The Shinkansen (Bullet Train) makes it quick easy to access beautiful and interesting destinations which would usually be too far away to consider for a day trip from Tokyo. Japan has some of the most picturesque mountain and lake landscapes on the planet which you can admire from a lofty perch on aerial cable cars and ropeways – a few of the best areas include Tateyama, Hakone and Lake Kawaguchico. Everywhere you go there beautiful temples and shrines to visit and towns like Atami and Hakone offer visitors a chance to partake of a traditional onsen (natural hot spring baths). Do not miss the chance to see the country’s best collection of ancient buildings, temples and shines in Kyoto or to see cherry blossom time at the foot of Mount Fuji.
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The small fishing town and hot spring resort of Atami is located on the north east coast of the Izu Peninsula, and can easily be assessed from Tokyo on the high-speed Tokaido Shinkansen train in less than an hour. Built on the remnants of an ancient volcano crater, Atami has been a popular “onsen” or hot-springs resort for generations. Your visit to Atami would be incomplete without visiting at least one of her hot-spring resorts to “take the waters”. Various options are available including romantic “tubs for two” at the Chikurin-an-mizuno resort. Other attractions in the town include the Museum of Art, the charming Akoa Herb and Rose Garden and the Atami Castle. There are many restaurants offering sublime freshly-caught fish and seafood.
Atami City, Ajiro Bay, Shizuoka, Japan
A visit to Chiba Castle is an easily-achievable half-day excursion from Tokyo using the train from Tokyo to Hon Chiba Station. The Chiba Castle was originally built in 1126 and was extensively reconstructed in 1967; today it is home to the Chiba City Folk Museum. In the museum you can admire a collection of Samurai armory and weapons including swords and guns, but expect to find very little in the way of English descriptions of the exhibits. Although Chiba Castle is by no means one of the most beautiful castles in Japan it is worth a visit for history buffs and those interested in ancient Japanese architecture. The surrounding area is filled with cherry trees which are spectacular when in blossom around the end of March.
Chiba Castle, 1 Chome-6-1 Inohana, Chuo Ward, Chiba, 260-0856, Japan, Phone: +81-4-32-22-82-31
Located northwest of Tokyo in the Saitama prefecture, Chichibu offers a delightful change from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can reach Chichibu in just over an hour by train on a Red Arrow Express from Ikebukuro Station. Once you reach the town you can explore on foot or rent a bicycle. On your way to see the Chichibu Shrine, one of the highlights of your excursion, you will pass several old buildings which artfully combine Japanese and Western architectural features. Other attractions include several Buddhist temples and the Meisenkan, a museum all about the production of silk. At the end of your busy day you can relax at the Matsuri-no-Yu hot-spring complex adjacent to the rail station before returning to Tokyo.
Chichibu, Saitama, Japan
A day trip to Enoshima Island is an ideal way of spending some quality time outside the city. The small island is reached by rail from Shinjuku Station and if you visit on weekends you can take a direct train to Katase-Enoshima Station. Once you reach the island you will find interesting little shopping streets which lead up the steep hill to the Enoshima Shrine, which is spread across three areas of the island. There are sweeping views from the top of the hill as well as a café, various lookout points and the lovely Samuel Cocking Garden. There are plenty of places to stop for a meal and admire the views.
Enoshima Island, Fujisawa 251-0036, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Visiting Tokyo’s Ghibli Museum is an entertaining and enchanting way to spend a day, particularly if you are traveling with children. This is no stuffy old-fashioned museum, but rather a celebration of Japan’s Studio Ghibli film studio, which produced many of the country’s most outstanding animated movies. The main exhibit in the museum is dedicated to demonstrating the art of animation using over-sized mechanical contraptions. Other exhibits include interactive replicas of popular film sets and a mini-theater on the ground floor where you can watch animated shorts. English-speaking guides are a bonus. Tickets to visit the Ghibli Museum are very limited and you will need to book well in advance of your visit.
Ghibli Museum, 1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013, Japan
Located less than one hundred kilometers from Tokyo, Hakone is a popular recreational area which is easily accessible from Tokyo by public transport. Hakone offers day trippers a large selection of attractions and activities including beautiful Lake Ashinoko, many natural hot-water springs, an open-air museum and no less than four art museums. You can go on a sight-seeing cruise to see the Hakone Shrine and boiling sulphur springs in the Owakudani Valley, take a wonderfully scenic ride on the Hakone Tozan Railway or ride the Komagatake Ropeway (an aerial cable car) to the summit of Mount Hakone. Your day trip to Hakone would be incomplete without visiting one of more than a dozen natural hot springs and bath houses for a rejuvenating soak.
Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
If you feel like visiting a coastal town which has good beaches as well as many historical shrines, Kamakura would be a good choice. The town lies less than an hour south of Tokyo in the Kanagawa Prefecture, and was once the political center of Japan during the 12th century. Today the town is a popular tourist destination with several attractions for you to discover, starting with the Great Buddha of Kamakura which was cast in bronze back in 1252. Kamakura boasts no less than twelve Buddhist Zen temples for you to visit, as well as the Hachimangu Shrine which is the most important Shinto shrine in Kamukura. There are good sandy beaches to enjoy as well as the chance to visit Enoshima Island.
Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
You have a choice of three railway companies offering a quick and easy rail trip from central Tokyo to Kawagoe, which was once a major supplier of all types of commodities. Today you can get a taste of the old days in Japan as you walk through the historic Warehouse District which is lined with Kurazukuri (ancient clay-walled buildings and residences) from the Edo period. The Kitain Temple is worth a visit to see the last remaining remnants of the Edo Castle and more than 500 stone statues of the disciples of Buddha. You can get an overview of the history of Kawagoe at the Kawagoe City Museum. You should not leave without visiting Candy Alley to buy traditional Japanese sweet treats.
Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Lake Kawaguchico is the most easily accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes (from Tokyo), offering excellent views of captivating Mount Fuji. The best time to see Mount Fuji is early morning so an overnight stay is highly recommended. You can ride the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway to an observation point on Mount Tenjo, from where you will have a good view of Mount Fuji on a clear day. Interesting museums include the Kubota Itchiku Museum which showcases amazing kimono, the Kawaguchico Museum of Art and the Yamanashi Gem Museum. The area offers good hiking and there are hot water springs to rejuvenate tired muscles.
Lake Kawaguchico, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
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Located between Tokyo and Yokohama, the seaside city of Kawasaki is not a particularly touristy city, but there are a few attractions which make it an interesting destination for day trippers from Tokyo. You can easily travel to Kawasaki by train and travel within the city is easy by bus. Attractions include the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum of Art, which showcases the work of the artist Fujimoto Hiroshi, the creator of the popular robotic cat Doraemon. History buffs will enjoy visiting Nihon Minkaen, an open-air museum which is home to 25 historic Edo-period buildings. Several of these historic buildings house workshops where you can see demonstrations of traditional Japanese crafts.
Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
11.Kasatsu Onsen Town
A day trip to Kasatsu Onsen is a great way to “immerse” yourself in Japan’s popular hot spring culture. Kasatsu has long been one of Japan’s most popular onsen towns due to the excellent quality of the town’s hot springs which are believed to cure just about any ailment.
Kasatsu is located high up in the mountains of the Gunma Prefecture and, depending on the season, you could combine your hot springs experience with some hiking or skiing. In the center of the town you will find the Yubatake, a hot water field which produces the water for all the hot spring resorts (Ryokan) and public baths in the town. Here you can try a free foot soak or pay to enjoy a soak in the public baths.
Kasatsu Onsen Town, Gunma Prefecture, Japan
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Previously the capital of Japan from 794 to 1868, Kyoto is one of Japan’s largest cities, home to a wealth of ancient buildings, including temples and shrines, which survived World War II. Get your day trip off to an exciting start by traveling to Kyoto on the Shinkansen (bullet train) in just over two hours. History buffs should head to the historic district of Higashiyama, the Kyoto National Museum and the Fushimi Sake District. There are numerous temples and shrines to visit in Kyoto including Ginkakuji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple (famous for its large wooden terrace), Nanzenji Temple which is surrounded by a beautiful stone garden and the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which features a spectacular corridor of Torii gates leading into the forest.
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan
Imagine finding a Scottish Castle in the heart of Japan; although this seems very unlikely, it is exactly what you will find when you take a day trip to Lockheart Castle, close to Numata. The castle has a most interesting history – it was transported in its entirety from Scotland to Japan in 1988 via the Siberian railroad and rebuilt and restored in Japan. These days the castle houses a small but interesting museum that is well worth a visit. The grounds of the castle are home to a Teddy Bear Museum and a small chapel where wedding ceremonies are performed. You will also find a tall tower; lovers like to climb to the top and ring the bell as this is thought to guarantee eternal love.
Lockheart Castle, Gunma Prefecture, Japan
14.Misaki Town and Jogashima Island
Located at the tip of the Miura Peninsula, the small coastal town of Misaki and the interesting island of Jogashima are a great day-trip destination from Tokyo. Misaki is widely known as “city of tuna” and is home to some of the best and freshest Tuna in Japan. A typical day trip to the area should include a visit to the Urari Seafood Market (for amazingly fresh Tuna sashimi), lunch at one of the many seafood restaurants in Misaki or on Jogashima Island and an after-lunch walk or hike along Jogashima Island’s picturesque shoreline. Interesting old-world shops in Misaki sell local seaweed and various other souvenirs.
Misaki Town and Jogashima Island, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
15.Mount Takao (Takaosan)
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When you are in the mood for a day of outdoor recreation you can set off to explore Mount Takao, one of Tokyo’s closest outdoor recreational areas. Depending on how energetic (or fit) you are, you can choose to hike up to the top of the mountain or take the easy way to the summit using the cable car or chairlift which will take you half-way up the mountain. If you decide to hike along the main paved trail (Trail No. 1) you will also get to pass most of the mountain attractions including a monkey park, a wild-flower garden and the Yakuoin Temple. There are also two observation platforms offering sweeping views of Tokyo and even of Mount Fuji on clear days. You can reach Takaosan by express train from the city.
Mount Takao, Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan
If you want to get up close to Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji there are a few ways to go about it. If you just want to see this perfectly cone-shaped volcano from a distance (to snap a photo) you can try hopping aboard the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto – this journey offers good views of the mountain about an hour into your journey. However, it is seldom possible to get a really clear view due to clouds and poor visibility, particularly in summer. A better bet is to travel to the hot-springs town of Hakone or to the Fuji Five Lake region and stay overnight so that you can be at the foot of the mountain in the early morning when the views are at their best. To get really up close and personal you can hike Mount Fuji during July and August or go skiing in winter.
Mount Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
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Located at the entrance to the Nikko National Park, which is home to Japan’s most opulent shine Toshogu, and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Leyasu, who was the founder of the Tokugawa shoguns. To visit the Nikko shrines you will need to cross the very scenic Shinkyo Bridge (sacred bridge) which is considered to be one of the most beautiful bridges in Japan. After you have visited the two mausoleums and the Toshogu Shrine you can enjoy exploring this very scenic area on foot along a network of hiking trails. You can travel to Nikko on the famous Shinkansen (bullet train) and the Nikko Line in about 90 minutes, making this an ideal day-trip destination.
Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
18.Nokogiriyama (Mount Nokogiri)
Nokogiriyama offers day trippers a very beautiful landscape to explore on foot as well as amazing views and the chance to see Japan’s largest stone Buddha. Once you reach the Boso Peninsula you can travel to the summit of the mountain by aerial cable car or hike up to the top through thick forest which is home to abundant wildlife. The view from the look-out point is definitely worth the hike or ride and a visit to the Nihon Dera Temple will reveal two huge stone Buddha which have been carved into the side of the mountain. As you tour the temple grounds you will see many statues, culminating in the 31-meter tall Great Buddha. You can attend a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Tea House overlooking the cliffs.
Nokogiriyama, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
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Odawara City is an historic castle town located just south of Tokyo, where it offers visitors an interesting day out. You can travel to Odawara on the Shinkansen in just 45 minutes from central Tokyo. The city is especially popular with history enthusiasts – here you can follow in the footsteps of samurai warriors and shoguns as you explore the Odawara Castle, located close to the train station. After viewing the castle and traditional shops you can try one of the unique Odawara experiences available to tourists, including visiting a sake brewery and a fish market, and learning how to make traditional Japanese foods and crafts. The area is great for scenic cycling and hiking and guided cycling tours are available.
Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
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Located on the western edge of Tokyo, Okutama offers day trippers a very beautiful outdoor recreational area within easy reach of the city. Within 90 minutes of boarding the Shinkansen you will find yourself surrounded by mountains and lakes offering good hiking, biking and boating opportunities. You can also enjoy kayaking, rafting and paddling on the Tama River or cross the famous floating bridge on Lake Okutama. Once you have worked up a thirst your can visit the Ozawa Brewery for a free tour of the facility, which ends in a tasting of several varieties of sake. Your day trip should include a visit to the Nippara Limestone Caves which contain amazing natural stone formations.
Okutama, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
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Conveniently located on the Shinkansen (bullet train) line north-west of Tokyo, Takasaki offers visitors a taste of an older-style Japanese city, with quaint shops, good dining and some cultural activities. Kannonyama is the main touristy area of Takasaki and is where you will find the enormous 40-meter statue of Kannon which offers wonderful views from the top observation deck. To get to the statue you will pass along Ischharamachi shopping street where you will find an assortment of shops and traditional eating places. To remember your visit to Takasaki you can buy a Daruma doll (thought to bring good luck) at the Shorinzan Daruma Temple, or at one of many souvenir shops in the town.
Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, Japan
For a glimpse of some of Japan’s most scenic landscapes you can take a day trip along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which is a sensational scenic route through the Northern Japan Alps. The route is accessed by means of a series of aerial cable cars and trolley buses, including the thrilling Tateyama Ropeway, which is Japan’s longest one-span ropeway. In winter the area is transformed into a snow-covered wonderland and in spring you can make your way on foot through a majestic snow corridor. In summer and autumn people come from miles around to hike a network of scenic trails and to admire the extravagant display of autumn foliage.
Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture, Japan
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Ushiku Daibutsu was the largest Buddha in the world until 2008, according to the famous Guinness Book of Records, and a visit to this very spiritual place deserves a place on your list of day trips from Tokyo. The 120-meter high bronze statue was cast in 1993 to commemorate the birth of Shinran, who founded one of Japan’s most prominent Buddhism sects. When you visit the statue you can take an elevator ride to the top, which is the equivalent of a 35-story building, to admire sweeping views of the surrounding area. The statue is surrounded by pretty flower gardens and there is a small petting zoo for children to enjoy. The giant statue is easy to access from Tokyo by fast train and a local bus.
Ushiku Daibutsu, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
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Your visit to Japan would be incomplete without spending at least one day exploring Yokohama, one of Japan’s largest cities. You can easily get to Yokohama from Tokyo by fast train in about 48 minutes. There is plenty to see and do in the city including touring the large Chinatown, which is home to many Chinese restaurants and shops and features a striking entrance. Other must-see attractions include the beautiful Sankeien Gardens, where you can admire a collection of historic Japanese buildings, the Yokohama Redbrick Warehouse (for shopping) and the Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise (a marine life center and aquarium). The striking Yokohama Landmark Tower offers 360 degree views from its 370-meter top floor observation deck.
Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
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24 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Tokyo, Japan
- Atami, Photo: Richard Yoshida/stock.adobe.com
- Chiba Castle, Photo: joymsk/stock.adobe.com
- Chichibu, Photo: Scirocco340/stock.adobe.com
- Enoshima, Photo: voyata/stock.adobe.com
- Ghibli Museum, Photo: FotoGraphic/stock.adobe.com
- Hakone, Photo: ggfoto/stock.adobe.com
- Kamakura, Photo: StudioHito/stock.adobe.com
- Kawagoe, Photo: yoko_ken_chan/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Kawaguchico, Photo: ahmed/stock.adobe.com
- Kawasaki, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Kasatsu Onsen Town, Photo: Em7/stock.adobe.com
- Kyoto, Photo: Miva Stock and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Lockheart Castle, Photo: sunny/stock.adobe.com
- Misaki Town and Jogashima Island, Photo: PixHound/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Takao (Takaosan), Photo: Premium Collection/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Fuji, Photo: nuttawutnuy/stock.adobe.com
- Nikko, Photo: coward_lion/stock.adobe.com
- Nokogiriyama (Mount Nokogiri), Photo: tongo51/stock.adobe.com
- Odawara City, Photo: Scirocco340/stock.adobe.com
- Okutama, Photo: Stossi/stock.adobe.com
- Takasaki, Photo: stock.adobe.com
- Tateyama, Photo: Trusjom/stock.adobe.com
- Ushiku Daibutsu, Photo: J. Ossorio Castillo/stock.adobe.com
- Yokohama, Photo: Richard Yoshida/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com