Japan’s innovative capital buzzes with the vibrations of neon lights, chugging trains, and the decisive footsteps of salarymen. The opportunity to see or do something you never have before lies around every corner. But as anyone who’s spent a few hours in Shibuya or Shinjuku can tell you, it tends to get a little overwhelming. If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, don’t forget to add some places near Tokyo as well!
In cities close to Tokyo, you’ll find stunning landscapes, culturally and historically significant points-of-interest, and dazzling feats of art and engineering. Whether or not you actually need an escape from Tokyo, itinerary-willing, don’t pass up on the chance to see as much of Japan as you can. Here, we’ll go over our top places to see near Tokyo and day trip ideas.
Established by an esoteric monk in the 8th century, this little town embodies the relationship between humans and nature. The magnificent craftsmanship of Nikko’s temples and shrines astounds those who visit, but the breathtaking natural scenery here attracts visitors as well. On a one day trip to Nikko from Tokyo, you’ll understand why the Japanese say, “You can’t say kekkō (that you’re satisfied) until you’ve seen Nikko!”
Among Nikko’s 103 World Heritage sites, the most distinguished destinations are the Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan Shrine, and Rinnoji Temple. Nature lovers also can’t miss Kengon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, which are particularly beautiful in autumn. You can get from Tokyo to Nikko via the JR Nikko line, or to Tobu Nikko Station by express train. Going by bus or car will take you through Irohazaka Winding Road, which has 48 hairpin turns that wrap around a maple-studded mountain.
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Perhaps the best weekend trip from Tokyo you can make is to Ibaraki Prefecture. In the capital city Mito, you’ll find Kairakuen where three thousand plum trees bloom before the cherry blossom season begins in April. In May, 4.5 million baby blue-eyes flowers grow in Hitachi Seaside Park, and there are other displays year-round. If you aren’t traveling during these months, there are still plenty of reasons to go to Ibaraki Prefecture.
The rural landscape is home to sights you’ll never find around Tokyo. The gorgeous Fukuroda waterfall is a sight to behold year-round, and the double peaks of Mt. Tsukuba rival Fuji. No matter where you go, though, don’t miss Ushiku City which has the tallest Great Buddha statue in Japan.
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An easy-to-get-to city to take a day trip from Tokyo by train is Kawagoe. It’s only 30 minutes away from Ikebukuro station on the Tōbu Tōjō train line, but, unfortunately, you can’t use your Japan Rail Pass. The extra expense is worth it to see the historic streets and preserved buildings. If you always dreamed of seeing Edo Period Japan, this is the town for you.
Exiting the station, you’ll find Kitain Temple, which houses 540 stone statues of Buddha’s disciples. Each one has a unique facial expression, and you can spend hours hunting for your favorite one. Continuing on the main road takes you to the kurazukuri warehouses. Locals call this district “Little Edo” because it perfectly preserves the atmosphere of old Tokyo.
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If you’re looking forward to bathing in a hot spring, the best onsen towns near Tokyo are in Gunma Prefecture. You can make your stay complete by spending the night in a ryokan—a traditional inn. For Japanese people, ryokans represent the epitome of relaxation. In addition to soaking in piping hot water, you can stroll in the garden, nap, and dine while wearing a comfortable yukata.
Minakami Hot Spring Village has commanding views of three mountains and is near scenic lakes. On the slopes of Mount Shirane, Manza Onsen Town has the most sulfuric waters in all of Japan, and many people go here for the beautifying effects. In the center of Gunma, Kusatsu Onsen is one of the most beloved destinations in Japan. It famously pumps more water than any other hot springs in the country.
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At the northeastern region of the Izu Peninsula lies Atami, a popular locale for seaside resorts. From Tokyo Station, it takes one hour to reach Atami on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen. This traditional fishing town’s sloping hills that surround the shore are reminiscent of Naples, Italy. It makes our list of places to go outside of Tokyo because, in addition to its sweeping ocean views, Atami is a great town to get away from the crowds.
Visitors to Atami can’t miss places like the MOA Museum of Art. As if the impressive collection of Western and East Asian art wasn’t enough, you can also walk through a Japanese garden with tea houses and a noh theater. Atami is also known for having one of the earliest cherry blossom festivals in the country. Atami’s sakura trees reach their full bloom between late January and early February.
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The best place to visit just outside of Tokyo might be Yokohama. Since opening its ports to foreign trade in 1859, visitors from all over the world have flocked to this city for business, food, and fun. By population, it’s the second-largest city in Japan with over three million residents. It only takes 40 minutes by local train to reach Yokohama station making for a convenient side trip from Tokyo.
Yokohama’s Chinatown is one of the largest of its kind and is the birthplace of Japanese ramen. Food enthusiasts also can’t miss the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, which offers samples of regional varieties from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Families also enjoy Hakkeijima Sea Paradise where you can watch dolphin shows and more, or taking in the view from Yokohama Landmark Tower.
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Kamakura was Japan’s center of political power from 1192-1333, and you can still see remnants of this period today. The crystal sea attracts beach lovers during summer, but you don’t need to wear a bathing suit on your train from Tokyo. Kamakura is also home to seasonal festivals, historical attractions, temples, and shrines.
Kamakura’s most well-known spot is Kotokuin Temple, which has an 11.4 meter-high Great Buddha statue. The nearby Hasedera Temple houses a massive wooden statue of Kannon, and on the grounds, you’ll find the Benten Kutsu Cave. Not far from Kamakura is Enoshima Island, which you can reach by train. On Enoshima you can explore the beaches, visit the aquarium, and get great views from the lighthouse observation deck.
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After spending a few days in Tokyo dashing through crowds and racing to catch trains, you might feel the need to take it slow. You can get away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis in Chichibu. Known for its impressive nature, ancient shrines, and classical wood carvings, this city in Saitama is a must-go near Tokyo.
From mid-April to early May, visitors to Hitsujiyama Park can see a spectacular array of 400,000 shibazakura (moss phlox) flowers. In winter, the city holds the Yomatsuri festival, which is one of the top three float festivals in Japan. All year round, though, pilgrims go to Chichibu to journey through 34 Buddhist temples on a route that dates back to the 14th-century.
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A trip to Japan isn’t complete without a day tour from Tokyo to Hakone. The most economical way to make a Hakone day trip from Tokyo using a JR Pass is to take the Kodama Shinkansen, then transfer for Hakone-Yumoto station. Once you reach Hakone from Tokyo, the possibilities are endless.
Along the shores of Lake Ashi, visitors can easily spot one of Hakone Shrine’s large torii gates either in the water or on Moto-Hakone street. Mountain lovers should also ride the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani to watch the sulfur vents spew volcanic fumes. The city is also an excellent place to try bathing in a hot spring or see hydrangea in early summer.
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Mt. Fuji is Japan’s tallest mountain and one of the best day trips from Tokyo. About one million people go to Fuji every year to marvel at her peak, and 300,000 people attempt the ascent when the climbing trails open from July to September. You don’t need to go for a hike to have a meaningful experience during a one day trip to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo, however.
The sleepy country towns that surround Fuji are some of the best cities near Tokyo to visit, and they offer both marvelous views and fun-filled activities for the whole family. At the Kubota Itchiku Art Museum, you can see masterfully-woven kimono. At Fuji-Q Highland theme park, you can ride Japan’s tallest, fastest, and scariest roller coasters while seeing Fuji from upside-down! Not to mention, the areas near Fuji hold acclaimed flowers festivals in spring and open ski slopes in winter.
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