As I work remote and live in central Tokyo - one thing that has remained true since I moved here in this ever-changing city, is that there will never be a dull moment. You can spend months on end, each day roaming these streets and will never be bored. In Japan’s capital city, there is always, always something to do. But sometimes we just need an escape, even if boredom isn’t the reason - perhaps it’s because Japan has so much to offer beyond Tokyo, and even the Kanto region is a brilliant patchwork of beauty awaiting to be discovered. If you want a little breather or change from Tokyo, the good thing is an abundance of diverse landscapes, rich history, and cultural treasures lie just beyond the city's boundaries. Here are my hand-picked captivating destinations that you can do a weekend getaway to or a day trip from Tokyo. Curious? Follow me on Instagram and YouTube for more adventures!
1. Fuji Five Lakes
The five lakes surrounding Mount Fuji — Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko, and Motosuko —each offer their own unique perspectives of the mountain. Explore the shores, rent a boat, or take a leisurely walk to appreciate Mount Fuji's grandeur in a tranquil lakeside setting. If you are not sure which one to choose - Lake Kawaguchiko is the most accessible and popular among the Fuji Five Lakes. From Tokyo, you can take a direct highway bus from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station, which takes around two hours. Once at Kawaguchiko, you can explore the lake's surroundings on foot, rent a bicycle, or take a pleasure boat cruise. There are several viewpoints, including Oishi Park, where you can capture breathtaking images of Mount Fuji reflected in the lake's calm waters.
When planning your visit to the Fuji Five Lakes, consider staying overnight to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the region. There are accommodations available around each lake, including ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and hotels that offer stunning views of Mount Fuji.As I work remote and live in central Tokyo - one thing that has remained true since I moved here in this ever-changing city, is that there will never be a dull moment. You can spend months on end, each day roaming these streets and will never be bored. In capital city, there is always, always something to do. But sometimes we just need an escape, even if boredom isn’t the reason - perhaps it’s because Japan has so much to offer beyond Tokyo, and even the Kanto region is a brilliant patchwork of beauty awaiting to be discovered. If you want a little breather or change from Tokyo, the good thing is an abundance of diverse landscapes, rich history, and cultural treasures lie just beyond the city's boundaries. Here are my hand-picked captivating destinations that you can do a weekend getaway to or a day trip from Tokyo.
2. Hakone and Lake Ashi
Seek respite in the breathtaking landscapes of Hakone, a mountainous region renowned for its hot springs and stunning views of Mount Fuji. Honestly, no matter what season you're going - Hakone reminds postcard picture perfect. After all, Hakone is known as a picturesque region near Mount Fuji, and offers a delightful combination of natural beauty, hot springs, and cultural attractions. Many day trips from Tokyo to Hakone include a scenic cruise on Lake Ashi, where you can admire stunning views of Mount Fuji from the water. Additionally, you can take a cable car ride up to Owakudani, a volcanic valley with steam vents and hot springs, and soak in one of the region's rejuvenating hot spring resorts. Don't forget to capture that iconic postcard-worthy view of Mount Fuji if weather permits! You can also book this easy day trip from Tokyo to Hakone, including a fun cruise, if you're short on time.
If you have an overnight stay or a weekend away in Hakone, this is where you must do an onsen experience with your stay. It is widely known that Japanese hot springs are revered for their therapeutic properties. It is believed that the mineral-rich waters can alleviate various ailments such as fatigue, muscle pain, and skin conditions - which is why locals of all ages from the elderly to young kids love going to the onsen. The hot springs provide a space for relaxation and rejuvenation, allowing visitors to join in and escape the stresses of daily life and find solace in the healing powers of nature. Being the legendary natural spa hot spring town, you'll get to submerge into the quintessential Japanese experience all while exploring more of what this country has to offer.
Venture to Yokohama, Tokyo's neighbouring city, to discover a blend of modernity and maritime charm. Explore the vibrant streets of Minato Mirai, home to iconic landmarks like the Yokohama Landmark Tower and the Red Brick Warehouse. Not many visitors know, but you can take a direct metro subway train from Tokyo to Yokohama! The metro system is that well connected between the two cities. Once you're here, you can indulge in a delightful waterfront stroll at Yamashita Park, and witness the breathtaking views from the observation deck of the iconic Yokohama Cosmo World Ferris wheel.
But my favourite thing about exploring Yokohama? The Chinatown! It is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world and boasts a history that dates back to the late 19th century. Yokohama's Chinatown was established when Yokohama opened its port to international trade, attracting Chinese merchants and residents. The district has retained its authentic charm, with narrow streets, traditional Chinese architecture, ornate gates, and vibrant red lanterns, providing a sense of stepping into another world. Whenever you go, make sure you have plenty of room in your stomach to eat! Yokohama Chinatown is a paradise for food lovers. The district is renowned for its diverse array of Chinese cuisine, from mouthwatering dim sum, steamed buns, Peking duck, dumplings, Sichuan cuisine, and much more along the stalls on the streets.
Escape the urban hustle and immerse yourself in the natural splendour of Nikko, located just a few hours from Tokyo. Marvel at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Toshogu Shrine, adorned with intricate carvings and vibrant colours. Beyond shrines and temples, Nikko's natural splendour unfolds in the form of cascading waterfalls, serene lakes, and lush forests. The Kegon Falls, one of Japan's most renowned waterfalls, mesmerises anyone with its impressive 97-meter drop into a deep gorge. Take a moment to feel the mist on your face and absorb the raw power and beauty of nature. Lake Chuzenji, nestled in the mountains, offers a serene retreat where you can enjoy boating or simply indulge in the tranquil ambience while gazing at the surrounding peaks.
Nikko National Park, encompassing Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and a vast expanse of pristine wilderness, beckons nature enthusiasts and hikers. Embark on scenic trails, such as the Senjogahara Marshland or the Odashirogahara Plateau, and let the untouched landscapes and fresh mountain air rejuvenate your spirit. While Nikko's natural wonders and cultural treasures take the spotlight, the town itself exudes a charming ambience. Stroll through the streets lined with traditional shops and restaurants, and savour local delicacies like yuba, which is Japanese tofu skin (also one of my favourite street snacks!) or Nikko's famous cheesecake. The Tamozawa Imperial Villa, a beautifully preserved residence once used by the Japanese imperial family, offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of past eras.
Step back in time to Japan's medieval era with a visit to Kamakura, a historic coastal town near Tokyo. Marvel at the iconic Great Buddha (Daibutsu) at Kotoku-in Temple, a towering bronze statue that has watched over the city for centuries. Stroll through quaint streets, visit traditional shrines like Hase-dera and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, and relax on the picturesque beaches that dot the coastline. If you don't want to deal with the logistics of getting to Kamakura, check out this simple day trip from Tokyo that will take you to Kamakura in comfort.
Now don't go to Kamakura without taking the Enoden, a charming Ghibli-esque heritage train line that runs between Kamakura and Enoshima island. The Enoden, officially known as the Enoshima Electric Railway, is a popular mode of transportation for both locals and tourists, offering a nostalgic and scenic journey along the coastline. Yes, the sunsets are just as surreal from the train window as it is on the beaches of Kamakura!
Kamakura Daibutsu, Kotokuin temple, Kamakura4-chōme-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0016, Japan
6. Enoshima Island
Speaking of the Enoden train, while riding the heritage train, you have the option to make a detour to Enoshima Island by getting off at the Enoshima Station. Enoshima Island, or Enoshima in short, is a small island that can be reached via a short walk across the Enoshima Benten Bridge from the mainland, located just off the coast of Kamakura. As you arrive on Enoshima, you'll immediately notice the stunning views of the surrounding ocean. The island's coastline offers panoramic vistas, especially from spots like Sea Candle Observation Tower and the Samuel Cocking Garden. From these vantage points, you can admire the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the rugged cliffs, and the picturesque beaches.
Be prepare to walk! So come with comfortable shoes since one of the highlights of visiting Enoshima is climbing the island's numerous stairs and pathways that lead to its summit. As you ascend, you'll pass through lush forests and encounter various attractions, including the Iwaya Caves. These caves offer a unique glimpse into Enoshima's geological features and house several Shinto shrines dedicated to the island's deities.
7. Chureito Pagoda
Not just any pagoda - but the view from here has been inscribed into practically any mind's eye image of Japan when you think of this wildly epic country. Chureito Pagoda is a must-do experience for travellers seeking breathtaking views of Mount Fuji and immersing themselves in the beauty of Japanese architecture. Located in the town of Fujiyoshida, near the Five Lakes region, Chureito Pagoda is perched on a hillside overlooking the iconic Mount Fuji. The pagoda is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine complex and is known for its stunning views and picturesque setting. You can also book this day trip tour from Tokyo to easily get to the pagoda hassle-free.
To reach Chureito Pagoda, you'll need to climb a series of steps that wind through a serene forested area. As you ascend, the anticipation builds, and you'll catch glimpses of the pagoda through the trees. The journey itself is a pleasant experience, offering a sense of tranquility and immersion in nature. Upon reaching the top, you'll be greeted by the striking sight of Chureito Pagoda against the backdrop of Mount Fuji. The five-story pagoda, painted in vibrant red, stands tall and majestic, representing a blend of Buddhist and Shinto architectural styles. Each floor of the pagoda holds religious artifacts and offers a vantage point for observing the panoramic views.
Visiting Kawagoe, often referred to as "Little Edo," is like stepping into a time capsule that transports you back to the Edo period of Japan. Located just outside of Tokyo, Kawagoe is renowned for its well-preserved traditional architecture, charming streets, and rich historical heritage. As you explore Kawagoe, you'll be captivated by the distinctive Kurazukuri (warehouse) buildings that line the streets. These traditional storehouses feature black plaster walls and white lattice windows, creating a nostalgic ambience that harkens back to the town's prosperous past.
Venturing through the streets of Kawagoe, you'll discover a treasure trove of traditional shops and eateries. The Candy Alley (Kashiya Yokocho) is particularly famous, offering an array of delightful sweets and snacks. The tantalizing aromas of freshly baked sweet potatoes and the sight of traditional candies being handmade will awaken your senses and transport you to a bygone era. It's definitely charming to see how Kawagoe still retains old Japan, making this a worthwhile day trip from modern Tokyo.
While Tokyo offers an abundance of excitement and cultural wonders, the surrounding region beckons with its own extraordinary charm. From the ancient temples of Nikko to the coastal beauty of Kamakura, the scenic landscapes of Hakone, the urban sophistication of Yokohama, and the Edo-era nostalgia of Kawagoe, these day trips promise unforgettable experiences that complement your Tokyo adventure - but takes you further into the depth of what Japan as a country is. So, venture beyond the city limits, embrace the diversity of Japanese heritage as you explore these captivating destinations on your journey through Tokyo and beyond.
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