For this type of shower system it is common to connect an electric shower pump to the water tank and this can be charged via USB.
8. Hippie Shower
This is when you swim in a river or lake as a substitute for a shower. It’s not a good idea to use any soap or shampoo in a river or lake as this will harm the wildlife, but if you have a river or lake nearby you can enjoy nature’s very own swimming pool!
What is our verdict?
Visiting onsens is our favourite way to take a shower while living in a van but obviously if we do that everyday the cost quickly adds up and it becomes very expensive. That’s why we have our portable solar shower which is not as luxurious but it gets the job done!
We hope this blog post was helpful and gave you some ideas about how you can take a shower while living in a van in Japan!
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