I know that Tokyo is a very exciting place, especially for first-time visitors, but I cannot emphasize it often enough: It’s important to get out and see other parts of Japan as well. If you cannot afford going all the way to Kyoto, Hiroshima or Fukuoka, then at least plan a few day trips from Tokyo. I’m sure you won’t regret it. In fact, there are million of options, so it might be hard to choose. Here are my recommendations for day trips from Tokyo.
Day Trips from Tokyo to Kanagawa Prefecture:
Kanagawa Prefecture is right next to Tokyo, so it’s easy, cheap and fast to visit. As there are a lot of things to see, Kanagawa is certainly one of the best options for a day trip or even a weekend trip. I want to introduce a few places that are especially worth visiting.
Hakone (箱根) is part of the volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park centered around Lake Ashino. It’s an internationally famous holiday resort offering hot springs, natural beauty and great views of Mt. Fuji. As it’s less than 100 km from Tokyo, it makes a great day trip.
A big red gate stands at the entrance of Hakone Shrine which is located right next to Lake Ashino.
You can take a cable car to explore Owakudani, a volcanic hot spot full of sulphurous springs.
There you can enjoy black eggs (黒玉子, kuro tamago) which are unique to Hakone. The shell turns black due to a chemical reaction with the sulphurous water. Despite their look, they actually taste delicious and are said to prolong your life, so definitely try them!
You should take a pirate ship tour on Lake Ashino. On a clear day you can even see Mt. Fuji.
If you’re interested in visiting Hakone, check out this website with lots of useful information in English.
Kamakura (鎌倉) is less than an hour away from Tokyo. It’s also known as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, offering numerous temples, shrines and other historical structures such as Hasedera Temple, Engakuji Temple and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.
The most famous attraction of Kamakura is the Great Buddha of Kotokuin.
If you’re planning a day trip to Kamakura, check out this website.
Just like Kamakura, Enoshima (江の島) is located in the Shonan area.
It’s a small island, connected to the mainland by the 600-m-long Enoshima Bridge.
In summer you can go swimming or surfing at the beach. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Mt. Fuji.
There are several interesting sights such as temples, shrines, a cave and even an aquarium.
Most popular is probably the Enoshima Shrine complex dedicated to Benzaiten, goddess of good fortune, wealth, music and poetry. She’s said to be the creator of Enoshima.
Odawara City (小田原市) is the entrance to the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. You could stop by for a short 1h-visit on your way to Hakone.
If you’re into Japanese castles, then you’ll love Odawara Castle. Its size is quite impressive and the museum on several floors inside the castle tower offers a lot of interesting artefacts.
Yokohama (横浜) is probably one of the most popular day trips from Tokyo. There are so many things to do and see there, it won’t get boring.
Minato Mirai (left photo) and China Town (right photo) are well-known attractions.
Apart from that you can also check out the Cup Noodle Museum, Ramen Museum, Kirin Beer Museum as well as a former residential area of foreign merchants.
If you like Japanese gardens, enjoy a few hours at the beautiful Sankeien Garden, especially worth checking out in autumn and spring.
For more information, read the Yokohama Visitors’ Guide.
If it’s not your first trip to Japan, you might have already seen the most popular tourist spots close to Tokyo. Then, I suggest going to Kawasaki which is only a short train ride away from central Tokyo.
The Kawasaki Daishi Temple is quite impressive. The shopping street leading to the temple offers so many delicious snacks and you can get all the souvenirs you’ve ever dreamed of. Especially for Maneki Neko and Daruma lovers it’s a tiny paradise.
There’s also a lovely Chinese garden nearby.
If you happen to be there in early April, you might want to experience one of the craziest Japanese festivals. The Kanamara Matsuri also known as “Phallus Festival” is held in Kawasaki every year.
Day Trips from Tokyo to Tochigi Prefecture:
Tochigi Prefecture is located in the Kanto region just like Tokyo. It’s contiguous with Ibaraki, Gunma, Saitama, and Fukushima Prefectures. Not a very well-known prefecture for travelling, apart from one spot:
Nikko (日光) is a small town that marks the entrance to Nikko National Park.
Nikko is mostly famous for Toshogu Shrine, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The shrine buildings are extremely fascinating and the various carvings with all their details could keep you busy all day long. The three monkeys are one of the most popular carvings there.
When you are in Nikko, make sure to also visit the beautiful Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖, right photo) – which offers a lovely scenery, especially in autumn (mid to late October).
And don’t miss the Kegon Fall (華厳の滝, kegon no taki) which is not only very close to the other two sights, but is also one of Japan’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls.
There’s so much more to see in the Nikko National Park, so if you want to visit, check out this website for more information.
Day Trips from Tokyo to Saitama Prefecture:
Saitama Prefecture is bordered by Tokyo and parts of it can actually be seen as a suburb of Tokyo. In short, it’s really close and thus ideal for a day trip.
Kawagoe (川越) is probably the most famous sightseeing spot in Saitama.
It’s a former castle town and you can still visit one last remaining building of Kawagoe Castle, called “Honmaru Goten“.
A very well-known attraction is the Warehouse District with its clay-walled buildings that create an Edo period (1603-1867) atmosphere.
Well worth checking out is also “Kitain Temple” (喜多院). You’ll find the only remaining buildings of the original Edo Castle there. Make sure to visit the “Gohyaku Rakan” statues as well. These are more than 500 stone statues of the disciples of Buddha and each of them has its own facial expression. Find the one that looks like you. Very amusing!
For more information about sightseeing in Kawagoe click here.
Another major attraction of Saitama Prefecture is Chichibu City (秩父市).
In spring (late April – late May) you can enjoy beautiful shibazakura (pink moss) in Hitsujiyama Park.
Chichibu Shrine is also well worth checking out. In early December a lot of people attend the yearly night festival at the shrine.
While those two attractions are certainly a highlight when visiting Chichibu, there’s a lot more to explore.
Day Trips from Tokyo to Shizuoka Prefecture:
Shizuoka Prefecture is probably quite well-known – even among foreign visitors to Japan – because of its beautiful sights of Mt. Fuji.
10. Izu Peninsula – Atami:
Atami City (熱海市), a coastal hot spring resort, is located at the entrance to the Izu Peninsula. Even if you’re short on time you can at least visit Atami. It even has a Shinkansen station, so if you have the Japan Rail Pass, it’s a cheap 40-mins trip.
You can just soak in one of the many onsen, enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean, visit one of the several museums or …
… check out Atami Castle. From up there you’ll also get a breathtaking view.
If you want to do more than just a day trip, I highly recommend exploring the rest of the Izu Peninsula as well.
11. Mt. Fuji:
Who doesn’t love Mt. Fuji? I surely do. And Shizuoka is one of the best places to get some great views of this beautiful volcano. Now that since it has become a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s even more popular.
There are tons of places within Shizuoka Prefecture from where you can see Mt. Fuji. I recommend Fuji City and Shimizu, especially Miho no Matsubara beach (right photo). In summer (July – August) you can also climb Mt. Fuji – although you’d need more than a day trip to accomplish it.
For more interesting sights in Shizuoka, check out my previous blog posts.
Day Trips from Tokyo to Chiba Prefecture:
Chiba Prefecture is right next to Tokyo and many people forget that some sights are actually in Chiba and not in Tokyo (such as Tokyo Disneyland).
12. Chiba Castle:
If you’re short on time, but interested in Japanese castles, then visiting Chiba Castle is a good option. It takes less than an hour to get there.
And it’s a famous hanami spot in spring, so that’s probably the best time to visit.
13. Boso Peninsula – Tateyama:
My personal highlight in Chiba is the Boso Peninsula which offers various extraordinary sights. Here’s a recommended sightseeing tour throughout the Boso region by JR East.
Worth visiting is Tateyama City (館山市) which has a nice castle and several interesting shrines and temples, always with the beautiful ocean in the background.
Apparently it’s also great for windsurfing because I saw a lot of people doing it when I went there.
14. Boso Peninsula – Nokogiriyama:
Don’t miss Mt. Nokogiriyama (鋸山) when you come to the Boso Peninsula.
Nicknamed “Sawtooth Mountain” because of its current shape it offers not only a great view, but also is home to Nihonji Temple with one of the biggest Buddha Statues in Japan.
I highly recommend this as a day trip from Tokyo.
There’s a lot more to see, so make sure to check it out.
Day Trips from Tokyo to Yamanashi Prefecture:
Yamanashi Prefecture is actually the other prefecture besides Shizuoka that Mt. Fuji can call home. Yes, that mountain is so big it’s located in two Japanese prefectures.
If you want to get some breathtaking landscape photos with Mt. Fuji in the background, then the Fujigoko (5 Fuji Lakes) are your best bet.
The one that’s easily accessible by public transportation (there’s even a direct highway bus from Shinjuku) is Lake Kawaguchi.
Lake Kawaguchi offers quite a few fun things to do, so you could easily spend a few days there, but the main focus is Mt. Fuji, of course.
The famous red Chureito Pagoda can be found in nearby Fujiyoshida City (just 10 mins by train from Kawaguchiko).
If you happen to be in Japan in spring (late April to late May), then visiting the “Shibazakura Festival” is a MUST! With Mt. Fuji in the background this is by far the most beautiful pink moss field I’ve ever seen in Japan.
For more lovely places to check out, go and read the Yamanashi Sightseeing Spots website.
Day Trips from Tokyo to Gunma Prefecture:
Gunma Prefecture is a bit farther away from Tokyo, but a day trip is still possible. For holders of the Japan Rail Pass it’s totally worth it as the Shinkansen takes less than an hour.
16. Kusatsu Onsen:
Kusatsu is one of Japan’s best hot spring resorts and one of my personal favorites. Going there on a day trip would actually be a shame as you would want to spend more time there. If you take a direct bus from Tokyo, it’ll take about 4 h one-way, so you wouldn’t have that much time. Using a rental car would be more beneficial.
At Kusatsu Onsen (草津温泉) you can watch a so-called Yumomi (湯もみ) performance. It’s a traditional method of cooling down the hot water so that people can comfortably take a bath afterwards. Women are stirring the water with a large wooden paddle while singing local folk songs.
The region is a paradise for hot spring lovers all year round. There are so many things to discover, so I recommend taking your time while you’re there.
Another highlight when visiting Kusatsu is the nearby crater lake of Mt. Shirane.
Takasaki City (高崎市) is only a 50-mins bullet train ride from Tokyo. It’s famous for daruma as it’s the leading producer of the “lucky charm” dolls in Japan.
18. Lockheart Castle:
Ok, I admit that this is not a typical day trip destination from Tokyo. And I swear I’m not adding it because it’s a castle. *g*
Lockheart Castle was originally built by the Lockhart Family in 1829 in Carluke, Scotland. Then, Japanese actor Masahiko Tsugawa bought it. The castle was taken apart and shipped to Japan where it was put together again.
Now you can find a lot of galleries and museums there (even a Santa Museum). It’s also a popular place for weddings.
This is just a little extra I thought I’d throw in for all the fans of Japanese dramas and movies, because some of you might have seen it there. It has been used as shooting location for dramas such as “Atashinchi no Danshi” or “Kaibutsu-kun“.
Lockheart Castle is about a 2h drive from Tokyo, but you can also access it by public transportation. Take a train to JR Numata Station and from there a bus (~ 20 mins) or taxi.
The Tourist Guide of Gunma Prefecture shows you even more places you could explore.
19. Your Favorite Day Trips from Tokyo?
There certainly are other places to check out, but let’s face it, for Fukushima, Sendai, Nagano or Nagoya you’d want more time than just a mere day trip. And you’d probably want the Japan Rail Pass to save money.
I could recommend a lot more such as Mt. Takao, for example. But I think it’s a lot more fun to hear what you’d recommend.
What are your suggestions? What makes a great day trip from Tokyo?
Please tell us in the comment box below.
Read next: 50 Day Trips from Kyoto