Tokyo, as the capital, is one of the most well-connected cities in Japan. Because of the convenient transportation network, many travelers choose to use Tokyo as a base and travel to the neighboring prefectures on day trips. This means you don’t have to drag your luggage while you split your time between the bustling city and natural scenic spots. In this feature, we introduce our top ten spots that can be easily visited as a day trip from Tokyo.
The table is arranged according to the length of time required for a one-way trip.
|1. Kawagoe||Ikebukuro (Train)||Approx. 30 min|
|2. Yokohama||Shibuya, etc. (Train)||Approx. 30 min|
|3. Odawara||Tokyo (Shinkansen)||Approx. 30 min|
|4. Kamakura||Ikebukuro (Train)||Approx. 1 hr 10 min|
|5. Hakone||Shinjuku (Odakyu Romance Car)||Approx. 1 hr 15 min|
|6. Chichibu||Ikebukuro (Limited express)||Approx. 1 hr 20 min|
|7. Karuizawa||Tokyo (Shinkansen)||Approx. 1 hr 30 min|
|8. Suigo Sawara||Tokyo (Train)||Approx. 1 hr 30 min|
|9. Nikko||Tokyo (Shinkansen)||Approx. 1 hr 40 min|
|10. Kusatsu Onsen||Shinjuku, Tokyo (Bus)||Approx. 3 hr 30 min|
Let’s check out what each of these spots have to offer.
1. Kawagoe (川越)
Kawagoe, located to the north of Tokyo, has a significant place in history. It is known as Koedo (Little Edo) due to its close economic and cultural ties with Edo (the former name of Tokyo). Since ancient times, this has been a place of exchange for goods and even today, the town continues to have the same energy and vitality. The most popular spots are the Bell Tower and the streets lined with Kura-zukuri buildings (clay-walled warehouses). There is a certain nostalgia about this quaint town. You can enjoy walks in the alleyways or stop by for some delicious treats. Below is the symbol (an omikuji) of Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. Isn’t it super cute?
2. Yokohama (横浜)
Yokohama was one of the first trade ports that Japan opened to the outside world in 1859. This port city has had a decisive influence on Japanese culture. Many Western cultures were introduced into Japan from here. Today, it features beautiful promenades along the bay, a business district with shopping malls and museums as well as a Chinatown, known for its Chinese New Year celebrations.
3. Odawara (小田原)
Odawara is most well known for Odawara Castle. The city was once home to the Hojo Clan. The Castle is located on a hill and its towers offer expansive views of the city. Odawara Castle Park is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring.
4. Kamakura (鎌倉)
A beautiful seaside city, Kamakura reminds most Japanese of the cool sea breeze and sound of waves. Blessed with nature, dotted with temples and shrines as well as long-standing stores selling traditional Japanese arts and crafts, there is something for everyone here. The most well-knowns spots here are the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) and the island of Enoshima. A day may not be enough to cover this gorgeous little town.
5. Hakone (箱根)
Hakone is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. Close to Tokyo, it offers spectacular views of Mt. Fuji from Lake Ashino. Owakudani is another famous spot for its dramatic landscapes with sulphur deposits – a result of volcanic activity. The Hakone Checkpoint, located next to Lake Ashino, was a place that managed Japanese tourists entering and leaving Edo (formerly Tokyo) in the 1600s, similar to the current Immigration Bureau. Don’t miss out on buying Hakone Yosegi Zaiku, the craft of this area featuring intricate objects made using wooden joinery.
6. Chichibu (秩父)
Chichibu has a wealth of natural landscapes including Nagatoro, Misotsuchi Icicles, and Moomin Valley Park. There are also many fruit orchards in Chichibu. The strawberry season is particularly popular for fruit picking.
7. Karuizawa (軽井沢)
Although Karuizawa does not belong to the Kanto area, it is also a place that Tokyoites like to visit because of its easy access from Tokyo. A famous summer resort in Japan, surrounded by mountains such as Mount Asama, the climate is cool in summer to escape the heat of the city. One of the popular things to do here is to visit the beautiful Shiraito Waterfalls.
8. Suigo Sawara (水郷佐原)
Sawara flourished as a result of prosperous water transport. People in the olden days incorporated aspects of Edo culture while creating their own unique identity in this area. Even today, many old structures still stand that take many down a nostalgic path. It is recommended to take a boat to appreciate the street view from the river while the boatman provides interesting commentary.
9. Nikko (日光)
Nikko is another popular destination among Japanese and foreign tourists alike. With a rich natural environment, world heritage sites and hot springs, it has a lot to offer. The historic wooden structures are a marvel. The picture below is the Nikko Futarasan Shrine, right next to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
10. Kusatsu Onsen (草津温泉)
Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma is one of Japan’s best onsen towns and is counted as one of “Japan’s top three famous onsen.” The amount of spring water is also said to be the largest in Japan. Yubatake, located at the heart of the onsen town, cools the hot spring water as it passes through the long, wooden pipes every minute. Illuminated at night, Yubatake looks otherworldly, a must visit for onsen lovers.
If you plan to visit Japan in the coming years, make sure to check out all of these spots and pick a few to add to your itinerary!
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