9 Best Day Trips from Tokyo, Japan

One of the most exciting and unique cities in the world, Tokyo already offers so much that people concentrate their entire Japan trip on this city alone. However, there’s just so much beauty to explore, more history to learn, many ways to get acquainted with the culture and lots of other interesting places outside of the capital city. Japan’s capital and the rest of the country also boast of a reliable transport system, making it easy for anyone to take day trips from Tokyo.

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There’s going to be mountainside hot springs and onsens, zen temples and shinto shrines, foodie hubs and ramen museums, palaces, and toriis – and so much more in this list of the best day excursions you can take from Tokyo.

9 Best Day Trips from Tokyo, Japan

1. Hakone

Hakone

Only an hour and a half from Tokyo, Hakone is located in the Kanagawa prefecture, Hakone is a great place to visit seasonally for cherry blossom during spring and summer, the stunning changing colors of autumn or its magical snowy backdrop every winter. It’s also an onsen town with plenty of hot springs, that boasts of unparalleled views of the nearby Mt. Fuji. If you want to see Mt. Fuji but don’t fancy going in thermal baths, there’s a Lake Ashi that offers the same unobstructed view.

Hakone is best explored on a leisurely place and should be on your list when planning a day tour from Tokyo. Some of the places you also should visit are the Hakone Open Air Museum, Owakudani Valley and its black eggs, Lake Ashi, and Hakone Shrine.

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2. Kawagoe

Kawagoe

Considered as the easiest Tokyo day trip, Kawagoe is only 30 minutes from Ikebukuro Station in Central Tokyo. A tiny place that’s best explored on foot, you’ll find yourself wandering in streets lined with quaint little storehouses and strolling on stone-paved alleys. Most of Kawagoe has preserved the Edo era feel with its traditional buildings and plenty of great food.

Some of the places you must visit when in Kawagoe are the Toki-no-kane or Time Bell Tower, and Kurazukuri Street which is lined with preserved warehouse buildings made of clay walls and tiles. There are over 200 of those here and many were turned into cafes and restaurants.

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3. Kamakura

Kamakura

Kamakura is quite literally, a mini Kyoto. It’s as historically rich, and it also boasts of hundreds of temples and Shinto shrines. Located in Kanagawa Prefecture,  Kamakura is under an hour trip from Tokyo by train. Wear comfortable shoes and set out early as there’s a lot to see and explore in Kamakura.

Experience the Daibutsu (Buddha) walking trail that’s from northern Kamakura to the temple of the Great Buddha in the south where you’ll pass through more temples, parks, and quiet footpaths. There’s also the Hasedera temple, the historic Benten-Kutsu cave, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and the Hase Temple.

If you are not into biking and temple hopping, then you can spend your day at one of Kamakura’s three beaches, Zaimokuza, Yuigahama, and Koshigoe.

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4. Osaka

Osaka

Osaka is about two hours by shinkansen from Tokyo and is the center of Western Japan. It offers various attractions to visitors that range from historic places and structures to modern amusement parks. This city is best known for the majestic Osaka Castle which is home to the Osaka Museum of History. This is where you experience the 1400-year history of Osaka in every floor as its a wealth of information represented in various exhibits.

Aside from the castle, make sure you climb up the Umeda Sky Building observatory, which is a great spot to enjoy the views as it transitions from daylight to dusk and the city lights come on. There’s also the Universal Studios, and finally, don’t forget to partake in Osaka’s rich and diverse street food culture, something that they’re quite proud of.

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5. Yokohama

Yokohama

Often referred to as Tokyo’s laid back little brother, Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city. Located in the adjacent Kanagawa Prefecture on Tokyo Bay to the south of Tokyo itself, you can reach Yokohama by local train in 30 minutes. One of the easiest Tokyo day trips, Yokohama is a fun city to explore. Some of its popular attractions are the Chinatown,  the port area called Minato Mirai, Seaside Park and Osanbashi Pier.

Head up to the 69th floor of the Landmark Building for a 360 degree perspective on the city and for a bit of quiet time, wander around the picture-perfect Sankaien Garden, founded in 1906 by a silk trader. Other popular attractions in Yokohama include the Ramen Museum, a stroll in Motomachi to feel like you’re in Europe or a tour of the Kirin Beer factory.

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6. Kyoto

Kyoto

The bullet train from Tokyo reaches Kyoto in around 2.5 hours. Head off early and prepare for a jam-packed but unforgettable day of exploring Kyoto’s unique attractions and sampling the local cuisine.

Kyoto’s 1,600 temples and Shinto shrines are an essential part of the city and its culture, and it’s a must to visit at least a few of these. Then there’s the rich history associated with Nijo castle and the Imperial Palace, the food at Nishiki market, the fascinating geisha culture, the impressive gardens and parks, and the traditional arts. A trip to Kyoto also isn’t complete without visiting the breathtaking Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

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7. Nikko

The region is popular for hiking as well as its autumn to winter scenery,  but Nikko’s most popular attraction is its UNESCO World Heritage site. This includes the stunning Tosho-gu shrine that dates back to 1617, the Shinkyo bridge that was built in 1636 and the Kanmangafuchi Abyss. The bays were formed by an explosion from nearby Mount Nantai and have many Jizo statues located opposite the botanical garden.

Apart from these sites, day visitors can also enjoy the naturally beautiful environment with rocky landscapes, waterfalls, lakes, and hot springs. Nikko is an easy day trip from Tokyo, via the Tobu Railway that runs from Asakusa and takes just under 2 hours.

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8. Kusatsu Onsen Town

Kusatsu Onsen Town

Kusatsu is one of the three top onsen resort towns in Japan,  tucked away in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture. This onsen sources their water from Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, which are too hot to bathe in so they need to use different ways to cool it down. There’s a huge cooling field called Yubatake in the town center, as well as the traditional Yumomi method of cooling.

Kusatsu Onsen makes for a wonderful day trip from Tokyo, as there are other things to see and do in town aside from the baths.  A must watch is the Yumomi performance, where women stir the hot spring waters with large wooden paddles to help cool down the steaming pools while singing folk songs. Another must-visit in Kusatsu is the Mount Shirane and its breathtaking crater lake.

9. Enoshima

A small island connected to the mainland Shonan district by the 600m long bridge, Enoshima’s main attraction is the grand Enoshima Shrine. These holy grounds are dedicated to the goddess of good fortune, music, wealth and poetry — the Goddess Benzaiten. Only an hour by rail from the capital city, Enoshima is one of those day trips from Japan that combines adventure and relaxation.

When on the island, you must try riding the escalators up to the hill, explore the shrines and gardens, hike up the cliffs on the seaward side and see the Iwaya caves. The Iwaya Caves are among the most popular in Enoshima with its amazing tidal pools.

There is also a small shopping street that leads up to the big torii as you enter the island and the spa where you can soak in an onsen with a view of Mt Fuji on a clear day.

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