There are many sightseeing day trips destinations in and around the Tokyo area, but many require massive travel times of 3-4 hrs. So this guide only features day trips that are only less 2 hrs from Tokyo, which is far more practical and easy for both tourists and expats alike.
1. Kawasaki, Kanagawa PrefecturePhoto by Notes from Japan
Distance from Tokyo: 30 minutes or less direct from Shibuya or Shinagawa Station
Destination Highlights: Kawasaki Daisihi Temple, world’s shortest escalator, and Fujiko F. Fujio Museum also known as Doraemon Museum.
Kawasaki is known for its Kanamara Festival — also known as the Fertility or Penis Festival — that takes place at Kawasaki Daishi every year on the first Sunday of April. If visiting outside of the very limited timeframe of the festival, don’t worry, as there is a lot more to see in Kawasaki other than giant wooden phalluses!
The World’s Shortest Escalator, according to Guinness Book of World Records, is also in Kawasaki City, inside the More (pronounced as mo-re) Department Store.
For Doraemon fans like myself, you can visit the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum. Fujiko Fujio is the pen name of the two manga artists who created Doraemon, a popular Japanese manga and anime series for children. Like Ghibli Museum, tickets for Fujiko F. Fujio always sell out fast, so you need to reserve your ticket early. Tickets can be bought from Lawson stores while you are in Japan for 1,000 yen but can be difficult to buy if you can’t speak Japanese. If you’re still overseas and planning on visiting the museum, you can reserve tickets through an online travel website which specializes in Japanese experiences. It costs more but the ease of getting tickets for your desired date is worth it.
Recommended Itinerary: Start between 9 am and 10 am. Depart from Shibuya or Shinagawa station and arrive at Kawasaki Daishi Station. From Kawasaki Daishi Station, walk 8 minutes to Kawasaki Daishi Temple, a Buddhist Temple founded in 1128. You can easily spend 30-40 minutes exploring this part of Kanagawa, where over 20 beautiful Buddhist temples are located. There are also shops that are lined up as you go to the entrance gates for all your souvenir needs. Once you’re done exploring, go back to Kawasaki Daishi Station and ride a train that goes to Kawasaki Station.
From Kawasaki Station, you’ll find the More Department Store around the East Exit. Go to the basement and you will find the world’s shortest escalator according to Guinness Book of World Records (I’m as surprised as you that this was tracked). More Department Store is pretty interesting in and of itself, so take some time to window shop. If you’re hungry, there are a lot of choices both in and around the station, so Google Maps or Trip Advisor will come in handy. As a general rule in Japan, if the restaurant is small and in a back alley, it’s probably good. Just make sure to check your budget and see the price before going to the restaurant; Japan can be very pricey.
Lastly, If you have purchased a Doraemon Museum ticket in advance, now would be a pretty good time to visit the museum. Ride the train to Mukogaokayuen Station, and from there, it’s a 10-min walk to the museum.
Seasonal Destinations in Kawasaki Worth Considering
- If visiting during cherry blossom season, check out Midorigaoka Cemetery near Tsudayama Station for the beautiful cherry blossom trees lined up around the cemetery.
- If visiting mid-June to mid-July, check out Myorakuji temple which a 20-minute walk from JR Kuji Station. Myorakuji temple is surrounded by beautiful hydrangeas during this season.
2. Yokohama, Kanagawa PrefecturePhoto by Nans
Distance from Tokyo: 30 minutes or less direct from Shibuya Station
Destination Highlights: Chinatown, Yamashita Park, Cup Noodle Museum, Queens Square and Landmark Tower, Ramen Museum (optional).
Yokohama, being a large and diverse city like Tokyo, is best to allocate at least 2 days for exploration. It’s a city that’s not quite as bustling as Tokyo. Think of it like Tokyo’s more laid-back little brother. Since we are only focusing on day trip’s for this article, I recommend the above places, since they’re all pretty popular destinations around Yokohama. If you’re looking for a bit more of an in-depth guide for my top things to do in Yokohama. There are a lot of great suggestions in that article, but if you’re simply visiting Japan, and looking to see as much as possible, you should probably limit your trip to this list.
Recommended Itinerary: Start at 10 am. Depart from Shibuya Station and arrive at Motomachi Chukagai Station. Go to Yamashita Park Exit and stroll through the Yamashita Park. Once you are done relaxing at the park, walk back to the highway and follow the street signs pointing towards Chinatown.
Explore Chinatown at your own pace, since you can easily spend about 30-40 minutes here and still not see everything. Don’t forget to try some Chinese food here like manju (steamed bun), shumai (dumpling), maron (chestnuts), and some delicious desserts. There are no really recommended stores here as they’re all very good. When you’re done exploring and food tripping through Chinatown, head back to Motomachi Chukagai Station and ride the train to Minato Mirai Station (unless you feel like walking for 25-30 minutes).
At Minato Mirai Station, follow the exit signs towards Queens Square, and look for the ludicrously large escalator — as if to compensate for Kawasaki’s tiny escalator. I recommend that you have lunch at a restaurant in Queens Square before you head to the Cup Noodles Museum. Queens Square has basically every type of food you could imagine. There are ramen shops, a variety of American restaurants, Thai, BBQ, Pubs, Korean, various desserts, and even a Sizzler, of all things.
After lunch, you have a couple of options. You can head outside of the mall and head to the small amusement park across the street. If you’re more of a boat person, there’s the nearby museum boat, located to the right of the park. Personally, I suggest you head to the Cup Noodles Museum by going outside the mall and walking across the bridge next to the amusement park. Cross the street where you can see the big Ferris Wheel and just follow the signs going to the Cup Noodles Museum. Just keep in mind that the Cup Noodle museum closes at 5 pm, so be sure to keep an eye on your watch.
Depending on the time of year, the nearby Red Brick Warehouse might have a festival going on. This is the same place that hosts the EXTREMELY popular Pikachu festival, as well as Oktoberfest from late September thru mid-October.
If you’re like me and on a constant search for the best ramen you can find, you can adjust this trip to include a stop in Shin-Yokohama, to visit the famous Ramen Museum. For a breakdown of the Museum, you can read our article here. Ramen Museum closes at 9 pm.
Notable Events: If visiting during mid-August, Yokohama is bombarded with many Pikachus.
3. Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hr 30 min or less direct from Shinjuku Station
Recommended Train Pass to Get: Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass for 1,470 yen.
Destination Highlights: Komachi Street, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Great Buddha at Kotokuin Temple, Hase Temple.
You might want to consider: Kamakura Private Walking Tour
Many people refer to Kamakura as “The Little Kyoto” and after visiting Kyoto, I can see why. They’re both historic cities that boast numerous temples, shrines, and monuments, with the main difference being that Kamakura is much smaller, and far more rural. Of course, you can’t talk about Kamakura without mentioning it’s most recognizable feature, the Great Buddha in the Kotokuin Temple, which is the second largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. If you are not into temple hopping, then you can spend your day at one of Kamakura’s three beaches, Zaimokuza, Yuigahama, and Koshigoe, which charms a lot of locals. However, for first-timers, I wouldn’t really recommend going to the beaches, as they can be VERY crowded during the summer break. But this, of course, is up to you.
Getting to Kamakura: There’s something about traveling to Kamakura. It’s not really far from Tokyo, but due to a train system which alternates between the JR lines and private train companies around Kamakura, you can easily spend an hour and a half just traveling here from Tokyo. So I would recommend that you start as early as 10 am.
The best train pass to get when traveling to Kamakura from Tokyo is the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass, which can be purchased from the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center in Shinjuku Station. This pass is only 1,470 yen and entitles you to a round-trip train ride from Shinjuku Station to Kamakura and back using the Odakyu line and Enoden line. The Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass is also unlimited, meaning you can get off and on at any station along the line. You can also get a free gift at some Kamakura temples just by showing this pass. Don’t worry about going to Enoshima, as it deserves another day trip. Just explore Kamakura with this Freepass and it’ll be worth it.
There’s also another pass offered by JR lines — the Kamakura-Enoshima Pass which is 700 yen. However, it’s only valid from Ofuna Station or Fujisawa Station to Kamakura and back, which may be a good deal for people living in Kanagawa area. But if you are coming from Tokyo, stick with Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass that is sold by Odakyu.
AUTHOR’S TIP: For foreigners or military families living in or around Kanagawa, you can also buy the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass at Machida station for 1,060 yen or at Fujisawa Station for 610 yen. Buy this freepass as it’s cheaper back and forth with unlimited stopovers instead of using the regular PASSMO or Suica card. Forget about driving to Kamakura with your car. There’s really no parking available near the temples and shrines, and if there is, it’s ridiculously expensive. You also don’t want to deal with heavy traffic because Kamakura is Kanagawa’s major tourist area.
Recommended Itinerary: With the use of your Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass, start as early as 10 am if you are coming from Tokyo. Depart from Shinjuku Station and arrive at Kamakura Station. Your first stop should be the Komachi Street, but you will need to follow the signs towards Hachimangu Shrine when you exit the train station. You will walk under a bridge that has a stone wall. Continue walking until you see a big red tori gate which is the entrance to Komachi Street. Komachi Street is a hippie street filled with over 200 cafes, restaurants, souvenir stores, and various dessert stores. It is a bit pricier here though. For a soft ice cream or a kakigori dessert (shaved ice), it starts at 550 to 650 yen, a bit higher compared to other parts of Kamakura. When I toured with my cousin here, I told her to wait until we got to Hase Station, where ice cream and other cool desserts were cheaper but the same quality.
Once you reach the end of Komachi Street, turn right and you’ll see another tori gate on the left. That would be the entrance to Hachimangu Shrine. Unlike other attractions in Kamakura, there’s no entrance fee here. In fact, it may be the only attraction in Kamakura without an entrance fee. It’s a huge shrine that will remind you of Meiji Shrine near Harajuku, only this one is packed with stairs. So be prepared.
Take your time and explore Hachimangu Shrine. Afterwards, go back to Kamakura Station using the same path you arrived from. Be careful on your way back and don’t get confused as you may see another Kamakura Station. That would be the Kamakura Station JR Line, which isn’t covered by your Freepass. You want to ride the Kamakura Station Enoden Line, which is where you came from.
Once you got back to Kamakura Station Enoden Line, ride the train that goes to Hase Station. Upon arriving at Hase Station follow the signs to The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) in Kotokuin Temple. The walk from Hase station to Kotokuin Temple is about 8-10 minutes. Along the way, you’ll see many souvenirs shops, cafe, and restaurants. This was the street that I was talking about when I mentioned that there was a much cheaper place to eat than in Komachi. You can get a soft ice cream here for only 350 yen. Delicious and perfect for a hot day.
Once you reach the Kotokuin Temple, pay the entrance fee of 200 yen. You may also go inside the bronze statue of Great Buddha for additional 20 yen. There are always a lot of tourists here during weekends, but the area is pretty small, so you won’t need to spend much time pushing through the crowd. Once you’ve got your picture with the Great Buddha, go back to towards Hase Station, but walk on the opposite side of the road (on your right). Pay attention to the signs pointing towards Hasedera or Hase Temple, as that will be your next destination. There is an entrance fee of 300 yen, and you will also get a free gift if you will show your freepass. Hase Temple is very popular during the hydrangeas season, which is from mid-June to mid-July. So expect a huge crowd if you’re going here during that time of the year.
4. Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour 5 min direct from Shinjuku Station
Recommended Train Pass to Get: Enoshima 1 Day Passport, also known as Enopass, for 1,970 yen which includes free access to Enoshima tourist spots.
Destination Highlights: Nakamise Street, Enoshima Shrine, Enoshima Lighthouse Observatory Tower inside the Samuel Cocking Garden, Iwaya Caves, and Love Bell.
Enoshima is an island connected to the mainland by a single bridge (see the author’s note below). Being on the coast (obviously), it has various attractions, most of which are ocean or beach related. The best train pass to get when exploring Enoshima is the Enopass, as you get to enjoy the entire island of Enoshima and it allows you to enter many of Enoshima’s top attractions for free, saving you money on entrance fees. Some of the things covered by the Enopass include the Lighthouse Observatory Tower (Sea Candle), Iwaya Caves, and free use of escalators (Enoshima has lots of stairs!). For water activities, tourists can go swim or surf at the beaches on either side of the island. If beaches aren’t really your thing, the nearby Enoshima Aquarium is a great time for families.
AUTHOR’S TIP: Enoshima island is not a flat island. Exploring it requires that you climb lots of stairs. There are also escalators available which are covered by Enopass. So for those arriving in Enoshima without the Enopass, be prepared to pay a small fee for each escalator use and pay for every tourist attraction within the island.
Recommended Itinerary: Start at 9 am. Buy the Enopass for 1,970 yen at Odakyu Service Center in Shinjuku Station and ride the Odakyu train going to Katase-Enoshima. To get to Enoshima island, exit the train at the Katase-Enoshima Station and follow the signs towards Enoshima Island. You will cross a very long bridge, and if you’re lucky, you can see Mt. Fuji from the bridge. It’s about a 15-minute walk from Katase -Enoshima Station to the island itself, so enjoy the view of the island from the bridge as you walk towards it. Or you can alternatively look at the poor souls stuck in their cars, at a complete stand-still on the bridge. They may still be there when you’re on your way back.
Enoshima is a small island but walking around it is tiring because it isn’t a flat surface. Because of this, there are many stairs along the way. You will pass by the Nakamise Shopping Street, which has a variety of offerings, from dessert shops to souvenir shops. Continue walking until you reach the base of the stairs which will take you to Enoshima Shrine. Thankfully, you have Enopass! So you can use the escalator here for free, so take advantage of it! The Enopass was one thing I wished I had bought when I explored Enoshima. There’s only one pathway to explore everything, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost. The path will take you to the following attractions, in this order: Enoshima Shrine, Enoshima Lighthouse Observatory Tower in the Samuel Cocking Garden, Love Bell, and the Iwaya Caves. Of these attractions, the Iwaya caves were my favorite due to the mystic history behind them, and you get to go the coastline of the island. It is recommended to have lunch somewhere off the island rather than the island itself since the price of food is extreme. Plus, if you don’t like seafood, then there’s really no options for you on the island beyond the Enoshima burger, and overpriced pizza at the top of the island.
5. Jogashima, Kanagawa PrefecturePhoto by knuche
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour 50 min from Shinagawa Station with 30 min bus ride to Jogashima.
Recommended Train Pass to Get: KEIO 1-Day Ticket unlimited for 900 yen, bus from Misakiguchi to Jogashima island is not covered.
Destination Highlights: Misaki Port, Jogashima Lighthouse, and Awazaki Lighthouse
Jogashima is three times bigger than Enoshima and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Unlike Enoshima, Jogashima is flat, so there’s no need to climb a bunch of stairs. You can practically explore the entire island by walking for 1-2 hours from west to east. Just be sure to wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Recommended Itinerary: Exploring the island is the goal of the day, so there’s really no recommended itinerary here. Start early as 10 am by departing from Shinagawa Station and buy the KEIO 1-Day Ticket from the ticket machine. Exit the train at Misakiguchi Station and take the bus to Jogashima Misaki Port at bus stand #2. From there, grab a lunch and try the island’s specialty the Meguro-don (tuna on rice). The west part of the island is where Misaki Port is located where tuna stores and fish markets can be found. Freshly loaded from fishing boats, the Misaki Port will remind you of the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Locals and visitors alike are also free to fish by the port or the outer perimeter. From the Misaki Port, it’s a 7-minute walk to the Jogashima Lighthouse. On the eastern part of the island lies Jogashima Park, where you can visit the other lighthouse called Awazaki Lighthouse. If you have a car, you can pretty much just explore the entire island without worrying about time.
6. Odawara, Kanagawa PrefecturePhoto from Odawara Tourist Association
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour 15 min or less if taking the Romancecar from Shinjuku Station
Destination Highlights: Odawara Castle Park
Odawara is a major transportation hub, being the meeting point of major railways such as the Odakyu Line, JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, and the Hakone Tozan Line. Odawara Castle Park, the most visited attraction in Odawara, is famous for both cherry and plum blossoms. If you are into role-playing, you can even rent some samurai clothes or kimono at the Honmaru Hiroba square just next to the castle to complete the experience. There aren’t many places to see in Odawara except for the castle itself, which is most beautiful during autumn and spring. This is why the trip here is usually combined with Hakone.
7. Hakone, Kanagawa PrefectureThat’s my husband and our baby.
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour and 40 min from Shinjuku Station
Recommended Pass to Get: Hakone Free Pass for 5,140 yen valid for 2 days which also entitles you to unlimited ride to Hakone Tozan trains and buses, Tozan cable car, ropeway and sightseeing cruise. This a very good deal and still worth it if you will use it for Hakone day trip using the Hakone Round Course (see itinerary below).
Destination Highlights: Hakone Open Air Museum, Owakudani Valley and its black eggs, Lake Ashi, and Hakone Shrine.
You might want to consider: Mt. Fuji with Hakone Tour Package (Bestseller)
Only an hour and a half from Tokyo, Hakone in Kanagawa can be accessed through the Hakone-Yumoto station via the Odakyu Line. It boasts Lake Ashi, which has a great view of Mt. Fuji, making this a popular stop for both locals and tourists. Hakone is best explored for at least 2 days as there are many attractions here. However, since you are only visiting for a day trip, here are my recommended places that you must visit. But you need to start very early to experience Hakone fully. By the way, even if you are only visiting Hakone for 1 day, the Hakone Free Pass is still worth it if you will do the Hakone Round course which will be discussed below.
Recommended Itinerary: This itinerary is also known as the Hakone Round Course. Arrive at Shinjuku Station, the best time to arrive is 6:30 am and purchase the Hakone Free Pass (5,140 yen) along with the Romancecar limited express surcharge (890 yen one-way) from the ticket machines, or from the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center. Ride the 7:00 am Romancecar train from Shinjuku Station to arrive at Hakone-Yumoto Station at 08:40 a.m.
From Hakone-Yumoto Station, transfer to Hakone Tozan Train (covered by Hakone Free Pass) to go the mountains of Hakone and exit at Chukoku-no-mori Station for the Hakone Open Air Museum, which mainly features art by Pablo Picasso. The museum should be open by the time you get there. Entrance to the museum is 1,600 yen, but you can get it a discount for 1,500 yen if you will print the discount coupon from the museum website. You can easily explore the museum for an hour or two, depending on how big fan of Picasso you are. You can also skip the museum if you wish should you find the entrance fee expensive, or if you’re simply not an art person.
Next, you need to hop the train to Gora Station. Upon arriving at Gora station, transfer to the Tozan cable car, which is still covered by Hakone Free Pass, to take you to ropeway, which passes over the volcanic activity of Owakudani (now open to the public). Here you can smell the sulfur coming from the volcanic activity of Owakudani valley. Warning: Skip Owakudani if you have respiratory problems. Local shop owners use the hot water of Owakudani valley to boil their eggs which results in black eggs. You can buy five black eggs for 500 yen, which is believed to prolong life when eaten regularly.
To explore the entire Owakudani valley usually takes around 30-40 minutes. Once done, ride the ropeway again to take you Togendai Station. This is where you will ride the famous Hakone Sightseeing Cruise you can often see featured on Hakone postcards and tourism photos. You will cruise the Lake Ashi from Togendai Station to Moto-Hakone-Ko. The sightseeing cruise is also covered by Hakone Freepass. So from Togendai Station, go to the bottom and transfer to the sightseeing cruise. You can also explore and have lunch at the Togendai View Restaurant before you go on the cruise.
The sightseeing cruise from Togendai will take you to the other side of the lake which is the Moto-Hakone-Ko. Make sure that you are departing the Sightseeing Cruise that is bound for Moto-Hakone-Ko and not the one that is bound for Hakonemachi-ko. The cruise departs every 40 minutes and the cruise time is 30-40 minutes, depending on the weather. The cruise will let you enjoy the beautiful view of Mt. Fuji in Lake Ashi. Your final leg is almost near. Upon arriving Moto-Hakone-Ko, look for signs pointing towards Hakone Shrine and follow the pathway, which is a 15-minute walk.
Hakone Shrine is a beautiful shrine that is almost always covered in mist, making it look more mysterious, and has the Hakone forest as its backdrop. The huge tori gate that you saw from the Sightseeing Cruise is part of the Hakone Shrine. To go back to Hakone-Yumoto station, just go back to Moto-Hakone-Ko and ride the bus to Hakone-Yumoto station which is also covered by your Freepass.
8. Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture
Distance from Tokyo: 30 min direct from Ikebukuro Station
Optional pass to get: Kawagoe Discount Pass Premium for 950 yen which includes roundtrip train ride between Ikebukuro and Kawagoe or Kawagoeshi and unlimited bus rides using the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus.
Destination Highlights: Old Storehouse District Zone, also known as Kurazukuri Zone, Toki no Kane or Bell of Time, Kashiya Yokocho or Candy Lane.
Kawagoe is probably the easiest day trip to visit from Tokyo, only 30 minutes from Central Tokyo (Ikebukuro Station), this gem of a place is lined with quaint little storehouses from the past Meiji era. Take a walk in the stone-paved streets with stunning glasses, which will make you feel as if you are transported back to the 1800s. Kawagoe is actually a tiny place and there’s really no set itinerary, so you can just explore it at your own pace if you want. But before heading out to the train station, make sure to grab a map to point exactly which attractions to explore around Kawagoe.
Recommended Itinerary: Again, this isn’t really needed for this location, but I’ll add this just in case. You can start as early as 10 am. Buy the Kawagoe Discount Pass Premium at Ikebukuro Station and ride the Tobu Tojo line to Kawagoe Station. Exit at the East Exit of Kawagoe Station and look for the Koedo Kawagoe Loop Bus stop. Using your Discount Pass Premium, ride the W1-1 Bus or the W1-2. These buses go goes straight to the Old Storehouse District Zone. Show your pass to the bus driver as you enter the bus. Your first stop should be the Old Storehouse Zone which is at Nakacho stop (T13). From there, you can walk and adore the quaint storehouses. It’s very easy to explore the entire Kawagoe area. As you walk straight, you will see the Toki no Kane tower (The Bell of Time) then just refer to your map on which attraction you would like to go next and always refer to your map on which bus stop to go next to see an attraction.
Notable Event: Hikkawase Festival, held every 3rd Saturday and the following Sunday of October, is Kawagoe’s biggest event every year which is a musical battle of festival floats.
9. Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka PrefecturePhoto by Brian Higgins
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour 30 min from Shinagawa Station via Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen; or 1 hr and 55 mins using the local trains.
Heads up for the transportation if taking the trains: 5,100 yen one-way, or 4,900 yen one-way using the local train. Consider getting the JR Tokyo Wide Pass for 10,000 yen unlimited ride that is valid for three days. Driving is the best option here though.
Destination Highlights: Jogasaki Coast and Mt. Omuro
The Izu Peninsula is famous for its Kawazu Cherry Festival where you can see the earliest cherry blossoms in bloom from early February to early March. It is also a great day trip for people who are fond of coastlines, nature, hiking spots, and onsens.
Recommended Itinerary: Visiting a place like the Izu Peninsula is easier and cheaper to access by car if you’re with a group of people than taking the trains. If you have an international license and you are traveling with other people, consider renting a car instead of buying the 10,000 yen JR Tokyo Wide Pass for each of you. Start by arriving at Jogasaki Kaigan Station and from there walk to the Jogasaki Picnical Course to explore the Jogasaki Coast. After that, head over to the Mt. Omuro, an extinct volcano in the shape of a rice bowl. You will need to take the cable car up to get to the crater, which is 500 yen round trip.
10. Nikko, Tochigi PrefecturePhoto by Miguel Michan
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hr 50 minutes from Asakusa Station to Tobu-Nikko Station.
Recommended Pass to Get: Nikko City Area Pass for 2,670 yen roundtrip valid for two days which entitles you to unlimited bus rides to 2C buses, and 2A and 2B buses up to Rengeishi bus stop. Even though you are only spending a day trip here, the pass is still very much worth it.
Destination Highlights: Nikko’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, The Sacred Shinkyo Bridge, and Kanmangafuchi Abyss
Many only visit Nikko during the autumn season, little do they know that Nikko is magical all year round. You can see the gradual change in season starting from the higher areas of the Yumoto Onsen in early October, and in the central town of Nikko in mid-November. Apart from the famous shrines of the Nikko’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, day visitors can also enjoy the naturally beautiful environment with rocky landscapes, waterfalls, lakes, and hot springs.
Recommended itinerary: I recommend that you buy the Nikko City Area Pass the day before your Nikko trip. You can buy it online or from the TOBU Information Tourist Center located on the first floor of Asakusa Station (Chuo Exit) for 2,670 yen. This pass covers your round trip train from Asakusa Station or Tobu Skytree Line Station to Tobu Nikko Station and the associated bus rides.
Start by departing from Tobu Asakusa Station or Tobu Skytree Line Station, depending on where you’re coming from, by 8 am and board the Limited Express SPACIA train bound for Tobu Nikko. Once you arrive at Tobu Nikko station, ride the 2C bus, also known as the World Heritage Bus, then exit at Omotesando bus stop for the first UNESCO Heritage Site which is the Nikko Toshogu Shrine. Prepare for 1,300 yen entrance fee here. It may sound expensive but you will not regret it. There are 42 breathtakingly beautiful buildings that compose the Toshogu Shrine, which also houses several national treasures including a sword that was wielded during the Kamakura period (early 13th century). Don’t forget to grab an English brochure. There’s also an English Audio guide for an extra 300 yen. Depending on how packed the area is with tourist, you should spend 20-30 minutes in the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
Once done, head to the next UNESCO Heritage Site, which is in the same area — the Nikko Futarasan Shrine. Here, there’s is a small 200 yen entrance fee. This area is small compared to the Toshogu Shrine, so exploring it should only take about 15-minutes. The third UNESCO Heritage Site, which is also in the same area, is the Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple, which consists of 38 buildings.
Next, exit the entire UNESCO Heritage Area and head to Shinkyo Bridge. Shinkyo bridge is actually part of the Futarasan Shrine, but it is separate from the main site. To get there, you need to exit the UNESCO heritage sites area and follow the highway. You should be able to see the red bridge as it’s quite prominent along the highway.
Grab a lunch somewhere before you head to Kanmangafuchi Abyss. Kanmangafuchi Abyss is hidden in a residential area and is about 20-minute walk from Shinkyo Bridge. Just follow the river from the Shinkyo Bridge. Don’t follow the highway, but instead, follow the river until you see signs and directions pointing towards Kanmangafuchi Abyss.
11. Kawaguchiko and Saiko, Yamanashi PrefecturePhoto by peaceful-jp-scenery
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hr 50 minutes from Shinjuku Station
Recommended Pass to Get: Unlimited Sightseeing Bus (Green and Red Line) for 1,200 yen
Destination Highlights: Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, Kachi Kachi Ropeway, and Iyashi No Sato Nenba
You might want to consider: Explore Saiko’s famed Aokigahara — also known as “Suicide Forest” — with a tour guide (Popular and Bestseller)
Kawaguchiko is my personal favorite day trip out of those mentioned in this list. I recommend that you stay here at least 2 days 1 night, but even that won’t do it justice. But if you’re only visiting for a day trip because you just want to see Mt. Fuji (if you’re lucky and it’s a clear day), then read on for my recommended itinerary. Lake Kawaguchi or Kawaguchiko is the most popular destination among the Fuji Five Lakes. By getting the unlimited sightseeing bus ticket from Kawaguchiko Station, one can explore the surrounding lakes of Kawaguchiko and Saiko as a side trip.
Recommended Itinerary: There are two ways to get to Kawaguchiko Station; by bus or by train. The fastest and easiest is by taking the direct bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal located on the New South Gate exit of Shinjuku Station. Taking this bus is not only fastest, but also the cheapest way to get to Kawaguchiko Station at just 1,750 yen one-way. You can reserve online through the Highway Bus website. I recommend that you reserve at the earliest available time, at around 6 a.m. This way by the time you get to Kawaguchiko there’s a great chance for you to see a clear view of Mt. Fuji.
Once you arrive at Kawaguchiko Station, purchase the Kawaguchiko and Saiko Unlimited Sightseeing Bus ticket for 1,200. This entitles you to unlimited bus rides around the Lake Kawaguchi (Kawaguchiko) and Lake Sai (Saiko) areas, and don’t forget to grab a map. This map is very helpful since it features sightseeing attractions around Kawaguchiko and Saiko and the bus schedule.
I recommend the following attractions if you’re only visiting for a day trip. The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum (30-45 min). Then go to the Ropeway Ent for Kachi Kachi Ropeway (1 hr or 1.5 hr depending on the number of tourists using the ropeway, wait times can be up to 30-minutes during peak season). The Kachi Kachi Ropeway gives a beautiful overlooking view of the entire Kawaguchiko area and Mt. Fuji (if clear). Once done, go back to Kawaguchiko Station and hop the Saiko sightseeing bus and head to Saiko Iyashi No Sato Nenba, also known as the Healing Village (30-45 mins) which features thatched roof houses similar to Shirakawa-go’s houses. Then back to Kawaguchiko Station for lunch.
Be aware that buses only arrive at their stops every 30 minutes. So you’ll need to explore the place in less than 30 minutes, otherwise, you’ll be stuck there for an hour.
AUTHOR’S TIP: Driving around the area is the best way to explore, so I suggest traveling by car if you have this option.
12. Tokyo Disneysea, Chiba PrefecturePhoto from Disney Parks
Distance from Tokyo: 30 minutes from Tokyo Station
Admission Ticket Cost: 7,400 yen one-day adult pass
Although technically located in Chiba Prefecture, Tokyo DisneySea makes a great day trip from Tokyo. Unlike Disneyland which is widely available, Tokyo DisneySea is the only DisneySea in the world. Many who have been to both Disneyland and DisneySea preferred DisneySea as it is more visually appealing and offers a lot of fun rides for adults and kids. Ever since it opened, it’s attracted many tourists from around the world, so expect the park to be jam-packed, especially during weekends and holidays. Having said that, buying tickets in advance is highly recommended, as the amusement park ticketing booth at the entrance gates is always packed with long lines.
There are several ways to get tickets. First is from Tokyo Disney Resort website, but you need to have a printer access to print the ticket immediately. Second is buying tickets from convenience stores. And finally, you can buy from online travel agencies. Normally, buying directly from the theme park website is the recommended option, but, the caveat with buying from the Tokyo Disney Resort website is that it doesn’t accept some international credit cards. As for convenience stores, the menu is all in Japanese, so you might need to ask for help from a convenience store staff, who probably can’t speak English well enough to be of real assistance. So your best option, in this case, is probably purchasing tickets online from travel websites like Voyagin or Klook. As with all Disney parks, this is an all-day event. Stay tuned for my complete DisneySea travel guide on this blog soon.
Easy Hiking Day Trips
13. Mt. Oyama, Kanagawa Prefecture
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour from Shinjuku Station
One of the most popular hiking spots in Kanagawa, Mt. Oyama offers a great day trip adventure with wonderful views. For hiking newbies, it is recommended that they take the Onna-zaka (women’s slope), which is easier and gives you interesting glimpses on the Seven Wonders of Onna-zaka and Oyama-dera Temple. If you are in for a challenge, take Otoko-zaka (men’s slope), which is (much) harder because it has very steep stone steps. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but during autumn, you should take definitely take the women’s slope.
Getting There: Take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station and exit at Isehara Station. From Isehara Station, you can easily follow the directions to the bus stop that will lead you to Mt. Oyama. Take the bus at stand number 4 and get off at the very last bus stop. From that bus stop, look for the signage that indicates Oyama Cable Car. It will lead you to the first point of hiking Mt. Oyama. From here, you can either take the cable car or hike all the way up to the top.
Difficulty Level: The hike from the jump off point to the shrine is easy to moderate (or very difficult if you happen to have a toddler in a backpack carrier, like my husband did). However, from Oyama Shrine to the summit is difficult, and shouldn’t be attempted if you’re out of shape. You’ve been warned.
14. Mt. Mitake, Tokyo PrefecturePhoto by Alexandra Winkler & Sarah Straus of Yokota Travel
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour 30 minutes from Shinjuku Station
The climb alone is very rewarding, but at the top of Mt. Mitake is an impressive shrine for you to visit. It has been said that the mountain has been the center of mountain worship for the last two thousand years. Unspoiled and dense, the trail will treat you to picturesque views of mossy forest, streams, and waterfalls.
Getting There: From the Mitake Station, you may walk to Takimoto Cable Car station, the start of the trail. Be sure to ask for a map at the information center. Walk along the river and arrive at the Takimoto cable car station. From here, you can either ride the cable car or hike all the way to the top.
Difficulty Level: It is not as difficult as the other mountains since it is a good combination of more gradual hikes and steep ones. I’d rate this mountain as intermediate.
15. Nokogiriyama, Chiba PrefecturePhoto by Jeff Laitila
Distance from Tokyo: 1 hour 10 minutes from Tokyo Station
Mount Nokogiriyama offers three sightseeing attractions in its high altitude range, including the Stone Quarry Ruins, Nihonji Temple area, where the famous Jigoku Nozoki Viewpoint is, (Jigoku Nozoki means “view of hell”), and the big stone Buddha or Ishidaibutsu. For those visiting on a day trip, it is more convenient to use the ropeway which is a 10-minute walk from Hama-kanaya station.
Getting there: From Tokyo station (or Yokohama Station) take the JR Sazanami Special Express to Kimitsu station. Transfer to JR Uchibo Line and get off at Hama-Kanaya station. From there, the ropeway to Nokogriyama is a 10-minute walk. You can either hike up and take the cable car down or vice versa. I prefer to do the first, that way I can relax on my trip down.