Tokyo has plenty to offer to visitors and residents, but for those times when you need something different, something slower, something roomier, here are few select days trips out of Tokyo.
Take a day off and head to the beaches at Enoshima and see what the Island has to offer. Visit the main Enoshima shrines located all around the island, walk through the Iwaya Caves and take in the views from the Enoshima Sea Candle lighthouse. The southern coast of the island hide jagged cliff landscapes and peaceful seaside spots. Grab lunch over the day at a restaurant and try out the local delicacy shirasudon.
Most people escape here, one of the most scenic areas near Tokyo, for day, but you can indeed do it in a day. You can enjoy a view of Lake Ashi, the endless forest and even Mount Fuji depending on the weather. Stop buy Owakudani, famous for its hot springs and volcanic activity, where you can eat black boiled eggs. Then head down to Hakone Open Air Museum where about 100 contemporary and classical sculptures are on display.
- Hakone’s historic Western-style Fujiya Hotel.
- The Museum of The Little Prince, a museum featuring the famed children’s author.
Often overlooked is Tokyo’s near neighbor of Ibaraki Prefecture, bordered by Chiba to the south and Fukushima to the north, Tochigi on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east. However, within the prefectural borders there are many fascinating, beautiful and unique destinations, including the historic city of Tsuchiura and Lake Kasumigaura, the second largest lake in Japan.
- Mito, the largest city in Ibaraki, which features the famous Kairaku-en Park and the Tokugawa Museum.
Wondering what Japan was like before the skyscrapers and buildings took over its cities? Head down to Kamakura, Japan’s one-time capital, and visit its collection of temples such as Hasedera, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and Kenchoji. The visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Daibutsu (the Great Buddha) and some time spent by the sea.
The proximity of Mount Kumotori — and indeed the whole Okutama/Chichibu area — to the capital make for an easy getaway. A typical itinerary might be as follows: Leave Tokyo or Yokohama early, arriving at Okutama Station by 9 a.m. Take a Tabayama-bound bus from outside the station to one of the main starting points (Kamozawa or Omatsuri), hike up through the valleys to Ishi-one ridge and then strike out, under the open sky, to the west.
Mount Takao, a much shorter trip than going to Mount Fuji, is a favorite getaway among Tokyoites who need a deep drink of nature. Less commonly known among travelers from abroad, the 599-meter-high sacred mountain offers the opportunity to hike or just enjoy a cable car ride to the top. If the weather cooperates, visitors can get a wonderful view of Tokyo and Mount Fuji.
The mountain resort town holds some of the most important shrines in Japan, including Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has the original carving of the Three Wise Monkeys. Nikko is very popular in autumn with its forests becoming covered in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. Nikko also has Edo Wonderland, which encompasses nearly a half million sq. meters, where visitors can experience a recreated Edo Period village that is fun for the whole family.
- More about Edo Wonderland.
- An overview of the three most famous shrines and temples at Nikko, all of which are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Nikko Kanaya Hotel whose past guests include Frank Lloyd Wright.
- Lake Chuzenji is a popular nature spot located about one hour from Nikko Station.
Crawling in and out of graves isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. For those willing to give it a try, though, Yoshimi Hyakuana in Saitama Prefecture makes for an interesting day trip out of Tokyo. Literally meaning, “100 holes of Yoshimi,” the Yoshimi Hyakuana National Historic Site preserves 219 ancient tombs carved into a soft sandstone hillside between the sixth and seventh centuries. The tombs are located about 2 hours northwest of Tokyo.
- The small town of Chichibu with its hiking trails and impressive temples.
- Take a boat tour down the Ara River.
For a quick time slip, visit Kawagoe, a short trip north of Ikebukuro. Stop by Kita-in Temple and Honamaru Goten to learn more about the area’s past and see buildings from the Edo Period. For a variety of traditional cakes and sweets, make sure to check out Kashiya Yokocho (Candy Alley).
Cycling in Tokyo has its pleasures, but immersion in nature usually isn’t one of them. One place that is bicycle-friendly is Sayama Hills, a forested region bordering western Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture that includes Lake Tama and Lake Sayama, reservoirs that supply water to Tokyo. It’s better known to anime fans as the setting for “Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro),” the 1988 Hayao Miyazaki classic.
Roughly a 30-minute express train ride from Shinjuku, Shibuya or Shinagawa, Japan’s second largest city has plenty to offer. You can stroll around Yamashita Park, dine in Chinatown or make your own customized cup of noodles at the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum (yes, that’s how they chose to spell it). Probably the best thing for harried Tokyoites are the wide sidewalks for leisurely strolls. To top it off, stay until the sun goes down and enjoy Minato Mirai by night from the 69th floor Sky Garden of Landmark Building.
- Yokohama’s annual The International Street Performers Festival.
- Hakkeijima — Yokohama’s theme park by the bay.
- Yokohama’s stunning Sankeien garden that has structures moved straight from Kyoto.
- Yokohama’s Tsurumi Ward which is a little slice of Okinawa in Kanto.
A short trip from Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station, Yokosuka is most famous as the home of the U.S. Navy. On special days throughout the years, visitors with valid passports can take a tour of a modern Navy vessel. There is also Mikasa Koen Park, where visitors can board the Mikasa, the rather unimposing 15,000-ton battleship. The city is also a great place to buy naval paraphernalia and try out the famous Yokosuka curry.