Although there’s no shortage of things to see and do in inner Tokyo, sometimes it’s good to escape the madness of the city and embrace a more laid-back side of Japan. Thanks to Tokyo’s central location and well-connected transport network, there are so many incredible destinations just a few hours away by train or bus. Whether it’s snow-capped mountains, coastal views, or a touch of a Ghibli-style adventure, here are a wide variety of excellent nearby destinations to explore.
Visit Japan’s most famous resident, Mt. Fuji
A trip to one of the world’s most famous and well-recognized mountains is a must for any traveler’s bucket list. From Tokyo, it’s an easy day-trip adventure. There are several bus and tour packages that offer round trip journeys for both travelers wanting to be shown around by a guide, or those who want to explore on their own. It’s worth doing some homework to find one that suits your schedule and travel style best.
Once you arrive at the foot of the mountains, you’ll discover that there’s plenty to explore – from the scenic Kawaguchiko Lakeside Park and Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko) region to the hair-raising roller coaster rides of Fuji Q. It’s a day trip that can suit travelers both young and old.
In summer, visitors can attempt to scale Mt. Fuji, but that’s typically recommended for extended (overnight) stays, as the climb can take anywhere from 5 to 10 hours (depending on the hiking route), and many climbers who rush are prone to altitude sickness. Alternatively, to get another excellent view of the region, there’s the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway (also known as the Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway).
If you are able to stay longer, we’d recommend it as you’ll have plenty of more places to explore. However, if you are able to plan well and get up early, you can definitely enjoy a jam-packed day of adventuring in the Mt. Fuji area.
Admire the scenes at Ashikaga Flower Park
Roughly a two-hour ride from Tokyo, Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture is home to an incredible selection of seasonal flower species that look stunning year-round. The best, and certainly the most popular time to visit, however, is during The Great Wisteria Festival, which runs through April and May. It’s during this time of year, when the garden’s 350 trees are in full bloom, including one particular tree which locals say is over a century old.
With its umbrella-like branches spanning an area of almost a quarter of an acre, it’s a sight to behold. Depending on the time of your visit, you’ll be greeted by different shades of Wisteria, ranging from the classic purple flower to bright white wisteria, and even shades of yellow.
In recent times the park has also become a popular destination even in winter, as guests flock to the area to admire the hundreds of thousands of multi-colored LED lights that bathe the grounds and their surroundings in a stunning light show. Around the park, you’ll also find restaurants and shops selling local products and gifts. A popular item among visitors is the wisteria soft-serve ice cream, whose vibrant purple color rivals that of the real flower.
Explore coastal Kamakura and Enoshima
As the weather starts to heat up between June and August, many Tokyo and Yokohama locals flood to the Kamakura and Enoshima coast to escape the heat and embrace the laid-back beach life. Located about an hour from central Tokyo and 30 or so minutes from Yokohama by train, Kamakura is a scenic and historic town that, during the late 12th century, was the political capital of the country.
The township of Kamakura is surrounded by a green and hilly landscape. There are a number of short hikes through the forest, leading through the hills and linking a number of temples. Many of the hikes are only 30 to 90 minutes and do not require much equipment beyond some good walking shoes and some refreshments. Make sure to check the weather, as the tracks can get slippery in rainy conditions.
A popular hiking course, the Daibutsu Hiking Trail, leads hikers from Kita-Kamakura station down to the Daibutsu (Big Buddha). It can be a great way to see both the nature and traditional sights of Kamakura.
Thanks to its impressively maintained architecture, Kamakura is known colloquially as ‘Little Kyoto.’
Take a stroll down Komachi Dori and try a little bit of Kamkura’s traditional flavors. The area is famous for its shirasu (whitebait), and there’s an endless amount of shirasu dishes and snacks you can pick up. Kamakura is also a great place to sink your teeth into some traditional wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) or sweet potato korokke (croquettes).
Once you’ve had your fill of Kamakura’s delicacies, hop on the Enoshima Electric Railway to the coast of Enoshima to dip your toes in the sea and explore Enoshima’s hidden island shrines.
Learn about traditional Tokyo in Shibamata
While it’s technically still part of the city, this eastern corner of Tokyo, sitting on the border of Chiba Prefecture, feels worlds away from the busy and bustling Tokyo everyone thinks of. Embodying old-style shitamachi (downtown) charm, Shibamata is an underrated day-trip destination for those who want to embrace the authentic experience of the old and traditional Tokyo without having to deal with the crowds that flood the streets of Asakusa. Relatively untouched by international tourism, Shibamata has two main tourist attractions. First is the impressive Taishakuten Temple.
Home to a garden complex and a 500-year-old pine tree that’s said to resemble a dragon, Taishakuten Temple’s intricate wood carvings and stunning natural surroundings will whisk you off to another world entirely. It can become one of the most authentic experiences in Tokyo.
You also can experience the transportation of old; the Yagiri no Watashi river crossing, the only remaining traditional boat river crossing in Tokyo is a 10-minute walk from Shibamata station. For 200 yen, the boat will take you across the Edo river into Chiba prefecture; the same path the ferry has taken for over 400 years.
The neighborhood’s second claim to fame is its role in the film franchise Otoko wa Tsurai Yo (literally “It’s tough being a man”). The Japanese series ran between 1969 and 1995 and released 48 feature films in total. The story is based around the adventures of protagonist Tora-san, a loveable man who was unlucky in love. At the end of each film, Tora-san would return to the family dango (sweet dumplings) shop in Shibamata. Of course, you too can pick up some dango to try for yourself! To learn more, you can visit the Tora-san Museum, which contains memorabilia and stage sets from different films in the series.
Meet Yokohama, your next urban adventure
Tokyo’s port-side neighbor city, Yokohama, is just a 30-minute express train ride from Shibuya, but it has enough attractions to keep you entertained for an entire day (at the very least!). One of the city’s biggest attractions is Chukagai, also known as Yokohama’s Chinatown. In 1859, the city opened up as a port for foreign trade, and with it came an influx of traders from China, who brought with them their incredible cuisine and fascinating culture.
You can wander the streets of Chinatown, take in its bright and playful architecture, or visit one (or many) of its 600 various Chinese restaurants and stores. Make sure you come here on an empty stomach!
Yokohama is also home to many other attractions within walking distance from Chinatown. The futuristic waterfront area of Minato Mirai is one such destination. Here along the water, you’ll find the 1930s sailing ship Nippon Maru, which is open to guests throughout the day, as well as the exciting Cosmo World amusement park, the scenic views of Osanbashi Pier, and the interesting shops and restaurants at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse complex.
You can also stop by the surprisingly impressive Yokohama Cup Noodle Museum, where you make your own cup noodle to take home. It’s worth hanging around Yokohama until the evening, where you can see Tokyo Bay and the streets light up to create an amazing night view.
Discover Sayama Hills, home to Totoro
On the cusp of the Greater Tokyo region, just an hour away from the city, sits the forested Sayama Hills area. It is best known for inspiring Hayao Miyazaki’s film ‘My Neighbour Totoro’, and is described as ‘A floating green island’ in the city. This destination, also nicknamed as Totoro no Mori (Totoro’s Forest), is a great place to escape the city and embrace the tranquil power of shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing.’
At the site, you’ll find 19 hiking trails for hikers of all levels, as well as plenty of attractions. Pop by Kurosuke House, which is also the visitor center – to learn about the area’s influence on Studio Ghibli and pick up maps to help navigate your way around this picturesque pocket of Japan. It is only open a few days per week, so make sure to plan accordingly!
Whilst it’s possible to spend days, if not weeks, exploring and enjoying the city of Tokyo itself, there are many interesting places that are just a short trip away! If you need an escape, there are options for all types of travelers. Just make sure to plan well, and double-check transportation schedules!
One more spot to skip a day from modern Tokyo is to watch a ninja show in Kyoto. If you’re a fan of ninja, then it will be the most exciting ninja experience in Kyoto. Besides that, you can try kimono and you won’t need to go anywhere. This event will take place online. Thus, you’ll have the best online kimono experience ever.
As we can see, there are many places to visit outside of Tokyo. For example, day trips from Tokyo for families can be a fun and easy-going weekend to spend some time with your family. No matter what season you’re planning your weekend trip, you’ll enjoy your time outside of Tokyo.
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