So you have checked out all the city sights of Tokyo and are looking for something a bit further out that you can do in a day, well you are in luck, as due to the amazing transport network that covers Japan there is a lot of the country that you can reach within 2 hours. Admittedly the faster the transport the more expensive it is, so here I will show you 5 great day trips from Tokyo using the local transport networks so it won’t cost you the earth.
If you are planning to travel throughout Japan, make sure you get your Japan Rail Pass
before you depart, by using Japan Rail connections your travel to all of these locations would be covered by your rail pass.
About 60 minutes south of Central Tokyo lies the coastal town of Kamakura, once the political centre of Japan. Kamamkura’s most famous attraction is the Giant Buddha in the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. At 13.35m tall it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan and has stood since it was cast in 1252.
A short walk from the Giant Buddha is Hasedera, a temple famous for its eleven headed statue of Kannon, the Goddess of mercy. There is an interesting story behind the carving of the statue with legend having that it was carved from the same tree as the similarly sized Kannon statue at the Hasedera Temple in Nara Prefecture. Hasedera is built along the slope of a hill with tracks meandering through beautiful woods.
There are also numerous other temples and shrines in Kamakura all worth visiting in their own right, to find out about all the attractions of Kamamkura Check out Japan-Guide.com. As well as the ancient temples it is home to some pretty nice beaches where you can enjoy a spot of sunbathing (if you can find a spot…) or a swim in the Pacific Ocean. As is typical of Japan there are also a lot of eating places dotted around the town offering a great range of traditional Japanese cuisine, none of which will disappoint.
From Tokyo catch the JR Yokosuka Line to Kamakura, departing from Tokyo, Shimbashi or Shinagawa Stations. The trip takes around 55 mins and costs about 1,100 Yen (each way)
For a guided tour of Kamakura check out the Kamakura Walking Food Tour.
While Kamakura is great for a quiet day of wandering the old streets and viewing the numerous historic temples and shrines, nearby Enoshima offers more of a relaxing beach escape, with a few shrines and bush walks thrown in, as well as some amazing seafood restaurants. Enoshima Beach is a renowned surf spot, so if you have ever wanted to try surfing this is a great location, check out my previous post on Surfing at Enoshima, otherwise you could just enjoy some time relaxing on the beach lined with temporary restaurants and shaded rest houses. Enoshima Island is connected to the mainland by a bridge and offers some great views of Mount Fuji and Tokyo from the Sea Candle observation tower on the Island. Enoshima Shrine is also located on the Island and houses one of Japan’s three most venerated statues of Benten, the patron goddess of Enoshima. Once you have finished strolling around the Island you can also check out Enoshima Aquarium on the waterfront with its daily dolphin show. After a day in the sun exploring Enoshima Island, why not try one of its numerous fish restaurants which are a local specialty.
From Tokyo head for Fujisawa Station via the JR Tokaido Main Line from Shimbashi or Shinagawa Stations, then switch to the Enoshima Dentetsu Line to Shonankaigankoen Station. The trip will take around 1 hour and cost approximately 1,500 yen.
If fresh air and hiking are more your thing, then Mount Takao (Takaosan) approximately 50 minutes to the west of Central Tokyo is the place to go. It is one of the closest natural recreation areas to central Tokyo. Takaosanguchi Station is located at the foot of this sacred mountain. From the station you can either start hiking up the mountain or take a cable car (930 Yen return) to cut the trek in half. Once off the cable car you get some great views back over Tokyo City from the observation area. Near the observation deck is a Monkey enclosure where you can watch the native Japanese Macaques enjoying themselves. As you leave the monkey enclosure you are able to stroll through the wild flower garden and even enjoy a spot of bird watching from the bird watching post in this garden. As you follow the main track up the hill you will come across Yakuoin, a Shinto-Buddhist temple which is home to the mountain gods (tengu) which you pray to for good fortune. From the summit of Takaosan you will on a good day catch a view of Mount Fuji. There are a whole network of hiking trails around the mountain so it is a good location to enjoy nature within an hour of the city. After working up a hunger hiking the mountain trails there are a good selection of traditional restaurants at the base of the mountain.
The easiest way to get here is on the Keio Line from Keio Shinjuku Station. The trip will take around 50 minutes and cost approximately 390 yen.
The Japanese saying “Never say ‘kekkou’ until you’ve seen Nikko”—kekkou meaning beautiful, magnificent or “I am satisfied”—is a reflection of the beauty and sites in Nikkō.
Approximately 2 hours north of Tokyo at the entrance to Nikko National Park is the ancient city of Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes 103 buildings. This area is famous for its history, nature, hot springs and wild animals that roam freely. From the town itself you can head up into the mountains and take in the natural beauty of the area with prime spots including Lake Chuzenji, and Yumoto Onsen.
While Nikko makes a good day trip from Tokyo, if you have time to spare, two days here would allow you to really make the most of this amazingly beautiful area. To reach Yumoto Onsen is an 80 minute bus ride from Nikko itself. If you decide to overnight in Nikko, check out accommodation options here
The easiest way to get to Nikko is on the Tobu Skytree Line from Kitasenju Station. The trip will take around 2 hours and cost approximately 1,890 yen.
If you would rather leave the sorting out up to someone else, then check out a Nikko National Park day trip from Tokyo.
This one is more for the winter, especially if you are into your snow sports. Japan offers some great ski resorts with one of my favourites being Tsugaike Kogen in Nagano, however if you are in Tokyo in the winter and only have a day to spare then Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort is perfect to get your fix of fresh Japanese powder. Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort is but a 75 minute train ride (Joetsu Shinkansen) from Tokyo Station, while this one isn’t on a local train it is worth it if you want to get some skiing in while in Tokyo. Even if you have arrived in Japan unprepared to go skiing, don’t worry you can rent everything you need at the resort. Upon exiting the train platform at Gala Yuzawa Station you enter the ski shop where you get your tickets, rental gear and last minute snacks before jumping on the gondola for a short ride to the ski area itself. In the ski shop there are changing rooms with lockers where you can safely leave all your street gear for the day. Upon completion of your days skiing you just catch the gondola back down to the base station, get changed, return all your gear and get on the train for the ride back to Tokyo, not forgetting to stock up on beer and snacks in the conbenie in the base station.
There is a good range of skiing options on the mountain as well as a large food court with a good variety of dining options for lunch or if you need to seek refuge from the weather. Find out more about a day trip to Gala Yuzawa here.
The best deals for skiing here are obtained by visiting a JR Travel office at one of the main stations where you can purchase a package deal which includes everything from the train ticket to rental gear and clothing, saving you on the on-mountain price.
Catch the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station (Max-Tanigawa or Tanigawa, from platforms 20 – 23). The trip will take around 75 minutes and cost approximately 6,500 yen. Visit JR Travel Store to get a package deal.
If you are planning some time in Tokyo and want some advice on these options or any other recommendations please leave a message in the comments section below.