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What's going on in Japan? (No.14)

Hard economic times have helped revive the popularity of domestic camping vacations, prompting carmakers to offer an array of vehicles for people who enjoy the big outdoors. According to the Japan Auto Camping Federation, some 7.5 million people in Japan traveled to a campsite by car at least once in 2009, up 6 percent from the previous year. It was the first year-on-year rise in 13 years, the federation said. The popularity of motor camping holidays had been in steady decline since reaching a peak of 15.8 million people in 1996. Automakers are offering a new breed of no-nonsense camper vans to cater to the revived market. Kimio Mikami, president of Van Shop Mikami in Soo, Kagoshima Prefecture, said the auto camping market was likely to grow, with major automakers getting involved. In 2009, minivans and station wagons made up about 53 percent and about 19 percent of all vehicles used for camping trips, respectively. Full-fledged camping vans accounted for about 5 percent of the market. There were 715 small 660cc camper vans on the roads at the end of March, up 19 percent from a year earlier.

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