THE BEST OF TOKYO – RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TRAVELLERS
DAY TRIPS IN AND AROUND TOKYO
Part III of this ultimate guide deals with a few ideas for one- or two-day trips in and around Tokyo.
If you’re not planning to see much else of Japan and you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle of the city – although by all standards Tokyo is rather quiet and peaceful – you may enjoy spending a little time outside the metropolis. Obviously, there’s plenty to do.
ENOSHIMA (1 DAY)
Close to Kamakura and about 1.5 hours away from central Tokyo is the green-topped little offshore island of Enoshima. The island is a nice little place for short painless hikes to the various temples dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of music and entertainment. Alternatively, it’s a neat place to enjoy the beach…
HAKONE (2+ DAYS)
Where to start with Hakone? A tourist hotspot, Hakone is both delightful and intensely tacky. The town itself is nothing special, although spending a few premium bucks will get you some very nice onsens in gorgeous hotels.
Hakone boasts a couple of good museums, such as the Hakone Open-Air Museum, the Museum of Art and the POLA Museum and some really touristy attractions, including a boat-ride across the lake on a tacky pirate ship straight out of Disneyland.
One of the highlights of Hakone includes a cable car ride up a mountain to see Mount Fuji – on a clear day that is, Mount Fuji being notoriously shy. However, before that, you’ll have to be herded along on a bus, then a funicular and then the cable car. It’s not ideal but it’s still worth the visit.
Hakone is a lovely area to walk around. Windy bus rides also allow you to reach the other villages along the lake, where you can take in the full glory of Fuji-san. There is also a lovely temple and a tori on the lake that make for a very picturesque background.
KAMAKURA (1 DAY)
The little city of Kamakura (about one hour away from central Tokyo) boasts a surprisingly rich history, with plenty of temples scattered around, the most famous of which is the Kōtoku-in with its monumental outdoor bronze statue of Buddha.
Kamakura is a relaxed and pleasant city and the combination of temples, nature and seaside make it a very enjoyable outing. Spend the morning hiking around the different temples, check out the impressive Yagura tombs, hike around the little hills and head down to the beach for an afternoon stroll or a swim (weather permitting). Top that off with a coffee at surfer-friendly Seedless Café to get a nice peaceful view of the ocean…
KAWAGOE (1 DAY)
Kawagoe, about 1 to 1.5-hours away from central Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture is also known as ‘Little Edo’, due to its many historic buildings. It’s a lovely place to stroll in for a day and take in the beautifully kept old temples and houses. There are quite a few tacky shops lining the main street but the place is pretty and offers a glimpse of old Japan.
MOUNT NOKOGIRI (1 DAY)
Mount Nokogiri stands a little short of 400 m above sea level. Located in Chiba prefecture, it’s a little further away so you need to count 2.5 to 3 hours to get there. However, it’s a fantastic hike and a great place to visit away from the crowds of tourists. Get there by train (aim for Hama-Kanaya or Hota stations).
On the western side lies the sprawling Nihon-ji temple complex with its 31-metre high stone-carved statue of Buddha and 1,500 hand-carved arhat sculptures. The temple is accessible by road and by a cable car, the Nokogiriyama Ropeway, which runs from Hamakanaya Station on the JR Uchibo Line to a lookout deck near the top of the temple precinct.
The western end of the mountain falls precipitously into Tokyo Bay, where Cape Myōgane is a good place to watch large ships pass through at sunset.
MOUNT TAKAO (1 DAY)
Mount Takao is a popular day trip and allows for good views of Tokyo and Mt Fuji (when the weather is fair). The mountain stands proud at a ‘whopping’ 599 m. Sure, it’s not particularly difficult – it’s even got a cable car if you’re feeling lazy – but it’s a nice place to hike. The big plus is the new and beautiful onsen that opened recently at the base of the mountain…
If you’re here around mid-March, you might even witness the fire-walking festival and see monks prancing around barefoot on live cinders… You can even try it out yourself once the fire has died down.
The lovely and little known Japan Open Air Folk House Museum is within 45 minutes of central Tokyo (13-minute walk from the south exit of Mukogaokayuen station on the Odakyu line). Stroll around 25 ancient houses on the gentle slopes of Tama hills for a little glimpse into the Japan of old.
NIKKO (2+ DAYS)
Situated some 2.5 hours from Tokyo, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples of Nikkō encompasses 103 buildings or structures and the natural setting around them. It’s a fantastic place and the luxuriant temples are well worth the visit.
Best visited in autumn when the leaves start turning red and gold, fabulous Nikko is worth spending a couple of days in. Check out the temples and walk around the park on day one and finish the day off with a relaxing onsen. Get up early the next day to catch a bus to neighbouring Lake Chuzenji to see the Kegon Falls and the fantastic autumn colours along the way.
Don’t miss Nikko’s famous three monkeys!
SHIMODA (2+ DAYS)
If you’re looking for a little two-day retreat on the seaside, consider Shimoda in the Izu Peninsula. Situated some 3 to 3.5 hours away from Tokyo, the little town of Shimoda and surroundings offer some fantastic beaches, great surfing spots and well-known hot springs. Rent a bike and check out the area or just relax for a couple of days.
If you’re willing to splurge a little, the Sea Shell Hotel is wonderful.
YOKOHAMA (1 DAY)
South of Tokyo, one hour away by train, lies the largest city in Japan by population, Yokohama. Visit Japan’s largest Chinatown, the merchant building near the port, the Sankeien Garden or the Ramen Museum. There’s plenty to do.
Head over to the visitors’ guide for some more info.
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