Making day trips from Tokyo to other towns and cities might require a lot of research because all the places look equally amazing, and it’s hard to know what exactly to expect. Additionally, for a city that is only almost English friendly, it is somewhat difficult to plan the trips ahead unless you know the right websites that give you the right information. Having lived in Tokyo for almost six months, I have done five day trips to very different places, extensive research have been done before each trip was made and I would highly recommend these places to anyone for the following reasons:
- They all take less than two hours to reach (by bus/ train(s))
- None of the places in my suggestions are similar to each other
- You don’t need to stay overnight in these places
- The places have enough sightseeing spots to entertain you for a day
- They are all tourist friendly places (i.e. with reasonable English speakers)
N.B ♥♥♥♥♥ is the highest rating given for each category in suggestions below. Please also note that I will be writing a separate blog for each of these places, those blogs will include more travelling detail and everything, look out for them in the coming weeks!
Lake Kawaguchiko is one of the most accessible spots to see Mt. Fuji. The lake forms a beautiful picture together with the mountain and it is definitely worth going for first time visitors in Japan. There are express bus services going to Lake Kawaguchiko from all the key areas in Tokyo (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo Station etc. approx. 4000 yen return), they run fairly frequently and it takes just under two hours to get there. You can walk around the lake, enjoy a bowl of the region’s famous Houtou Udon (very yummy), get a day pass into one of the hotspring hotels around the lake, and visit the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park which is famous for some of the fastest rides in the world.
Nikko has a special place in my heart because of its well preserved UNESCO World Heritage site which houses shrines that look more unique than any others in Japan (for me personally), and in the middle of a forest. From Tokyo Station, it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Nikko via Shinkansen which costs about 11,000 yen (approx. USD98/ GBP75) return. You can choose to walk to all the sightseeing spots in Nikko or take a bus around the town, personally, I think it’s easier to walk as the bus schedule is rather infrequent. The first site to visit is the UNESCO site of Toshogu Shrine within the Nikko National Park. The spiritual shrine and the peaceful environment makes visitors want to linger around the area, absorb the fresh air and therapeutic atmosphere before they move onto other sightseeing spots. I also went to see the Tamozawa Villa (the Emperor’s summer palace) and the Kanmangafuchi Abyss, two sites that I fully recommend on top of Toshogu. Lastly, finish your day with the region’s delicacy, Yuba (tofu skin), I have never imagined myself being so impressed and fulfilled by a meal that is made only by tofu.Accessibility: ♥♥♥
Yokohama is a romantic port city that is also the second largest in Japan. it is only 30 mins by train from Tokyo Station and various main stations around Tokyo. The city itself is very vibrant and it is home to the Cup Noodles Museum and Ramen Museum. I visited the Cup Noodles Museum and it was such an amazing experience, I got to make my own instant noodles from scratch in a 500 yen workshop that lasted for an hour! Apart from that, visitors can also take a romantic stroll along the harbour front, enjoy a nice ice tea/ ice cream outside, check out the cute boutiques, then proceed to the Osanbashi Pier which you could lie down on the lawn and watch the sunset.
Enoshima is a town adjacent to Kamakura, the more popular tourist destination. But if you are like me who has seen enough shrines in Japan, and Buddha sounds only mildly interesting to you, then you can check out Enoshima. What I like about the town is that it has a lively island with tons of different cafes on the hill overlooking the sea, the natural landscape around the Iwaya Caves, the shops near Enoshima Shrine which are full of characteristics, and its beach. So in one day, you can do a small hike, check out some local shops, have a nice lunch/afternoon tea on the hill overlooking the sea (reminds me of Southern France somehow), and swim a little (or in my case, wet my feet) in the beach! We even took a boat tour from the beach area to Iwaya Caves, what a bonus. Trains run fairly frequently from Tokyo and it takes about an hour to travel from Shinjuku/ Tokyo Station and other main Tokyo train stations, the fare is about 3500 yen return.
Karuizawa is a famous summer getaway town for local Japanese due to its cooler temperature and itself being the destination to many summer homes of wealthy Japanese. It takes about an hour by Shinkansen to arrive at Karuizawa (11,000 yen return, approx. USD98/ GBP75), the area has a lot of different sightseeing spots although they are sparsely distributed. I would highly recommend renting a bike and enjoying an active day of cycling around the area, which will be very rewarding because you will get to see the natural landscape along the way. My top suggestion for Karuizawa is Cafe Aura, it’s on the highest point of the town and I am pretty sure it’s above the clouds. The cafe offers an unforgettable view of the region from the mountain, and the architecture of the cafe itself is also worth paying attention to. However, the only way to reach the cafe is by car or taxi (2000 yen each way from the station), so remember to plan ahead if you would like to visit this place.
Japan-Guide.com introduction to Shinkansen: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html
Japan train timetable and route information: http://www.hyperdia.com/
In general, my go-to source is www.japan-guide.com