8 Awesome day Trips from Tokyo

For many first-time visitors to Japan, the majority will start their journeys from Tokyo. While Tokyo has an amazing variety of popular tourist attraction sites, restaurants and nightlife… there is so much more to Tokyo than the usual beaten path. Thanks to excellent transportation infrastructures in and around the capital, Tokyo is an excellent home base for making exciting day trips off the beaten path! Here are 8 excellent day trip destinations that you may consider for your future visits to Tokyo!

 

1. Yokohama

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The city of Yokohama can be easily accessed by frequent commuter trains from both Tokyo and Shinjuku Station, and the travel time is just over 40 minutes from the capital! It is home to Japan's first foreign trading port and first Chinatown. Yokohama is a lovely city located by Tokyo Bay, with a beautiful bayside area perfect for a lazy relaxing afternoon stroll. The historical Red Brick Warehouse by Yokohama Bayside District is a well-preserved relic from the old Foreign Trade Port, while Yokohama's Chinatown is always lively and busy, thanks to its reputation as the ultimate culinary destination featuring an exciting variety of authentic Chinese gourmet selections. Towards late afternoon, head over to the Yokohama Sky Garden, one of the highest observation decks in Japan offering unobstructed views of Mount Fuji on clear sunny days. By nighttime, visitors can soak in all the colorful lights illuminating the iconic skyline of Yokohama Bay; alternatively, an evening boat cruise is also an excellent way to relax and enjoy the charming night illuminations. A day trip to Yokohama provides a fascinating East-meets-West experience that will be sure to satisfy everyone's cravings!

 

2. Kamakura

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Just further south of Yokohama is the wonderful beach town of Kamakura, a very popular day trip destination for local Tokyoites, and a highly sought-after residential area known for picturesque beachfront homes overlooking Sagami Bay. Kamakura is home to many lavish temples and shrines, owing to the fact that this friendly beach town was the de facto capital of Japan hundreds of years ago! During the month of June every year, thousands of visitors flock to Kamakura to see its famous Ajisai, Hydrangea Flowers, which in this town are known for being extraordinarily abundant and pretty! Summer is especially busy in Kamakura, with many visitors looking to escape the heat at Yuigahama Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches that can be easily accessed from Tokyo by train. A day trip to Kamakura provides the perfect combination of cultural exploration and beach day at the same time; and once you get there, it is easy to see why so many have fallen in love with this charming and friendly beach town after their first visits. 

 

3. Choshi

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If you open the map of Japan, zoom in towards Tokyo, you will notice a little chunk of land that sticks out towards the right-hand side of the map almost directly to the right of Tokyo. Zoom in, and that's the coastal town of Choshi! Choshi is a sleepy fishing town on the eastern tip of Chiba Prefecture, definitely considered an "off-the-beaten-path" destination for most international visitors. Choshi is one of my personal favorite day trip destinations from Tokyo: it is an incredibly picturesque small town where time is abundant, and everything just seems to flow a little slower. The Inubosaki Lighthouse sits on top of a tall cliff, with an excellent trail around the area that allows visitors to safely explore and experience nature's energy, feel the angry tides gravitate towards land and crash onto sharp rocks surrounding intimidating cliffs by the Pacific Ocean. Choshi is also home to some of the best and freshest sushi in Japan, with fishing boats returning every morning carrying the freshest daily catches, and sushi is served by lunch time! There is one particular kind of sushi that is very famous at Choshi: the Itamaki Sushi Roll made with a traditional style custard omelet, this uniquely tasty sushi roll is a must-try for any visitors in the area! An excellent sushi restaurant to taste Choshi's renowned sushi is Shimatake Sushi, right across the street from Inubo Station near Inubosaki Lighthouse. Finally, be sure to visit Hodarakusan Mangan Temple, a beautiful Buddhist Temple with a lavish golden pagoda tower. Choshi can be easily accessed on a Limited-Express Train departing in the morning from Tokyo Station, and the same train returns to Tokyo Station later in the afternoon, allowing 4-5 hours for visitor to walk around, sightsee and have lunch in this magnificent seaside town considered one of Tokyo's best kept secrets.

 

4. Narita

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The name "Narita" is most often directly associated with the famous airport, while not many realize the town of Narita itself is a hidden gem worthy as a destination of its own! The town of Narita can be easily added as a side trip for transiting passengers with a few hours to spare between flights, or visitors who are flying later in the day and would like to add an easy destination prior to flying. From Narita Station (Not to be confused with Narita Airport Terminal Station!), visitors can access the historical town of Narita within 10 minutes by walking. The town itself is lined with old style shop buildings ideal for last-minute souvenir shopping sprees or purchasing local art and crafts as well as handmade boutique goods. The main attraction in Narita is Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, one of the largest and most important Buddhist temples in the entire Kanto region. Entrance is free, and it is a very traditional temple to walk through, admire and pay respect. Finally, if you would like to give Narita's local delicacy a try, be sure to visit Manpuku-tei, a popular restaurant famous for its charcoal-grilled freshwater sea eel also known as Unagi. The melt-in-the-mouth soft Unagi, smoky and fragrant and flavorful, will be sure to leave an everlasting impression to round off your vacation in Japan on a savory note.

 

5. Chichibu

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The train journey to Chichibu is an attraction in itself! Board the Seibu LaView Limited Express Train from Ikebukuro Station, the LaView train is unlike any other trains you may have boarded in the past, featuring giant windows and lavish theatre style seating that makes you feel like royalty! Once arrived at Chichibu Station, you will be welcomed by this charming small town gracefully blessed by its beautiful natural surroundings. The Hitsujiyama Park attracts thousands of visitors every year between April and May, when beautiful cherry blossoms transform the entire park into a pink and purple sea of flowers, as if mother nature has designed a carpet made with flowers just to impress! Be sure to check out Mitsumine Shrine, a Shinto Shrine that sits on the summit of Mount Mitsumine. To access this famous shrine, visitors can choose to go by bus or car in comfort, or hike through the trails and ascend the sacred hill using the traditional way. The shrine itself is lovely, and the viewpoint at the shrine offers a panoramic view of the entire mountain valley in the region. After all that intense cardio exercises to see the shrine, work your way down to the bottom of river valley and sit and relax right by Arakawa River at a scenic location called Nagatoro Iwadatami. If you happen to visit during mid-autumn, your eyes will be treated to a fascinating mix of colors lining the entire valley for miles after miles along the river.

 

6. Kawagoe

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A quick train ride away from Central Tokyo takes you on a time travel excursion back to the Edo style Tokyo, the town of Kawagoe is known for its unique shopping district lined with traditional style shop houses that once dominated Tokyo a hundred years ago. Within the shopping district, the "Candy Alley" is occupied by over 20 sweets shops, selling fantastic selections of traditional Japanese sweets, candies and snacks that will most definitely satisfy your sweet tooth's cravings. During the summer months, the Kawagoe Water Park is a great place for the entire family to escape the excruciating heat and humidity. While visiting Kawagoe, please check out the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Site that has been standing for over 1500 years. The Shinto Shrine is also considered a National Culturally Important Property, as it is also the origin of the Kawagoe Matsuri, a traditional Japanese festival held annually on the third weekend of October, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to join in the festivities and admire the grandiose traditional parade floats.

 

7. Nikko

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Nikko can be easily accessed on direct limited express trains from Shinjuku or Asakusa Station in Tokyo. The town of Nikko is most well-known for Toshogu, one of Japan's most lavishly decorated shrines also known as the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate and one of the most prominent rulers in Japanese history. The Town of Nikko is the access point to Nikko National Park, an area well known for beautiful lakes and waterfalls up on the mountains. In particular, the area around Lake Chuzenji is famous for having some of Japan's most beautiful autumn foliage sceneries, while the twisty and windy Irohazaka Roads are considered one of Japan's most scenic and romantic roads to travel on. While Nikko is technically doable as a same-day trip, an overnight stay is best if you plan on seeing the amazing waterfalls along the way. Meanwhile, spending an evening at a traditional onsen hotel within one of the few onsen towns around the region is also a very special experience! You will get to sleep on a Tatami floor mat in a traditional style Japanese room, and taste local home-made delicacies prepared with love for dinner and breakfast.

 

8. Okutama

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Known for lush green river valleys and scenic hikes throughout the region, Okutama attracts many locals looking for quick getaways from the city into nature's heartland from Tokyo. For those looking for outdoor adventures, river rafting is very popular in this region from Spring to Fall seasons. In Okutama, there are lots of scenic hiking trails that ultimately lead to hidden waterfalls within the mountains, making every hike worthy of the time spent! Be sure to check out Okutama Lake, an extremely photogenic location that is especially beautiful during autumn, when stunning fall colors perfectly reflect upon the lake's calm surface from all surrounding hills. Finally, go underground and explore the hidden caves within the mountains! The Nipporashou Nyudou Cave takes you on an underground adventure, complete with music and lighting to enhance the experience while touring through a seemingly different world of its own. Okutama can be easily accessed from Tokyo and Shinjuku Station onboard the Ome Rapid Express Commuter Train along the Chuo Rapid Line.