Tokyo is amazing, but it’s great to explore outside the city too. If you’ve ever wondered what the best day trips from Tokyo are then we’ve got the blog for you.
The dazzling mega city of Tokyo is a wonderland with almost endless things to see and do. It’s rightly famous for being one of the most exciting cities in the world, but with a Japan Rail Pass in hand and the rest of Japan within reach, there’s no need to settle for just one amazing destination. You have the means and opportunity to get out of the city and explore. Tokyo is extremely well connected to the rest of Japan thanks to the country’s world-leading domestic rail network and one of the best places to embark on a day trip from the city. Let’s take a look at our top five recommendations for Tokyo day trip destinations.
Five of The Best Tokyo Day Trips
Tokyo is one of the greatest cities in the world, but it’s also one of the best cities to use as a base for amazing day trips. This gives you a chance to get out of the city and discover somewhere new, and completely different kinds of experiences, while still holidaying in Tokyo itself.
Nikko is one of the ultimate day trips from Tokyo and has been described as the perfect balance of nature and spirituality. Hidden away in the mountains of the Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko has long been vital as a place of worship for Shinto and Buddhist mountain deities. The city offers visitors the appealing combination of atmospheric shrines, historic ties to the Tokugawa Shogunate and the kind of natural scenery you could happily get lost in for days. Whether you’re coming as a day trip from Tokyo or dedicating more time there, it’s hard to imagine anyone running out of things to do in Nikko. While you also have all of Nikko National Park to explore, the best place to start is with the attractions in the city itself. Most of these city attractions relate to the area’s long-held importance as a religious centre.
Toshogu Shrine is perhaps the most important site in Nikkō and a glamorous complex of shrines built around the mausoleum of its founder the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu. During the 1600s, Ieyasu’s grandson Iemitsu renovated what was a humble mausoleum within the forest, into a stunning and opulent display of reverence. Across the buildings you’ll notice intricate wood carvings, generous use of gold leaf and a mix of both Shinto and Buddhist elements. Nearby you’ll find the historic Futarasan Shrine, which since 782 has served as a shrine to the gods of Nikko’s three most sacred mountains, Ōkuninushi, Tagorihime, and Ajisukitakahikone. The shrine was started by the Buddhist monk Shodo Shonin and is really the heart of the shrines and temples of Nikko. In that way, while it may not be the most visually impressive, it is the most important of the shrines and temples that make up Nikko’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To reach all of the above temples and shrines from the city you first must cross the incredibly picturesque Shinkyo Bridge or Sacred Bridge. Built for the Futarasan Shrine, legend has it that the god Jinja-Daiou created the bridge with two snakes so that Shodo Shonin and his company could cross the river. While the bridge originally dates from 1636, it has been rebuilt several times and always in the same style. Once you’ve explored the city of Nikkō, the next step is to head out into Nikko National Park for everything that it has to offer. Nikko National Park is regularly ranked as one of Japan’s best national parks thanks to its overwhelming diversity of features. Whether you like hiking, sightseeing or relaxing when surrounded by nature, this park has got you covered. The many highlights include Nikko waterfalls, Lake Chuzenji, and Mount Hangetsuyama.
For those planning to travel to Nikko with a Japan Rail Pass, you should find the experience quite easy. Nikko is best visited from Tokyo as the trip to get there only takes around 2 hours. First, take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya station, where you then transfer to the local JR Nikko line. The entire route is covered with the JRailPass and is certainly a manageable day trip from Tokyo.
2. Fuji Five Lakes
Another hugely popular day trip from Tokyo is the Fuji Five Lakes. As their name suggests, the Fuji Five Lakes are five lakes that lie below the iconic Mt Fuji along its northern sides. Between the lakes are several local settlements with Fujiyoshida the main city of the region. The five lakes of the Fuji Five Lakes are Lake Kawaguchi (pictured above), Lake Yamanaka, Lake Motosu, Lake Saiko and Lake Shoji. Lava flows from Mt Fuji formed all of the lakes at different times by damming up local rivers, with some lakes still connected by subterranean waterways. All of the lakes sit at around 1,000 metres above sea level but are still a long, long way from the peak of Mt Fuji. Lake Yamanaka is the largest of the five lakes and sits off on its own a little to the east of Mount Fuji. However, it’s Lake Kawaguchi that is the most popular of the lakes because it enjoys the best views of the mountain and is the easiest to reach. It’s also the best of the lakes for a day trip from Tokyo.
To travel to the Fuji Five Lakes from Tokyo, pass holders will want to take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and get off at Otsuki Station. From there, you’ll need to use the Fujikyu Railway Line to reach Kawaguchiko Station, the best place to start exploring the area.
The Izu Peninsula is an ideal day trip destination from Tokyo and less than an hour away by train with the JR Pass. One of the many places to visit there is Atami, a seaside city in Shizuoka Prefecture near the start of the Peninsula.
The city and surrounding region have been known for their mineral springs as
far back as the Nara period a thousand years ago and were even a firm favourite of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. This legacy of onsen has made Atami a leading hot spring destination that has only been helped by its proximity to Tokyo, which is just 50 minutes away by train. With many hot springs and onsen resorts in and around the city, this collection of establishments has become known as the Atami Onsen.
Part of the reason why Atami is so popular with day trippers from Tokyo is that it’s super easy to get to with the Japan Rail Pass. All you need to do is hop aboard the Tokaido Shinkansen in Tokyo with your pass and it will take you right to Atami Station in less than an hour. Even better, you can also take the regular trains on the Tokaido line to get there if that works better for you. Another option for taking the train to Atami is to travel in style with the Saphir Odoriko excursion train. This luxury train is what’s considered a “Joyful Train” – one of the many types of train in Japan -and turns your journey there and back into an experience all on its own.
Hakone is a mountainous city in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Tokyo. The town offers a variety of activities, from hot spring resorts to wondrous views of Mt. Fuji. Hakone is located on the south west side of Fuji-san, an area famous for its stunning scenery, onsen hot springs, historical importance and its beautiful views. The area offers a lot to see and do, such as cruising over lake Ashino in a vintage tall ship to view the Torii gate (as above), visiting the volcanic crater of O-waku-dani, checking out the Hakone Open Air Geo-Museum (pictured below) and of course, relaxing in an onsen! It is well recommended to stay at one of the local Ryokan - traditional Japanese inns - for a night where you can enjoy a hot spring bath, with a glass of sake and view Fuji at the same time.
Getting to Hakone is easy, because it has its own Shinkansen station, called Odawara. From Tokyo take the Shinkansen (just 36 minutes) or JR Tokaido line / from Shinjuku (about 90 minutes) to Odawara with your Japan Rail Pass. From here change to local trains or buses into the Hakone region.
Kamakura was the old capital of Japan in the 12th century and was the seat of power of the Kamakura government. While the capital of Japan was subsequently moved, Kamakura remained an important city for culture, history and tradition. Today, Kamakura is famous for its temples, beaches, hiking and of course the Big Buddha (pictured below).
Travelling to Kamakura is an opportunity to visit lots of beautiful and historic temples, each with its own story to tell. If you’re visiting for the day, we suggest picking 2-3 that interest you the most instead of trying to visit as many as possible. Our top picks for temple visits in Kamakura are: Jōmyō-ji is one of the older temples in Kamakura and is worth visiting because of its garden tea house. It is the perfect place to sample the local matcha tea. Hasedera, also called “Hase Kannon”, has the largest wooden sculpture in Japan, with an observation platform that has a fantastic view over Kamakura and the local bay. Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine is the largest and most famous temple complex in Kamakura. A walk through can easily take an hour and if you’d have to pick one temple in Kamakura, we’d go with this one. Throughout the year there are different demonstrations of dances, archery, samurai fighting and more.
Alongside the beautiful and serene temples, there are also many stunning hiking and walking trails in Kamakura, some meandering along the coast and others going into the local hills and mountains. Hiking maps can be picked up from the tourism information right at Kamakura station. Somehow hiking in Kamakura never got discovered by the wider public and it’s a great way to escape from the busy city life of Tokyo. From Tokyo station, Kamakura can be directly reached in less than one hour on the JR Yokosuka line (bound for Zushi). Fully covered by the JR Pass and Green Seats are available if you have a Green (1st class) JR Pass. Alternatively, coming from Shinjuku the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line takes you from Shinjuku (JR) station to Kamakura in little less than one hour. Here too, Green seats are available.
- While on day trips to these stunning destinations, you’ll want to stay connected to the internet. Investing in a PocketWifi device for constant internet access and high speed unlimited data is highly recommended.
- If your Tokyo daytripping happens to be your first time in this incredible country, why not make life easier by using our Meet & Greet service on arrival? It’s like having an expert on Japan as your personal assistant. We’ll take care of you from the moment you arrive and ensure everything goes smoothly before you set off on your day trips from the city.