I’ve yet to meet a traveller who’s unimpressed with Tokyo. Who could blame you for loving it? Tokyo’s always abuzz with an infectious energy that keeps you awake wondering what’s next.
Even when you tire of the hustle of Tokyo and feel the need to escape, don’t cut your journey short. The regions surrounding the Japanese megapolis are ripe for exploration.
Venture beyond the city and take in one of these superb day trips from Tokyo…
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Best day trips from Tokyo: The top 10 side excursions for travellers
Avoiding rapid-city-hopping syndrome isn’t hard when you’re visiting Tokyo. While I doubt you could run out of things to do in Tokyo, the real advantage to staying longer in Tokyo is to experience life outside of Japan’s biggest city.
Tokyo day trips range from medieval Japanese towns to hot springs resorts (onsen) cradled in the mountains—and nearly everything in between!
Below, I’ve outlined a few of the best day trips from Tokyo. You’ll find quick details on what to expect or seek out in each destination and how to reach them from Tokyo.
Chances are, if you’ve been researching Japanese travel destinations for your first-time in Japan, you’ve already sneaked a peek at Kamakura (even if you didn’t realize it). The day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo is one of the most popular for both foreign travellers and Japanese city-dwellers.
And there’s one (really) big reason.
What to Do in Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu), in front of Kōtoku-in, stands as one of the most famous images of ancient Japanese Buddhism. The 11.3 metre copper Buddha statue will enchant you with both its immense size and graceful details. Staring up at the Great Buddha alone makes a Kamakura day trip worthwhile for most.
Kamakura doesn’t start and end here. The former medieval capital of Japan is scattered with Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples that you can start exploring within minutes of hopping off the train at Kita-Kamakura Station.
The first Kamakura temple awaiting you close to Kita-Kamakura Station is Engaku-ji, a Rinzai Zen temple originally built in the late-13th century.
What stands at Engaku-ji now is, unsurprisingly in earthquake-prone Japan, no longer the original temple. The reconstructions, however, are nothing short of impressive. A walk around the grounds is the perfect place to start your day in Kamakura.
Daibutsu Hiking Trail
After exploring Engaku-ji, sway across the railway tracks towards the Daibutsu Hiking Trail. On the way you’ll pass by a couple important temples including Tōkei-ji and Jōchi-ji. Both temple grounds are worth wandering around before setting course for the Daibutsu Hiking Trail.
The entrance to the Daibutsu Hiking Trail sits near the entrance to Jōchi-ji Temple. Following this hiking trail, a 3-kilometre trek through a lush forest, leads to the Great Buddha of Kamakura. The walk should take you an hour and a half or less. Along the way you’ll stumble upon a couple of Kamakura’s most impressive Shinto shrines including Zeniarai Benten Shrine and Sasuke Inari Shrine. Opt for a slight detour to explore each of these before continuing along the Daibutsu Hiking Trail towards the Great Buddha.
Want to save time and see more on your Kamakura day trip? Book yourself on one of these hand-picked Kamakura tours:
- Kamakura & Tokyo Bay Full-Day Bus Tour from Tokyo: A full-day tour package that digs into Kamakura’s spiritual side with visits to Kōtoku-in Temple, Hasedera Temple, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, and the Edo Period garden of Sankei-en.
- Kamakura Nature & History Walking Tour: Get active on this 5-hour guided walking tour pushing through the hiking trails of Kamakura to find temples, shrines, and blissful views of Kamakura Bay.
- Kamakura and Tokyo Bay Tour from Tokyo: Another spectacular full-day tour that escapes Tokyo for the beautiful temples, shrines, and gardens of Kamakura. The tour concludes with a visit to Enoshima, a small island that’s Tokyo’s most popular local beach destination.
Getting to Kamakura
The easiest (and quickest) way to travel from Tokyo to Kamakura is on the JR Yokosuka line from Tokyo Station. The ride to Kamakura takes about an hour and costs ¥890 ($8.75). Kita-Kamakura Station, one stop before Kamakura, is the best choice if you want to check out Kamakura’s temple scene.
As a side note, this outing is probably not the best time to whip out your JR pass to save some money. The Japan rail pass is worthwhile in many situations, but short trips in and around Japanese cities isn’t one of them. Hold off on activating your JR pass until undertaking a longer journey such as the Tokyo-Kyoto shinkansen.
Want to truly escape into the Japanese countryside while visiting Tokyo? Hakone’s your answer.
The Hakone region is famous for its views of Mount Fuji and its traditional Japanese onsen. (You’ll see what I mean if you visit on a weekend.) Stick to planning your day trip to Hakone on a weekday if you want any chance of expanding your breathing room.
What to Do in Hakone
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
The town of Hakone lies within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The area bubbles with geothermal activity, helping the town’s rise as one of the most popular onsen tourism spots in Japan.
Lake Ashi (Ashinoko Lake)
The most famous views of Mount Fuji arise from Lake Ashi (Ashinoko Lake), formed within a volcanic crater teetering on the edge of town.
Grab a boat tour on Lake Ashi and you can spend a couple hours sailing amid incredible mountain scenery in Hakone.
If you’re looking for something a little more otherworldly, find your way to Owakudani, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park’s steamy geothermic cauldron.
Normally, you can catch a cablecar to Owakudani, but with the recent increase in activity, the area is currently closed off to tourists.
Want to get the most out of visiting Hakone? Enjoy the area to its fullest with these hand-picked tours:
- Day Trip to Hakone from Tokyo: Cram in as much as possible on this action-packed full-day tour. Includes a pirate ship cruise on Lake Ashi, a ride on the Hakone Ropeway, a barbecue buffet lunch, and two hours of shopping at the Gotemba Premium Outlets.
- Mt. Fuji and Hakone Day Trip by Shinkansen: Hop aboard a bullet train to catch Japan at its finest on this full-day tour. Includes stops at the 5th station of Mt. Fuji (2,300 metres above sea level) for epic views of the countryside along with a Lake Ashi cruise and a ride on the Komagatake Ropeway.
- Views of Mt. Fuji Hakone Day Trip: A new private tour that pairs you up with a local to explore the stunning natural landscapes of the Mount Fuji & Hakone area. Includes a sightseeing pirate ship cruise on Lake Ashi, the Hakoe Ropeway, and off-the-beaten-path destinations within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
Getting to Hakone
Figuring out how to get from Tokyo to Hakone can make your head spin with all the different options available. Let me offer up the least complicated: the Odakyu Electric Railway.
From Shinjuku Station you can find direct trains to Hakone. The trains terminate at Hakone-Yumoto and cost ¥2020. The journey is between just under 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can combine the return fare from Shinjuku and unlimited local transportation in Hakone with the Hakone Free Pass (¥5,140 for a 2-day pass).
Wandering around Nikko slips us into a mystical world that we’d all believe had disappeared long ago. Nikko’s temples and shrines, planted upon the misty woodlands, offers perhaps the most rewarding escape within reach of Tokyo.
Unfortunately, the secrets that belie Nikko’s beauty and grandeur are hardly secret anymore. During summer and on weekends, Nikko’s not the quiet woodland getaway its moss-blanketed ancient structures would imply.
What to Do in Nikko
Nikko’s famous red bridge, Shinkyō Bridge, is the original gateway to Nikko’s historical area. An age-old rule prevented anyone except the shogun to cross the bridge. Up until the turn of the century, they seemed to stick to the no-pedestrian rule.
Today, however, you can cross for ¥350 even if the best views of the bridge itself can be taken in from the roadway pedestrian path to the east. To reach Shinkyō Bridge, it’s a 30-minute uphill walk (or 10-minute bus ride) from either JR Nikko Station or Tobu Nikko Station.
Once over the Daiya River (Daiyagawa), the first temple you’ll spot is Rinnō-ji. There are over a dozen buildings sitting on the temple grounds. The most important, Sambutsu-dō (Three Buddha Hall), is currently under construction, and is expected to open up again in around 2020.
Until then, you’ll have to stick to wandering through Rinnō-ji’s other attractions including Shoyoen, a small, but stunning, Japanese garden centred upon a pond and flanked by trees that erupt into transcendent autumn colours annually.
Another of Nikko’s most famous sites is Tōshōgū, a Shinto shrine and the resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Inside the complex, you’ll find over 40 structures springing from the thick forest. Beside the main stone entrance gate (Ishidorii), the imposing Gojūnotō, a five-storey pagoda, introduces Tōshōgū in grand fashion. Further afoot, you’ll walk under Omotemon into the main shrine area. You’ll be immediately reset into medieval Japan as you walk past Sanjinko (Three Sacred Storehouses) and Shinkyūsha (The Sacred Stable).
Like Rinnō-ji, Tōshōgu Shrine is currently under restoration including the famous Yomeimon Gate. Many of the exhibits, however, are still open and worth visiting.
Want to see more in Nikko? Hop onto one of these awesome Nikko day tours:
- Nikko World Heritage Full-Day Tour: Escape Tokyo on this full-day tour focusing on Nikko’s World Heritage sites from the ancient graces of Toshogu Shrine to the wooden architecture of Tamozawa Imperial Villa to the majestic Kirifuri Falls. Tour includes all entrance fees and an authentic Japanese lunch.
- Day Tour to World Heritage Sites in Nikko: Another Nikko World Heritage tour zeroing in on Toshogu Shrine and the natural wonders of Kegon Waterfall and Lake Chuzenji.
- Explore Nikko Tour: A guided tour by local train that includes stops at Toshogu Shrine, Kegon Waterfall, and the Watanabe Sahei Sake Brewery.
- Nikko Guided Tour By Bullet Train: A day tour that combines return transportation by bullet train with a private guided tour of Toshogu Shrine and the Watanabe Sahei Sake Brewery. A great option for anyone wanting to save time in transit.
Getting to Nikko
If you’ve purchased a Japan Rail Pass (check this out if you want to find out whether it’s worth it), JR East Pass or Tokyo Wide Pass, the Tohoku Shinkansen and JR Nikko Line is the only option to get to Nikko from Tokyo without paying an additional fare. It’s also the most inconvenient as the trip involves a transfer at Utsunomiya from the shinkansen line to the JR Nikko Line.
A better option for travellers without a rail pass is the Tobu Railway. The Tobu Railway Limited Express “Kegon” train to Nikko leaves from Asakusa Station. It’s not the most convenient train station in Tokyo, but the area around Asakusa is worth exploring in its own right. At ¥2,670 ($23.73), you’ll find it cheaper to grab a 2-Day Nikko Pass than to pay for a return ticket from Asakusa to Nikko.
Day-tripping between two mega cities might not excite you. Keep in mind though that visiting Yokohama from Tokyo is about as easy as travel comes. Within 30 minutes you can zip between city centres. So, if nothing excites you in Yokohama, you’re not far from where you started. It’s a worth a try, right?
Even with Yokohama’s size, you can’t compare it to Tokyo. For travellers, there are fewer must-see attractions in Yokohama. Don’t let that stop you as you’ll discover that Yokohama is still a pleasant city to stroll around for an afternoon or evening.
What to Do in Yokohama
Despite Japan’s proximity to China, Chinatowns aren’t exactly commonplace in Japan. Yokohama’s Chinatown breaks that stereotype. It’s actually one of the biggest in the world!
Looking for something a little different to eat? You’ll find dishes here more akin to what you’d find in Hong Kong or Shanghai than in a Japanese city. Time your trip to Yokohama for dinner if you want to dive into the food of Chinatown.
If you visit Yokohama at night, there’s no better place to see the city than Minato Mirai. The urban restoration project sought to create a futuristic vibe.
Although it can’t compete with the cyber-skyline of Pudong in Shanghai, Minato Mirai in Yokohama is a fantastic for an evening walk.
Want to get more out of your visit to Yokohama? Try one of these Yokohama tours on for size:
- Yokohama Private Welcome Tour: Explore Yokohama and all its quirks with a friendly & knowledgeable local guide who’ll cater to all your preferences and customize a private tour exactly to your liking.
- Yokohama Japanese Home Cooking Class: If you need a break from sightseeing in Yokohama, sharpen your Japanese culinary skills with this three-hour beginners’ home cooking class. Includes a trip to a local market and a take-home recipe & souvenir.
- Yokohama Afternoon Private Bike Tour: Hit up some of Yokohama’s top sites on this small-group bike tour! Includes stops at Yamashita Park, RedBrick Warehouse, Osanbashi, and the Archives of History.
Getting to Yokohama
From Tokyo Station, you can find JR East trains to Yokohama for ¥470 ($4.17). The trip takes only 25 minutes. Be sure to check the times as there are also slower local trains that can take up to an hour and half to Yokohama!
If your only experience with Narita is flying into the airport, you’re missing out. Although you won’t hear much about Tokyo’s neighbour, a side excursion to Narita is a surprisingly interesting escape from the city (or even from the airport if you have a couple hours to kill).
The small city’s historic centre charms with an ancient Japanese style that’s everything you’d expect.
What to Do in Narita
Narita-san Shinshō-ji Temple
Once you pop into Narita City, grab a map and find your way to Omotesando. This historical street, lined with traditional wooden Japanese shops and restaurants, leads to Narita-san Shinshō-ji, a popular Buddhist temple complex.
Wander through the temple grounds and you’ll find architectural gems like Kōmyō-dō and Great Pagoda of Peace. You’ll quickly see why Narita-san Shinshō-ji is one of the most popular temple complexes in the area!
A huge bonus to visiting Narita and Shinshō-ji is the chance to stroll in Naritasan Park. Stone paths snake through the woodlands alongside beautiful ponds and pagodas.
Visiting in the spring, you’ll wallow among plum and cherry blossoms. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find yourself in Naritasan Park in late February or early March when the Ume Festival is in full swing.
Getting to Narita
The best way to get to Narita from Tokyo is via the Keisei Line. Trains depart Keisei Ueno Station in Tokyo approximately every 20 minutes throughout the day. Expect the ride to Narita City to last about an hour and cost you ¥810 ($7.20).
There’s no better way to get some of the best views of Mount Fuji than to head over to Lake Kawaguchiko. The easiest of the Five Fuji Lakes to reach from the capital throws in postcard-worthy views of Japan’s most stunning natural sight at every turn.
Besides exploring the area around Kawaguchiko for the scenery, there’s a handful of other attractions here worth taking on in the area. Relax in the nearby hot spring onsen or give the kids a little excitement at the Fuji Q Amusement Park.
To time your visit with the finest views (and smaller crowds), aim to start your day trip to Kawaguchiko before 9am. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during cherry blossom season or autumn when the fall colours are out in full-force, you’ll truly see a majestic scene unfold.
Ready to see all that Kawaguchiko has to offer? Check out these awesome hand-picked tours featuring Kawaguchi Lake:
- Mount Fuji Full-Day Scenic Bus Tour from Tokyo: Melt to some of Japan’s finest natural scenery on this 9-hour coach tour to majestic Mt. Fuji. Viewpoints tackled include Oshino Hakkai, Mt. Fuji 5th Station, Oshino Shinobi no Sato, and Kawaguchiko along with a 4D flight simulator.
- Mount Fuji Excursion, Lunch & Fruit Picking from Tokyo: Combine a visit to the Mt. Fuji region with fresh fruit picking, wine tasting, and delicious food on this unique full-day tour. Highlights include sucking in lofty countryside views at Mt. Fuji 5 Station, eating Yamanashi Hoto Hot Pot along Lake Kawaguchi, slinking up the Mount Kachi Kachi Ropeway for mega vistas, and sip local wine at Chateau Katsunuma.
- Private Half-Day Mt. Fuji and Surrounding Area Tour: Save time with this 4-hour fully-customizable half-day trip to the Mount Fuji area. Choose 2-3 destinations including Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway, Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, Kitaguchi Hongu Sengen Shrine or Ide Sake Brewery.
Getting to Kawaguchiko
It’s a little more difficult to get to Kawaguchiko than some of the other destinations. From Shinjuku Station, you’ll need to take the JR Chuo Line to Otsuki Station (fastest train: 70 minutes, ¥2,500). From here, switch to the Fujikyu Line to Kawaguchiko Station (55 minutes, ¥1,140). Note that the Japan Rail Pass doesn’t cover the cost of Fujikyu Line whereas the JR Tokyo Wide Pass does.
Easily one of the most fulfilling outings from Tokyo, the delightful small town Kawagoe has the power to charm even the crankiest of travellers. Strolling along the town’s atmospheric Kurazukuri Street—fringed by well-preserved clay-tiled warehouse buildings transformed into shops, cafés & restaurants—feels like stepping back into a long-lost era in Japanese history.
After grabbing a bite along Kurazukuri Street to fuel up your day, give your sweet tooth a treat at the town’s Candy Alley (Kashiya Yokochō). Along this narrow alleyway, over 20 small shops dole out traditional Japanese sweets from red bean cakes and ice cream to rice crackers and deep-fried cookies.
Looking to get the most out of visiting Kawagoe? Check out these recommended tours:
- Kawagoe Walking Tour: Get to know Kawagoe with the help of a licensed guide on this 4-hour walking tour. Explores some of the town’s best sites including Taisho Dream Street, Kurazukuri Street, Hikawa Shrine, and Kita-in Temple.
- Green Tea Picking and Kawagoe Walking Tour Combo: A unique full-day tour that combines a relaxing day in a green tea plantation with a historical walk in the town of Kawagoe. Includes round-trip transportation from Shinjuku.
- Experience Edo Castle Town Kawagoe Walking Tour: Another fascinating walking tour focusing on top attractions like Kawagoe Ichinagai Street, Dream Street, Spatiotemporal Bell, and Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine.
Getting to Kawagoe
There are several different ways to get to Kawagoe by train from Tokyo. The quickest—and, surprisingly, cheapest—way is via the Tobu Tojo Line. Tobu trains depart frequently from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo for Kawagoe Station taking about 30 minutes. The cost is ¥470.
From Shinjuku, the Seibu Shinjuku Line may be more convenient. Seibu Trains between Hon-Kawagoe Station and Seibu Shinjuku Station run the route in about 50-60 minutes at a cost of ¥500.
If you’re looking to flex your Japan Rail Pass instead, rapid JR trains to Kawagoe Station ply the JR Saikyo/Kawagoe Line in about 55 minutes (¥760).
If dreaming about the castles of Osaka, Himeji and Matsumoto keeps you up at night, then visiting Odawara should be in the cards. Although the city’s namesake Odawara Castle doesn’t quite hold a candle to Japan’s other castles, it’s handsome enough to justify the short trip from Tokyo to check it out.
Besides the castle and its surrounding Odawara Joshi-koen Park (Castle Ruins Park), an epic place to spot Japan’s cherry blossoms in season, Odawara’s popular among the Japanese for its fresh seafood. See what local fishermen are draggin’ in at the Odawara Fish Market Den, where you can enjoy a sushi and rice bowl lunch—if you dare!
Getting to Odawara
Conveniently, Odawara lies along the JR Tokaido line where both shinkansen and local or rapid trains ply the route. Via the JR Tokaido Shinkansen, the trip better Tokyo Station (or Shinagawa Station) takes about 30 minutes. The fare is ¥3,500 each way and can be covered by your Japan Rail Pass.
Alternatively, the regular slower local and rapid trains on the JR Tokaido Main Line will cover the route in about 70 to 90 minutes at just ¥1,500 each way.
Beach bums feeling trapped by Tokyo’s urban sprawl can get much-needed fun-in-the-sun at Enoshima, an island off the Shonan coast just west of Kamakura. To be sure, Enoshima is hardly Bali or even Okinawa. But in the densely-populated Tokyo area, where options for shore-time are limited, this pretty little island is as pleasant an escape as they come.
Besides relaxing along the popular beaches (actually located on the mainland on both sides of the causeway), Enoshima begs nature-lovers and culture-seekers to explore. On the island lies Enoshima Shrine, spread between three different sites and home to one of Japan’s most important Benten statues. Elsewhere on Enoshima, discover the mysterious Buddhist statues inside the Iwaya Caves on the island’s lagged southern coast or relax in the hot spring baths at the Enoshima Island Spa.
Getting to Enoshima
From Tokyo, there are a few options for getting to Enoshima by train. The simplest are the Odakyu Railways Romance Car limited express trains from Shinjuku Station. This route goes directly to Katase Enoshima in one hour (¥1,250), leaving every 1-2 hours on weekends and local holidays.
A slightly cheaper, but less convenient, method is to take a train from Shinjuku to Fujisawa (45-50 minutes; ¥970) and transfer to the Odakyu line for Enoshima (7 minutes; ¥160). For a more scenic ride, get off at Ofuna (40-45 minutes; ¥800-¥920) instead of Fujisawa, and transfer to the Shonan Monorail to Enoshima (15 minutes; ¥310).
Wedged between the megacity giants of Yokohama and Tokyo, Kawasaki is used to getting overlooked and overshadowed. Spend just a day here though and this city of 1.5 million people might well surprise you with its lesser-known & unique charms.
Stick to the city centre and get enchanted by Kawasaki Daishi, a handsome temple featuring beautiful reconstructions of its Henan Period architecture. Among the coolest and most unique things to do in Kawasaki, however, is to tackle Anata no Warehouse, not far from Kawasaki Station.
This massive arcade, built in an abandoned warehouse, re-creates the notorious & derelict Walled City of Kowloon in Hong Kong. For some, this might just be the scariest arcade in Japan. (But not as scary as the actual Walled City was—I promise!)
Feel the dystopian vibe of this seedy neighbourhood come back to life as you sort through the building’s arcade machines, featuring everything from shoot-’em-ups to air hockey tables.
Getting to Kawasaki
With a location between the two biggest cities in Japan, several train lines ply the route between Tokyo and Kawasaki. The JR Tokaido and JR Keihin-Tohoku Lines run between Tokyo Station and Kawasaki while from Shinjuku and Shibuya you can take the Odakyu and Tokyu Toyoko Lines, respectively.
Where to stay in Tokyo: The best hotels for day trippers
With a city as spread out as Tokyo, choosing where to stay can sometimes be a challenge. To take on most of these day trips, I’d recommend staying near a major transport hub like Shinjuku Station or Tokyo Station. Here are a couple top Tokyo hotels to check out:
- Tokyu Stay Shinjuku: A fantastic 3-star hotel that’s located just 8 minutes from Shinjuku Station and features comfortable rooms that are both clean & budget-friendly.
- Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo: A superb mid-range pick that’s about 3 minutes from Tokyo Station by foot. When you’re not out day-tripping the bustling districts of Akihabara and Ginza are close by for your shopping & eating pleasure.
- Park Hyatt Tokyo: One of the city’s premier luxury hotels soaring high above Shinjuku. Settle down into your room and watch the majesty of Mount Fuji or the bright lights of the city overtake you as you sink into your cloud-like bed lined with Egyptian cotton. Shinjuku Station is a mere 15-minute walk away.
Summary: The top Tokyo day trips
- Looking for more Japanese urban buzz? The big cosmopolitan vibe of Yokohama, Japan’s second biggest city, will keep your engines roaring.
- Want to escape to ancient Japan? The delightful cultural treasures of Nikko aren’t just the best around Tokyo, but some of the best in the country. Breathe in its fresh mountain air and get mystified by its ancient moss-covered temples for an absolutely unforgettable Japanese travel experience.
- Fan of the great outdoors? Some of the best scenery in Honshu unfolds around Hakone. Take in the lakes and geothermal wonders of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park with the graces of the mysterious Mount Fuji looming in the background.
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