The bustling metropolis of Tokyo boasts an unending number of attractions to explore. From the impressive Imperial Palace to the Tsukiji fish markets to the eclectic street fashions of Harajuku, the Japanese capital is bursting with colors, sights and sounds. Fresh sushi, handmade ramen noodles and some truly thrilling nightlife means that there are many reasons to stay in Tokyo, and many visitors stay within the city while in Japan. However, taking day trips from Tokyo can allow for a more comprehensive view of Japanese culture, cuisine and landscape. Check out a few of these day trip ideas to see beyond Tokyo on your next trip.
Head southwest of Tokyo for 80 km (50 miles) and you’ll reach the city of Odawara, in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan. Odawara is home to the Odawara Castle, a 15th century structure from the Edo period. In 1950, the castle was renovated to become a major tourism attraction with an onsite history museum and observation deck. On display are countless ancient weapons and traditional Japanese tools, but the best thing to do is head to the top of the castle’s tower and look out over the gardens below. In the spring, the castle becomes a popular place for travelers and Japanese residents alike, as the gardens are in full bloom with cherry blossoms.
South of Tokyo, and right on the coast of Sagami Bay, is Enoshima. Oddly, Enoshima is name to the small coastal town and the tiny island just off the coast. The destination feels completely different from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, and it boasts a very casual, relaxed beach atmosphere. While there is a popular Enoshima Shrine and the Enoshima Aquarium, the best way to experience Enoshima is just to stroll along the water. You’ll come across several scenic overlooks, tidepools, botanical gardens and even caves, not to mention plenty of outdoor cafes with fantastic views.
The distance between Tokyo and Kyoto is a whopping 450 km (280 miles), but it can still be done as a day trip thanks to the high speed bullet trains of Japan. The entire journey between the two cities is just over three hours by train, and you’ll be able to take in incredible scenery along the way. If you only have a day to spend in Kyoto, stick to the central district. Spend some time touring Nijō Castle, built in the 17th century and made up of two concentric rings of structures. You might also explore the Nishi Honganji, a beautiful Buddhist temple, or climb Kyoto Tower to enjoy panoramic views over much of the sprawling city.
Two hours north of Tokyo by train is Nikko, a small town in Tochigi Prefecture that is best known for its national park. Nikko National Park is a popular hiking destination where you can see lakes, waterfalls and lush greenery on the plateau. It is particularly appealing during the summer, because the high elevation translates to cooler temperatures than in the city of Tokyo. In addition to the natural attractions like Lake Chuzenji and Yudaki Falls, there are a number of historic architectural landmarks. Three of the most significant that you’ll definitely want to include in your itinerary are the Nikkotoshogu Shrine, the Futarasanjinja Shrine and Rinnoji Temple.
West of Tokyo is Mt. Fuji, a landmark that can be seen from certain spots in the city. While admiring the often snow-capped peak from the capital is beautiful, it is also worth escaping Tokyo for a day and visiting the mountain up close. Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan and an iconic landmark with tremendous significance in local culture. Hiking to the summit can be challenging, and there are multiple route options available for hikers. Gotembaguchi is the toughest and longest route, while the route from Kawaguchiko 5th Station is just as challenging but shorter. Guided tours are often the best way to summit Mt. Fuji.
Just 55 km (35 miles) south of Tokyo is Kamakura, a small city that offers a combination of fascinating temples and scenic beaches. Kamakura has a staggering history, with evidence of initial settlement more than 10,000 years ago! Once the capital of the Kamakura Shogunate, the destination was a mere fishing village by the 20th century. Today, you will want to check out the 12th century Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, where weddings are held almost every day of the year. Then, make your way to the Great Buddha of Kōtokuin, which is the third largest Buddha statue in all of Japan.
Southwest of Tokyo is Hakone, a mountainous region that makes for the perfect day trip from Tokyo. Easily accessible from the capital by train, Hakone revolves around the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. This is a hotbed of volcanic activity, and it even offers spectacular views of Mt. Fuji in the distance though clouds and poor visibility often block the view. Some of the outdoor adventures you can have in Hakone include riding the cable car to the Great Boiling Valley full of sulfurous springs, hiking around the scenic Lake Ashi or taking a dip in one of the many local onsen, or Japanese hot springs and spas.