It is rare people will come to Japan and not visit Tokyo. Yes, the country’s largest international airport might have something to do with it, but Tokyo isn’t just a transit town. The capital of Japan and with a population close to 14 million, to call Tokyo a thriving metropolis would sell it short. It is “the” thriving metropolis of the world.
The city is a fast-paced modern place with roots firm in traditional Japanese culture. Neon-lit skyscrapers right alongside ancient temples – there is no city in the world like Tokyo. Its often chaotic scenes mean tourists and locals alike tend to venture out of the city to breathe a well-earned sigh of relief. Whether you’re already in Tokyo or soon to go, you are sure to enjoy each of these day trips that lean into luxury.
Tokyo is the transport hub of Japan, as a result, it is very well connected. Located in picturesque Kanagawa prefecture, Hakone is an easy day trip from Tokyo. The high-speed train takes about 80 minutes, passing by the coast for a very pleasant experience.
Hakone is a mountain town famous for its onsen. What is onsen you ask? Onsen is the Japanese word for natural hot springs, and they are everywhere in Japan. Revered for their healing powers, it is highly recommended to experience at least one onsen while in Japan.
Hakone is also a beautiful town seasonally – spring for the cherry blossom, autumn for the Fall colors, and in winter its surrounding mountain sides are covered in snow. Looking out across Lake Ashi, Hakone boasts one of the best views of Mount Fuji in all of Japan and this alone is worth the visit.
If you desire a quiet day away from Tokyo, Yokohama is not the one. It is another busy city with a population in the millions and, subsequently, some prior planning is required. Only 45 mins due south on the high-speed, it is, however, a very worthy day trip from Tokyo.
One of Yokohama’s biggest drawcards on the world stage is its Chinatown. The largest in Asia, Yokohama’s Chinatown is a sprawling expanse of Chinese restaurants, shops, and street vendors. A quirky idea would be to hit the city’s CupNoodles Museum, where you will be immersed in all things instant, and all things noodle.
Take a break from the city’s hustle and bustle by visiting Sankeien Garden. This traditional Japanese-style garden is exquisitely designed and is proudly situated in the center of the city. Yokohama is also known for high-quality ramen and Yoshimura does it best.
On the same stretch of Tokyo Bay as Yokohama, Kawasaki is another easy day trip from Tokyo. It takes just 18 minutes on the train and offers a lot for such a short distance traveled. Founded in 1128, Kawasaki Daishi is one of the most arresting Buddhist temples in all of Japan. It is now the headquarters for the Chizan School of Buddhism and is located in central Kawasaki.
The city is also home to countless museums and art galleries, with Fujiko F. Fujio Museum being one of the most interactive and impressive. Another museum worth checking out while in Kawasaki is the Nihon Minkaen Open Air. Its collection of preserved Edo Period houses, farmhouses, and shrines offers a great insight into Japan’s history.
Kamakura is a beautiful seaside city known for its history and laid-back lifestyle. Kamakura town beach is packed in the summertime as domestic tourists flock in for their yearly taste of the sea. Only an hour on the train from Tokyo, it is easy to see why.
Kamakura is a very old city and was once considered the “unofficial capital” of Japan. The temple of the Great Buddha is one of its most popular tourist sites, and its size is quite staggering. Kamakura also features many zen temples, shrines, gardens, and parks.
Benten-Kutsu cave is an easy walk from the Great Buddha and its sweeping views looking out over Kamakura are a real treat. Seeing as you are down by the sea for the day, grabbing a seafood lunch kind of just fits, wouldn’t you agree? Shirasuya Honten uses fresh, seasonal ingredients to marry against the day’s catch. By all reports, it is the place to eat seafood in Kamakura.
Enoshima is a beautiful little island located just off the Shōnan Coast. Only 4 km in circumference, you will be able to slow your pace right down on Enoshima. It is connected to the mainland via the Enoshima Benten Bridge which (welcomely) removes the need to wait around for a ferry.
You will be able to circumnavigate the entire island and its shrines, gardens, cliffs and, caves in less than a day, which is perfect. Why? Because Enoshima is home to one of the most luxe onsens in Japan. Proudly perched on the edge of an ocean-fronted cliff, Enoshima Island Spa is a high-end health and wellness center. Strategically, it owns the rights to the island’s only natural hot spring.
Entry gets you a full day of soaking in the spa’s hot pool, steam room, and sauna facilities. There is also the possibility to treat yourself with various treatments and massages. Each is very worthy of a day of self-love and indulgence (because you’re totally worth it). On clear days you can even catch a distant glimpse of Mount Fuji looking out over the endless ocean (otherwise known as perfection.
Tokyo is a bustling city chock-full of people that know how to have a good time. Whether you’re digging the heels into its late-night dive bar district, sitting down for world-class ramen, or doing a spot of sightseeing, Tokyo will leave a lasting impression on you.
Although, however much fun Tokyo is, there’s no denying that beyond its city limits there is a very good time to be had also. Start with these day trips and see where you end up.
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