If you are planning a trip to Japan and are looking to cross out most of the Japan bucket list places then base yourself in Tokyo. From historical monuments, gorgeous parks, magnificent shrines and temples to delicious food and wonderful cultural performances, Tokyo is full of unique and amazing attractions covering most of the top Japan attractions. While there is plenty of things to do and see in Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital city, there are a lot of amazing places to explore around Tokyo.
Tokyo is well connected with other major cities and popular tourist destinations in Japan by Shinkansen or bullet train which reduces the travel time considerably. Less travel time makes it convenient to explore most of these places on day trips from Tokyo. We suggest you spend a few days in Tokyo, explore the best of Tokyo and then plan day trips exploring these fascinating places. Here are the top places to add your list.
By Thais Saito from WORLD TRIP DIARIES
Even though it’s Tokyo Disney, it’s actually in Chiba. It’s a short trip of 30~60 minutes from Shinjuku Station by bus (it’s best to book in advance or arrive at least an hour before your desired departure time) or by train (you’ll need to get to Maihama Station by Keio or Musashino lines) and you’re there!
Tokyo Disney Resorts comprises 2 parks and a shopping mall. Disneyland is pretty much like the other Disney parks around the world while the Disney Sea is a unique park, unlike any other!
We love Tokyo Disney. It’s super worth visiting, and it’s a guaranteed amazing day – whatever your age. Our favorite things are flavored popcorn (the curry flavor is probably the best!) and Hyperspace Mountain (a rollercoaster in the dark, which is pretty amazing!). You shouldn’t leave the park without experiencing both!
The Japanese version of Tower of Terror (found at Disney Sea) is said to be the best (or worst, as it’s horrifying) in the world and they often change the theme of the storyline. Most rides (at least the ones where the characters speak) are in Japanese. It doesn’t really matter much, as it’s easy to enjoy anyway but if you don’t understand the language, you’ll miss a few jokes.
Tickets can be bought online, at the Disney or partner hotels, or at the park. Avoid Japanese holidays, weekends and school holidays to beat the crowds – but have in mind that it’s always crowded, probably the most crowded Disney park ever.
By Shobha George from JUST GO PLACES
Hakone is a mountainous region close to Tokyo and beloved of Japanese domestic tourists as well as international tourists. It is famous for its view of Mt Fuji, hot springs and museums. It is a tourist destination throughout the year.
The Hakone Open Air Museum is easily one of the best contemporary museums we have ever visited. For example, the Picasso Pavillion has over 300 works donated by his daughter, The museum also amassed the most Henry Moore sculptures of anywhere in the world. Most of the sculpture is set in a park like setting surrounded by the mountains. The sculptures are some of the most famous artists in the world including Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, and Niki de Saint Phalle.
There are numerous hot springs (onsens) you can visit in Hakone. Traditional Japanese onsens are gender-segregated and completely nude. We chose to visit the Kowakien Yunessun which gave us a family-friendly option. There is a bathing suit area with water slides and other kiddie attractions where you can enjoy the hot springs together as a family. This onsen though also has a beautiful more traditional Japanese section which is set in a Japanese garden. You can buy a pass to both the traditional or the family side of the onsen or just the side you prefer.
You can take the Shinkansen to Tokyo on Japan Rail or alternatively the Odakyu Odawara train. It’s easy to get around Hakone by train and by bus. People take the Hakone Tozan railway just for the scenery! You can get a Hakone Free Pass which gives you unlimited travel on public transport for a certain number of days in the Hakone area.
You can even cross the volcanic Lake Ashinoko in a pirate ship. The scenery is beautiful and my kids loved the pirate ship aspect.
By Kiyoko from FOOTSTEPS OF A DREAMER
Personally, I’ve always thought of Nikko as a mini Kyoto, which makes it the perfect destination if you’re looking to get away from the big city and experience the history and culture of Japan. From Tokyo, you can reach Nikko by the JR Nikko-Kinugawa and Tobu-Nikko trains in about 2 hours. Plus, it’s less touristy and not as crowded as Kyoto, which is a bonus.
I actually discovered Nikko thanks to a beautiful picture of a red bridge in an advertisement on the train in Tokyo. I would later discover it to be Shinkyo Bridge, which is considered one of the three best bridges in Japan. If you’re into photography, this is a fantastic spot to take a picture! Shinkyo Bridge also marks the entrance to the shrines and temples of Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are 2 shrines and 1 temple that make up the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage Site: Futarasan Shrine, Toshogu, and Rinno-ji. It makes for a busy day, but it’s possible to visit all three in one day trip (and worth doing so).
Take a walk through history to discover the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years, and other important historical figures. If you’re not into history, you can find yourself amazing by the amazing design and adornments of the various buildings and structures.
By Noel Morata from TRAVEL PHOTO DISCOVERY
Nagoya is a fairly short hour and 40 minutes train ride through the Japanese Nozomi trains. Once you arrive in the city, there are plenty of unique things you can do in Nagoya while exploring the city. One of the first destinations would be to visit Nagoya castle, the 17th-century castle that was rebuilt from World War 2 ruins and a fascinating look at this palace with refined finishes and construction.
Another beautiful visit would be to the holy Shinto Atsuka shrine which sits in a lovely wooded park and is built in the gorgeous Japanese Shinmei-zukuri architectural style and organic features that are perfect in their surroundings.
Other wonderful things to explore around Nagoya include the beautiful and ornate Osu Kannon temple, the modern science museum, the railway museum, and even Legoland. If you’re into ceramics then a visit to the famous Noritake Garden is a must to see some of the wonderful ceramics on display and for sale in this attraction.
There’s plenty to see and do in Nagoya to keep you busy and even do an overnight trip to explore more of the city and surrounding area.
By Corinne Vail from REFLECTIONS ENROUTE
Depending on where you begin, Yokohama is only a 15-minute train ride from Tokyo! You can use the Pasmo or Suica card if you’ve bought one. There’s so much to do here, you can easily spend the whole day. First, you will want to head out to the Kirin Beer Factory, where for free you can tour and sample some beer.
Next, you will want to head to Chinatown for some street food! Everyone comes for the dumplings sold in front of the shops. And while you are there, visit a hedgehog cafe, go to a temple, or just wander listening to the hawkers, take it all in and enjoy the vibe.
After lunch, you might want to pick a museum or activity. We loved making our own noodles at the CupNoodles Museum, but you can also climb aboard the Maru at the Yokohama Port Museum, or go other special museums highlighting silk, or trolleys, or the Japanese Overseas Migration. There’s a lot to choose from, that’s for sure.
If you are visiting during summer, the Yokohama baseball team is the DeNa Baystars and attending a game will give you a real glimpse at Japanese culture. All you have to do is walk up; they usually have extra tickets to sell.
You can’t go wrong taking the train out of the famous port city of Yokohama!
Jigokudani Monkey Park
By Matilda from THE TRAVEL SISTERS
A visit to Jigokudani Monkey Park to visit the famous Japanese snow monkeys makes for a memorable day trip from Tokyo. The snow monkeys are a group of Japanese macaques native to northern Japan which come down from the mountains to soak in warm hot springs especially during the winter.
Watching the snow monkeys is an incredible experience. Not only do they soak but they also cuddle, play, groom themselves and jump in and out of the water to walk around the park and hang out in the snow. The monkeys are not afraid of humans and will pass by or sit just inches away from visitors but there are strict rules about not touching or feeding them.
While you can visit Jigokudani year round, winter is the best time to view and photograph these cute monkeys as everything is covered in snow and the temperature is cold enough for monkeys to enjoy sitting in the hot springs. While the highlight of the day trip is the cute snow monkeys, the surrounding area is beautiful as well.
This is a relatively long day trip so it is best to leave Tokyo early in the morning. The fastest way to get to the park from Tokyo is to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano and then transfer to either a local train or bus – it takes approximately 3 hours travel time each way to reach the entrance of the park. From the entrance of the park, there is a relatively easy walk on the 1.6 km trail through the forest to reach the hot springs where the monkeys hang out.
By Allan Wilson from LIVE LESS ORDINARY
This somewhat surreal experience began in Tokyo for us, where we started the morning in February with rain and grey skies, while shopping in Shibuya. Yet, just over one hour out from Tokyo Station on a Shinkansen train brings us to the Jomo-Goken station, where we arrive at a winter wonderland in Minikami, Gunma Prefecture.
In a region of Japan known for its hot springs and skiing, although we had only one destination and this was Takaragawa Onsen. From Jomo-Goken station we are then shuttled by bus to the onsen through roadways surrounded by deep snows. It’s just all round fascinating.
At Takaragawa Onsen it is possible to stay at the connecting ryokan hotel, which we did, although it is still easy enough to visit on a day tour by starting early in the morning. So the onsen spring baths, where there are five in total, are found next to the passing Takaragawa River and dotted between surrounding mountain forests, and each can be easily reached within a couple of minutes apart.
The baths and changing rooms are also split between men and women and may rotate between seasons which change through the year. We visited during the deep snows of late winter, but the cherry blossoms and Sakura of spring, and the fire-blaze fall foliage of autumn are no doubt beautiful as well. Takaragawa Onsen opens daily from 09:00 AM to 17:00 AM. Price per adult is 1,500 yen (2018).
By Macca Sherifi from AN ADVENTUROUS WORLD
Getting from Tokyo to Atami takes less than an hour to travel on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen and yet it feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city.
Atami is located on the northeast coast of the Shizuoka Prefecture and it is a wonderful place for a day trip from Tokyo with loads to see and do. Just think bright blue waters with the mountains in the background and you’ve got the picture.
Like so many places on the Izu Peninsula, Atami is famous for its hot springs, so if you’re looking for a place to kick back and unwind then you can’t go wrong with an onsen for the afternoon.
If you’re looking for one of the best views in the city I’d really recommend catching the Atami Ropeway to the top of the mountain. A round-trip only costs 600 yen and you really do get some gorgeous views of the city below.
However, my favorite thing to do in Atami is to enjoy the coast. I always called this area “the Amalfi Coast” of Japan with gorgeous views of the ocean and secret bays to explore for yourself. Also, in places like Atami Sun Beach you’ve got a perfect white sand beach – as I said, it really does feel like you’re a million miles away from Tokyo!
By Halef and Michael from THE ROUND THE WORLD GUYS
Kamakura is one of the most important cities in Japan, and it was the de facto capital of Japan in the mid-1200s. Although the modern city is dwarfed by its neighbors, Tokyo and Yokohama, Kamakura still maintains its historical charms and is worth adding to your bucket list.
Kamakura is well-known for the Great Buddha of Kamakura. You can see this famous idol at Kotoku-in Temple. The 13-meter high bronze statue was completed in 1252, and it is definitely one of Japan’s famous landmarks. It now sits outdoors, as a 15th-century tsunami wiped out the original temple that once housed the statue. You can walk inside the hollow interior of the Great Buddha to get a unique look.
There are a significant number of important tombs, shrines, and temples in Kamakura as well. My favorite is the Zeniarai Benten Shrine. Walk inside the cave and find a natural spring, where people wash their money in order to multiply it – in my case, I washed credit cards. It’s a popular tradition, and it’s worth trying!
Kamakura is easy to reach with the JR Yokosuka or Odakyu Lines from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. a roundtrip ticket costs ¥1470, and it takes about one hour to get to Kamakura train station.
Mount Fuji Lakes
By Kirstie from THE FAMILY ADVENTURE PROJECT
Mount Fuji has attracted pilgrims and holidaymakers for centuries. They come to hike its sacred paths and visit the shrines that exist along the routes to the 3776-meter summit, the highest in Japan. Sometimes the mountain stays hidden and sometimes it reveals itself in all its glory.
For us, it stayed hidden in cloud, and as we had kids on board, we hatched a plan to swim in its five lakes instead. These are roughly scattered in an arc around the northern half of Mount Fuji and were formed by the volcanic eruption of the mountain. You can get around all of them in a car in an afternoon. Check out our post on practical driving tips for details of how to rent a car to get around in Japan.
Don’t expect onsen temperatures but you can do them quite comfortably in a swimming costume. The area is heavily touristed and if you don’t fancy a swim, the bigger lakes have lots of other relaxation opportunities. Lake Kawaguchi (Kawaguchi-ko) is the most popular and you can hire a boat, go fishing or seek out refreshment in one of the hotels. Or in our case, a warm up!
By Fran Opazo from LA VIDA NOMADE
Enoshima is a small island located 75 minutes away from central Tokyo. A great place that offers something for everyone: great food, markets, beaches, gardens, shrines, and amazing views.
You can take a day tour to Enoshima using public transport. I personally arrived by car on the first day of the year. The streets of the island were full of happy people.
In the summertime, the beaches get crowded with locals and others who head down from Tokyo at the weekend. In winter, there is no lack of activities at all. Views of Mount Fuji can be enjoyed on days with good visibility.
You can visit the Enoshima Shrine which consists of three shrines which are scattered across the island. Another option is to head to the Iwaya Caves on the far side of the island. You will be able to see statues and an amazing view of the coast.
Visiting Samuel Cocking Garden is a must. This is a botanical garden on top of Enoshima. Beyond the garden is Sea Candle, a lighthouse observatory which is also a symbol of the Shonan area.
Keep an eye since various events are held throughout the year in this spots. Also check out the local seafood: especially the grilled squirt and the Shirasu black croquette.
How to get to Enoshima from Tokyo with public transport
From Tokyo, take the Odakyu Line in Shinjuku to Fujisawa Station, then transfer to the Odakyu Enoshima Line. Get off at Katase-Enoshima Station, which is the closest station to the bridge that connects the mainland and Enoshima. Is a short walk. Otherwise, you can take a boat for a short ride.
Kyoto the former capital of Japan is another bustling city only 2 hours and 20 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen (bullet train). The city of Kyoto is located on Honshu Island and is famous for its magnificent Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. There are over thousands of temples in Kyoto and Fushimi Inari shrine, Kinkaku-Ji Temple, Ginkaku-Ji Temple, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Tenryu-Ji Temple are amongst the top Kyoto attractions.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
You can combine a visit to the Tenryu-Ji Temple with Arashiyama Bamboo Grove which is another must-visit place in Kyoto. A walk through the scenic and peaceful sprawling bamboo forest is definitely a unique experience.
Visit Kiyomizu-Dera one of the most amazing temples in Kyoto which overlooks the well-preserved historic Higashiyama district. Explore the streets of Higashiyama lined with traditional teahouses and restaurants housed in ancient wooden houses.
Gion is another popular place in Kyoto known as the Kyoto’s geisha district. The streets of Gion are packed with restaurants and traditional teahouses where Maiko and Geisha perform traditional dances. There is also a high chance of spotting a geiko or maiko on the streets on their way to the tea houses after dusk. Yasaka Shrine formerly known as the Gion Shrine is the most popular Shinto shrine also located in Gion. Next to Yasaka Shrine is one of the oldest parks in Kyoto the Maruyama Park popular for cherry blossom viewing if you are visiting during the spring. The park features numerous cherry trees, bridges, statues of historical figures and ponds.
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