Tokyo is an incredibly vibrant city with bright lights, tall buildings, quirky attractions and some of the most amazing food you’ll ever taste. But it also has an impressive rail system with high-speed trains to take you all over the country. Even if you only have a couple of days to spend, it’s definitely worth getting out of the city to explore other unique and beautiful parts of the country too. Here are some of our favorite weekend getaways from Tokyo for your next trip to Japan.
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Best known for its resident deer population and beautiful temples, you can reach Nara from Tokyo by train in about four hours. The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Todai-ji Temple is a prime attraction here, as well as the deer roaming around Nara Park. It’s also nice to take a stroll through the Isui-en Garden to see the lovely flowers and pond, and the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine is worth a visit as well to see the forest, lanterns, and pathways. Stop by the Nara National Museum to learn about local history because the exhibits are bilingual in both Japanese and English. The Mt. Wakakusa area is great for longer hikes as well.
Snow Monkey Park, Yamanouchi
To see the beautiful nature of Japan and the iconic wildlife species that call it home, take a train to Yamanouchi by way of Nagano. Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, also known as Snow Monkey Park, is in this area and home to Japanese macaques that bathe in onsen hot spring pools to stay warm. This is a snowy region that is best to visit during the winter but also fun to visit all throughout the year. Yamanouchi itself is a quaint, small town that offers a welcome reprieve from big-city life in Tokyo. Stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan inn with its own onsen so you can bathe in the natural hot springs too!
One of the most captivating destinations in Japan, Nagano is worth a visit for your weekend getaway, as this was home to the Winter Olympic Games in 1998. Travel to this mountainous and snowy region by train in about 2.5 hours for a very different vibe than Tokyo. Many people come here for the epic skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the region. But you can visit during warmer seasons to see the museums, temples, and gardens too. Top things to see and do here include the Nishi-no-Mon sake brewery, onsen hot spring baths like the Omuro Onsen Makibanoyu, and the Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum.
From the Tokyo Station, you can take a weekend trip to Enoshima to experience this wonderful beach resort area. Here you can find sandy beaches to lie on and island habits to explore. Once you arrive at the train station, you can take a boat or walk to the island to see the lighthouse, gardens, caves, and shrines. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge and popular among tourists looking to see the caves, tidal pools, aquarium, and the Enoshima Shrine complex.
Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations in all of Japan, and you can travel here for a weekend trip from Tokyo in about 3.5 hours. You’ll find plenty of cultural attractions to explore, including its expansive and orange-colored tori gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) is also an iconic site to see, and the Gion district in the Higashiyama ward is an entertainment area known for its Geisha performers.
Mount Fuji is known around the world for its picture-perfect shape and prominence near the city of Tokyo. You can join a tour group to climb Mount Fuji in the summer and enjoy a strenuous hike with epic natural rewards. Also, check out the surrounding lakes and the Oshino Ninja Village to learn more about this aspect of Japanese culture.
For an easy weekend getaway from Tokyo, head to Kamakura, which is only about 60 to 90 minutes away. In this part of the Kanagawa Prefecture, you’ll get to learn about the samurai legends and those iconic swords. This is also a great area to visit shrines and temples that were important to the samurai government here. The Great Buddha of Kotokuin statue shouldn’t be missed while visiting here, but you can also see the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Engakuji Temple, and Hasedera Temple. When visiting this historical region, you’ll feel a distinctive change in atmosphere from your time in the modern and flashy city of Tokyo.
Osaka is a huge Japanese city that is a destination in its own right. But you can also come here for a long weekend trip because it’s less than four hours from Tokyo. This is a port city known for its amazing seafood and laid-back vibe. Foodies love traveling to Osaka for the weekend, and there are also lots of museums and art galleries to explore. Top attractions in Osaka including the Osaka Aquarium, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios, and Bunraku Theater for Japanese puppet theater plays. Minoo Park is a lovely area with a waterfall nearby, and the Dotonbori area is packed with bars and live music for your nightlife scene.
Kawasaki is best known as a brand of motorcycles, ATVs, and jet skis. But it’s also a town in Japan that you can visit on a weekend trip from Tokyo after a short 20-minute train ride. This is home to the large Daishi Temple, the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum, and the ultra-unique Kanamara Festival that features all things phallic because of historical connections to the prostitution industry. Also, check out Yomiuriland to get your adrenaline pumping with roller coasters and bungee jumping opportunities for thrill-seekers.
You can also reach the lovely city of Itoigawa in a little over two hours from Tokyo for a seaside trip you’ll always remember. Learn about local history at the Fossa Magna Museum and then dine on delicious seafood at the town’s many restaurants. The Marine Dream Nou is a seafood market where fishermen sell their catches as well. This is also a lovely place to go for a bike ride along the coastal path that leads to the nearby city of Joetsu City.