Why would you want to venture beyond Tokyo’s attraction-filled core when in Japan? The country is like a ball of yarn that unravels further the more you explore it. Just the small portion surrounding the city’s heart is brimming with interesting destinations! From scenic mountains, sacred temples to quirky amusement parks, there are a million reasons to venture out on day trips when stationed in Tokyo. After reading our list of the very best excursions, and learning that so much is easily accessed by the elaborate yet sensible train system, you may find yourself spending more time here than you thought.
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Expect everything you’d find at the California and Florida Disney Locations—fun characters, themed food, a magical castle and so on. But anticipate an even more elevated experience, as Japan has been allowed to put their own spin on things, which they’ve done ever so slightly. DisneySea is a park with an appeal to older kids and adults and is melded right in with Tokyo Disneyland. Intricately designed “ports of call” like a Venetian village with a river you can take a gondola ride in, or a New York City style section, come together to make a for a mesmerizing, realistic environment. If you weren’t a Disney fan before, you might be converted after spending the day at Tokyo’s version.
Old structures and homes still stand in Kawagoe, which has been dubbed a “castle town”. You’ll want to see Edo castle, along with Buddhist sculptures that surround it. Meiji-era Candy Alley is literally what it sounds like – a walkway in town, where you can buy sweet treats. A long-held tradition, merchants have been selling confections here for ages—there’s a total of 20 shops. From potato based donuts to delicate rice balls, this tight-knit community has truly put together a special experience.
Misaki Port and Jogashima Island
Fish lovers rejoice and prepare to teleport from bustling city life to a place with major small-town vibes in just over an hour. Araihama beach has beautiful water and is a good spot to relax. Visitors can also explore the Kainan Shrine, an aquarium, and unbelievably fresh fish dishes. Famous for its tuna, local fisherman prepare some pretty supreme sashimi and sushi from the daily catch, that alone makes it totally worth the visit.
There is more than one way to reach Japan’s highest and most climbed mountain from Tokyo. Your first option is the Tokaido line which leaves from Tokyo Station, then stops in Kozu, where you’ll board the Gotemba line. Probably the more thrilling choice is the famed bullet train, also known as the Shinkansen. Views from the window are particularly stunning in the summer according to Japan Rail Pass – make sure you’re seated on the right side when departing from Tokyo, for the best view.
Hakone is known for lakes that are accessible via pirate ships, onsens (aka hot springs) and a great view of Mount Fuji, and it resides in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Mount Fuji and Hakone trips can be combined via a bus tour, but travelers can opt to separate the adventures to get more out of one destination. Available to foreign passport holders is the Fuji Hakone Pass, which provides unlimited transportation via bus, cable cars and trains throughout this particular area. So if the mountain and this natural landscape is your focus when diverting out of Tokyo, a Japan Rail Pass is financially a phenomenal choice.
Probably one of the shortest day trips, Kawasaki can be accessed via a 17-minute train ride. The Daishi Temple is a significant site to visit as it dates back to the 1100s, although it underwent major reconstruction after the war. Shopping areas outside the temple are similar to those of Tokyo’s Asakusa, offering many traditional foods and goods like Daruma dolls. Pay attention to the areas you’re allowed to eat in because this is sacred ground and food is a “no no” in various spots.
A blend of culture and nature sit two and a half hours from Tokyo and also features one of the most extravagant shrines in the country, Toshogu. Within Nikko National Park, it’s an optimal place for a hike, embellished with waterfalls and onsens. Autumn is the most recommended time to visit, as the trees take on a fiery orange hue throughout October.
Just one hour from Tokyo, Kamakura offers a traditional experience which is a refreshing break from the city. Traditional tea houses allow weary travelers to relax and refuel in an enriching environment significant to Japan’s past. Visiting this proximal village allows for hikes amongst pieces ancient history of the country, without having to trek to further away places. Some perceive it as being very similar to Kyoto, as it’s accented with age-old structures and temples, and authentic shops and restaurants add to the appeal.
It’s colorful, your favorite Japanese characters are everywhere, and the cuteness level is off the charts. Dive into performances, animated movies, parades and meet and greets with Hello Kitty, Gudetama the lazy egg and other popular figures. Small rides like little indoor boats and kitty carts accommodate all ages, and the shows are downright spectacular. Restaurants serve up outlandish dishes from every kid’s dreams, such as rice shaped like Hello Kitty, aka Character Curry, Gudetama beef bowls, and the prettiest pastries you’ve ever seen. You can travel to Sanrio Puroland in minutes, and trust us, it’s one of those essential Japan experiences.
Some come for the ancient castle ruins, while others may have an affinity for the salted fish and pickled plums. A lot of tradition resides in Odawara. Also serving as a playground for both adults and children, Odawara Wanpaku Land features pony rides, playgrounds and a small train while a neighboring park for the older folk to traverse zip lines, platforms and nets.
It only takes around 30 minutes to get to the second largest city in Japan, and as counteracting as it is, one of the largest Chinatowns in the world is right here. Beautiful, intricate Chinese architecture and accents envelop an abundance of eateries and shops with both Japanese and Chinese influence. Development of this charming portion of Yokohama began in the 1850s when a foreign trade port was opened. What we have now is a vibrant mesh of cultures that should be sightseeing essential.
Yes, Japan has its own “wine country,” located in the lovely Yamanashi Prefecture. Sake may be your authentic drink of choice in the country, but if you don’t try their seamlessly cultivated wines, you’re missing out. Grapes, plums and peaches are grown in Katsunuma, then are turned into delicious creations—plum wine is gaining serious notoriety and delivers a balanced sweet and tart flavor. Drink it in, physically and mentally, because as with most wine regions, the area is jaw-dropping, surrounded by lushly coated mountains and rolling vineyards. And of course, there’d be hot springs to soak in nearby!
Tokyo and Mount Fuji are in view from the top, so if you’re not planning on climbing Fuji due to crowds, this is a great alternative. Located in Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park, there are diverse natural settings to indulge in, and a network of trails to traverse. Japan-guide.com suggest trail number 1, as it’s paved and wide. However, taking other trails will reduce the amount of traffic. Chairlifts and cable cars whisk passengers to the summit faster—walking takes about an hour and a half. At the top is the famed Monkey Park, and the sacred Yakuoin Temple. Bonus, this is an easy destination to reach via train.
Barely over an hour from Tokyo, visitors can actually have a bit of a beach vacay when visiting Tokyo. A bridge connects the mainland to the island for easy transit to the city’s closest beaches. While the sand and water are “plain” in comparison to the turquoise hues and intricate rock formations at other Japanese islands, it’s still a pretty cool experience featuring shrines, temples, hot springs, authentic food and even an aquarium.
Kusatsu Onsen Town
Gunma Prefecture is a mountain nook of Japan, although it looks like something from a mystical dreamland. Piping water flows from Mount Kusatsu-Shirane to feed the steamy, aqua soaking pools surrounded by mossy rock. Yumomi is the method they use to cool the waters in an enormous area in the heart of downtown, which is pretty neat to watch. Biking trails surround the area, with picturesque views, so it’s an all-around revitalizing way to spend the day. TokyoCheapo.com suggests taking the bus if you’re on a budget, or the Shinkansen, as other trains take about four hours to reach the destination. This would make it hard to visit Kusatsu in a day.