• 13 March 2020

Tokyo is Japan’s electric capital city. It’s charged with tradition, culture, and a little bit of chaos. Likewise, there are so many other areas just outside of Tokyo that are equally captivating. If you’re touring Asia, you might as well visit as many places as you can.

Thanks to Japan’s public transport system, which is among the best in the world, travelling in and out of Tokyo is both easy and convenient. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, there are so many areas within easy reach from the capital city.

If you’re looking for fun things to do outside Tokyo, here are the best day trips:

1. Kamakura

A trip to Kamakura is one of the most popular Tokyo day trips. This beautiful seaside Japanese city was once the medieval capital of the country. It’s notable for its Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, lush gardens, and bamboo forests.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is among the most famous attractions. This large, 11-metre tall bronze statue is a symbol of Japan.

Kamakura is approximately a one hour train ride from Tokyo.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura known as Daibutsu at the Kotokuin Temple in Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura known as Daibutsu at the Kotokuin Temple in Kamakura

2. Odawara

Odawara is a scenic city in central Japan. Its main attraction is the reconstructed 15th-century Odawara Castle. This Japanese castle complex contains a museum that houses ancient armour and weaponry.

The Castle Ruins Park is a spacious and scenic area. It’s a lovely place to wander around and admire the magnificent Japanese landscaping. There are also many other museums in the city, including the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History and the Okada Museum of Art.

Odawara City is just under an hour’s train ride from Tokyo.

Odawara Castle is a landmark in the city of Odawara
Odawara Castle is a landmark in the city of Odawara

3. Enoshima

Enoshima is a picturesque island off the coast of Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. It makes for a lovely day trip from Tokyo for travellers wishing to explore a coastal area of the country. It’s just a 90-minute train ride from Tokyo.

The island is known for the Enoshima Shrine, which is a site composed of three smaller shrines: Hetsumiya, Nakatsumiya, and Okutsumiya. They are found in three separate locations around the small island.

The Iwaya Caves feature Buddhist statues inside. There are also paths you can wander by candlelight. For a leisurely activity, the restorative Enospa Hot Springs are the perfect place to unwind on the island.

Zuishin gate at the Enoshima shrine
Zuishin gate at the Enoshima shrine

4. Lake Kawaguchiko

Lake Kawaguchiko is about a 2-hour train ride from Tokyo. It’s located near the majestic Mount Fuji. On a clear day, you’ll be able to admire an unobstructed view of the volcano – talk about a travel bucket list experience!

The lake itself is crystal clear and calm. Oishi Park is a beautiful urban area near the lake where lavender seasonally blooms. It’s one of the most popular places to take photos of Mount Fuji.

Besides exploring the area around the lake, there are a handful of other attractions close by.

Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum contains a collection of antique music boxes. Live musical performances are also regularly given.

Mount Fuji and Swans at Lake Yamanakako
Mount Fuji and Swans at Lake Yamanakako

5. Kawagoe

Visiting the city of Kawagoe will make you feel as if you’re travelling to a bygone era in Japanese history. It’s a castle town that dates back from the Edo Period, (also known as the Tokugawa period) and features many well-preserved sites. Kita-in is a Buddhist temple that contains remnants of the former Edo Castle.

For travellers with a sweet tooth, stroll the narrow alleyway of Candy Alley (Kashiya Yokochō). You’ll find over 20 shops filled with traditional Japanese sweets. Try red bean cakes, rice crackers, and deep-fried cookies. Then, wander over to Kurazukuri Street and see the old merchant homes and clay warehouses.

Kawagoe is one of the more unique cities near Tokyo and only about a 90-minute train ride away.

Koedo Kawagoe, which is Japanese old town area in Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Koedo Kawagoe, which is Japanese old town area in Saitama Prefecture, Japan

6. Nikko

Nikko is one of the most peaceful places to visit outside of Tokyo. This serene city is characterized by an elegant landscape and beautiful temples and shrines. It’s located just two hours from Tokyo via train.

Nikkō Tōshō-gū is an ornately decorated Shinto shrine set in the forest. The complex contains more than a dozen different buildings and structures. The red Shinkyō Bridge is set amongst lush woodlands and is effortlessly captivating.

As far as nature spots go, the Kegon Waterfall and Lake Chuzenji are must-sees, especially during autumn when they contain colourful foliage.

Scenery of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Nikko city
Scenery of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Nikko city

7. Hakone

Hakone is a mountainous town just over an hour by train from Tokyo. It’s known for its hot springs and natural beauty. It’s another picturesque area of the country that offers phenomenal views of Mount Fuji.

Japan’s first open-air museum, the Hakone Open-Air Museum, features more than a thousand sculptures and works of art. The famous Hakone Shrine is a Japanese Shinto shrine perched on the shores of Lake Ashi.

For a peaceful activity, visit Ōwakudani, a volcanic valley with hot springs. This site was created around 3000 years ago and is a popular tourist site for relaxation accompanied by scenic views.

Owakudani sulphur hot spring near Lake Ashi in Hakone
Owakudani sulphur hot spring near Lake Ashi in Hakone

8. Yokohama City

If you’re looking for short trips from Tokyo, Yokohama City can be reached in just 30-minutes via train. It’s the second most populated city in Japan. Like Tokyo, it contains all the wonders of a big city.

For noodle fans, the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is a large food court that offers many different flavours of Japanese ramen noodle soup. The CupNoodles Museum is dedicated to instant noodles and Cup Noodles. It features four floors of displays and attractions.

Yokohama also contains a massive Chinatown with hundreds of Chinese restaurants and shops. For something a little quieter, the Sankei-en Garden is a traditional Japanese garden that features historic structures from different areas of Japan made during different periods in history.

Side trips from Tokyo are a great way to explore more of Japan. There are so many different options available, and all of the locations we’ve included can be reached in about two hours, or less.

Yokohama city in Japan
Yokohama city in Japan

Even if you’re travelling alone, thanks to Japan’s excellent public transport, moving around the country has never been easier. Whether you’re wanting to explore more of Japan’s traditional culture, natural scenery, or history, you’ll have a great variety to choose from.

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