Since World War Two, the Japanese have built a reputation for excellence in many areas. They nearly cornered the tech market in the eighties after all. And with a population of around 1/3 the United States living in an area the size of California, the Japanese know how to live well in tiny spaces.
Renowned for their self-control and ability to make do with less room, the Japanese have also made their mark on architecture and design, from elegantly designed homes with some of the smallest footprints of any on Earth, to micro hotels that feature single sized bed cubbies for rent by the hour.
We found a fun little camper van that hasn’t been mentioned much in American media, or even anywhere in English, for that matter. It’s half RV and half micro hotel.
Tentmushi is an RV built on a mini truck platform.
The Tentmushi has a fun, sporty design based on a minitruck, similar to those sold by Suzuki and others here in the States for property maintenance, landscaping, and other light industrial uses. While the Tentmushi is short on size, it’s anything but short on features, and everything has been designed for fit, function and style.
Back to front and front to back in a basic model with the roof tent collapsed.
Rectangle popup version with canvas on four sides.
We couldn’t find any dimensions, but the tiny cabin looks to be about 10 by 8 feet and about 7 feet tall. The ergonomic design manages to fit a full kitchen, dining, separate sleeping birth and a full bath with shower and toilet into this box without feeling like it was crammed in.
This model is nicely outfitted, notice the open freezer and the large rice steamer.
One site that described outfitting a Tentmushi for a sponsored trip mentioned a 1.3 liter engine, meaning this little beauty would be as light on your pocket book for fuel as it is on space at the campground.
Here’s a slant top model with and without the extended awning.
Tentmushi’s design also includes a lot of neat features integrated in space saving ways. Under the kitchen counter work area, a chest style fridge/freezer tucks neatly away.
Outside, revolutionary design continues with cool roll out awnings to increase outdoor living space, with integrated folding legs.
And up top, the camper has a tent that pops up to create large skylights around the roof and increased head room inside.
On many models, this is a rear-up, angled-down-to-the-front design, like a VW Westfalia, but in at least one image, the tent pops straight up with canvas on all sides.
Rear view of Tentmushi, featuring roof access ladder.
The exterior design features aerodynamic rounded corner trim along each edge. The entrance door on most models has a round “porthole” style window. The rear panel includes a typical RV-style roof access ladder, that also serves as a tie down storage rack. A branded fiberglass storage pod labeled Tentmushi is available to attach on the back for additional space.
What do you think of this Japanese RV compared to those found in the United States? Would you sacrifice living space for fuel-efficiency? It’s worth noting that unlike in the United States, roads are much, much tighter in Japan, necessitating RVs with a short wheelbase and narrow track. Plus, Japan is a much smaller country than the U.S., and has a lot more mountains – so there’s just not as much room to roam, so to speak.