Looking to escape the hustle of Japan’s capital? Instead of cutting your journey short, explore beyond the city on some of the must-do day trips from Tokyo. The regions surrounding the Japanese megapolis are ripe for exploration, teeming with some of Japan’s most interesting travel destinations. From marveling at the Great Buddha in Kamakura to exploring blissful temples & shrines in Nikko, supercharge your getaway with this complete Tokyo side trips guide!
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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 travelers and Japanese city-dwellers.
And there’s one (really) big reason.
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-meter 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.
After exploring Engaku-ji, sway across the railway tracks towards the Daibutsu Hiking Trail. On the way, you’ll pass by a couple of 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-kilometer 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.
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 ¥850-¥1200. 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 & around Japanese cities aren’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 is 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 visiting Hakone on a weekday if you want any chance of expanding your breathing room.
If you’re interested in more active pursuits, Hakone is, thanks to its incredible natural attractions, one of the best places to cycle in Japan. Bike rentals are available in town, although a cycling adventure might be better suited for a slightly longer stay in Hakone than a day trip.
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.
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 of 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 cable car to Owakudani, but with the recent increase in activity, the area is currently closed off to tourists.
Getting to Hakone
Figuring out how to get from Tokyo to Hakone can make your head spin with all the different options available. The least complicated is the Odakyu Electric Railway.
From Shinjuku Station, you can find direct trains to Hakone. The trains terminate at Hakone-Yumoto and cost ¥2,470 (Limited Express Romancecar). 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 (¥6,100 for a 2-day pass).
Wandering around Nikko slips travelers into a mystical world that we’d all believe had disappeared long ago. Nikko’s temples and shrines, planted upon the misty woodlands, offer 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 isn’t the quiet woodland getaway its moss-blanketed ancient structures would imply.
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 from crossing the bridge. Up until the turn of the century, they seemed to stick to the no-pedestrian rule.
Today, however, you can cross for ¥300 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. Over a dozen buildings sit 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. This small but stunning Japanese garden, centered upon a pond and flanked by trees, erupts into transcendent autumn colors 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.
Besides the main stone entrance gate (Ishidorii), the imposing Gojūnotō, a five-story 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.
Getting to Nikko
If you’ve purchased a Japan Rail Pass, 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 travelers 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 ¥2,120, 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 centers. So, if nothing excites you in Yokohama, you’re not far from where you started. It’s worth a try, right?
Even with Yokohama’s size, you can’t compare it to Tokyo. For travelers, 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.
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 fantastic for an evening walk.
Getting to Yokohama
From Tokyo Station, you can find JR East trains to Yokohama for as little as ¥500. The trip takes only 24 minutes. Be sure to check the times, as there are also slower local trains that can take up to an hour and a 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 neighbor, a side excursion to Narita is a surprisingly interesting escape from the city. (Or even from the airport if you have a couple of hours to kill.)
The small city’s historic center charms with an ancient Japanese style that’s everything you’d expect. Once you pop into Narita City, grab a map and find your way to Omotesando. This historical street is lined with traditional wooden Japanese shops and restaurants. The street 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 the Great Pagoda of Peace. You’ll quickly see why Narita-san Shinshō-ji is one of the most popular temple complexes in the area!
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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 just over an hour and cost you about ¥800.
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 are 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 9 am. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during cherry blossom season or autumn, when the fall colors are out in full force, you’ll truly see a majestic scene unfold.
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: 65 minutes, ¥2,200). From here, switch to the Fujikyu Line to Kawaguchiko Station (54 minutes, ¥1,100). Note that the Japan Rail Pass doesn’t cover the cost of the Fujikyu Line, whereas the JR Tokyo Wide Pass does.
Easily one of the most fulfilling outings from Tokyo, the delightful small town of Kawagoe has the power to charm even the crankiest of travelers. 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. You can indulge in everything from red bean cakes and ice cream to rice crackers and deep-fried cookies.
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 58 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 64 minutes (¥876).
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 is 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 from Tokyo Station (or Shinagawa Station) via Shin-Yokohama takes about 35 minutes. The fare is ¥4,900 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 1 hour and 40 minutes at just ¥1,400 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.
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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 80 minutes (¥650). Check the timetables here.
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 center 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 neighborhood come back to life as you sort through the building’s arcade machines, featuring everything from shoot-’em-ups to air hockey tables.
(NOTE: Unfortunately, Anata no Warehouse permanently closed in late 2019.)
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. From Shinjuku and Shibuya, you can take the Odakyu and Tokyu Toyoko Lines, respectively.
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