9 Top-Rated Day Trips from Tokyo
Many day trips lie within easy access from Tokyo for travelers using this modern city as a home base. Thanks to Tokyo's excellent public transport system, as well as Japan's superb railways, it's easy to travel relatively large distances in a short time and with a minimum of fuss. Jump on a train, and you'll have access to an endless number of fun day trips, from major theme parks to historic castles and temples, beautiful national parks, and even majestic Mount Fuji. Better still, look into the services of a professional tour company to help with your planning. The best will take care of all arrangements, covering everything from travel to tickets, as well as providing professional English language tour guides to ensure you get the most out of your travels. Plan your adventures with our list of the top-rated day trips from Tokyo.
1 Majestic Mount Fuji
Japan's most famous landmark, Mount Fuji lies 130 kilometers southwest of Central Tokyo and is a full day's outing if you're only traveling to the base of the mountain - if you plan to make the ascent, you'll need to add an overnight stop to your itinerary. Japan's highest and most iconic mountain, this dormant volcano is also the country's most celebrated peak, included since early times in poetry and paintings, and on clear days, it is visible from as far away as Tokyo. In the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Mount Fuji sees more than a million people climb it during July and August as an almost religious act, the culmination of which is the observation of sunrise from the summit. The climb can be arduous and can take up to eight hours each way, so be prepared for plenty of walking and take along warm clothing. Alternatively, a number of paths are available that circle the lower sections of the mountain, a journey that can still take many hours, although, of course, simply viewing the mountain from a distance is also rewarding.
A great option is to book a full-day guided tour, such as the Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi day trip via bullet train from Tokyo. Not only will your organized day trip include one of the top train trips to be found anywhere (these things are fast!), you'll also be treated to a fun cruise on beautiful Lake Ashi, as well as a ride on an aerial tram to the pinnacle of Mount Komagatake, which offers amazing views over neighboring Mount Fuji (lunches can also be arranged).
- Read More:
- Exploring Mount Fuji: A Visitor's Guide
2 Nikkō National Park and Tōshō-gū Temple
Given the fact it's a 2.5-hour train ride from downtown Tokyo, you'll want to make a full day of a visit to beautiful Nikkō National Park (Nikkō Kokuritsu Kōen) and its magnificent temples. Covering 1,407 square kilometers, this area of outstanding natural beauty boasts an abundance of mighty mountain peaks, ancient forests, wide expanses of moorland, lakes, and waterfalls, and is one of the most visited regions in Japan. About 180 kilometers north of Tokyo, Nikkō National Park has a number of popular spas that yield a plentiful supply of hot mineral water and have become favorite resting spots for visitors from far and wide. Those looking for recreational activities such as hiking, camping, mountain climbing, boating, fishing, skiing, and skating are also well accommodated. A highlight for adventurers is the 2,578-meter-high Mount Oku-shirane, with its beautiful waterfalls accessible by clearly marked hiking trails.
The park also has many historic temples, most notably Rinnō-ji, a temple founded in AD 848, and the spectacular Nikkō Tōshō-gū complex. Consisting of 22 lavishly decorated buildings dating from the 17th century, Tōshō-gū was constructed by more than 15,000 craftsmen brought in from across Japan. Highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage site include the Staircase of the Thousand (Sennin-ishidan), the farthest point to which ordinary people were formerly admitted, and beyond this an 8.5-meter-high granite torii, with an inscription in the name of Emperor Go-Mizunoo, plus a lovely five-story pagoda. Also of note is the courtyard with its three sacred storehouses and stables, including a relief on the gable depicting an elephant (unusual for Japan), as well as carved monkeys ("See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"), sacred fountains, and many fine sculptures. A great way to enjoy these and other attractions is to join a tour, such as the Nikkō National Park day trips from Tokyo. In addition to including pickup and drop-off at your hotel (or nearby station), this fun day trip includes all admissions and a traditional Japanese lunch.
3 Historic Kamakura
Just 50 kilometers southwest of Tokyo and easily accessible by rail, the city of Kamakura has a long, rich history and makes for an excellent day trip for those seeking a little slower pace. Much of the architecture stems from its roots as the hometown of one of the country's first Shogunate governments in the early 12th century and the adherence of the locals to Buddhism soon after, an influence that can still be seen in many of the city's temples. A highlight of a spring visit are the city's many cherry blossoms, while in summer it's all about the beach and shopping along Komachi Dori, a street popular for its shops and restaurants. Of its many temples, the most famous is the Buddhist temple of Kotokuin, renowned for its Great Buddha, a massive outdoor bronze statue that dates from 1252. The city is also famous for its seven "passes," or entrances, which for centuries were the only way into the city due to its natural fortress-like hill setting. These can now be explored on foot and make for a delightful walk. Hot Tip: Consider booking a guided Kamakura and Tokyo Bay day trip, which includes a drive around scenic Tokyo Bay, lunch, as well as pickup and drop-off at your hotel.
4 Tokyo Disneyland
Drawing huge crowds ever since it opened in 1983, Tokyo Disneyland (Tōkyō Dizunīrando) is an easy one-hour commute from downtown Tokyo and contains many of the most popular Disney attractions and restaurants known to theme park fans. What makes it a truly memorable experience for westerners, however, are the many unique attractions included here and not seen at the company's other parks, such as Pinocchio's Daring Journey; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; as well as the World Bazaar, a unique twist to the Main Streets of other Disney parks that is completely covered. In addition, up to 300 entertainers appear daily in stage shows, musical performances, and parades, along with Mickey and numerous other Disney characters. Tokyo Disneyland also boasts numerous places to eat, ranging from snack bars to elaborate gourmet restaurants, and that's a good thing, as you'll easily spend the best part of a day exploring this attraction (and don't forget those Fastpasses).
Address: 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031
5 The Seaside Town of Atami
About 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo and less than an hour's journey by train, the small seaside town of Atami is a popular vacation destination among locals and makes for an excellent excursion for tourists. Idyllically perched on the mountain slopes surrounding Atami Bay, this peaceful coastal town boasts an excellent beach with a pleasant boardwalk, as well as a number of popular hot springs, or "onsen." In addition to its private spas, a number of public baths provide access to these curative waters. The MOA Art Museum is another great point of interest in Atami. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the town and boasting incredible sea views, the museum's collection includes more than 3,500 works highlighting East Asian art, as well as paintings by Rembrandt and Monet and sculptures by Moore. Another notable display is a reconstruction of the Golden Tearoom used by famed military commander Toyotomi Hideyoshi for tea ceremonies in the 16th century.
6 Tokyo DisneySea
One of Disney's newest theme parks, the 176-acre Tokyo DisneySea opened in 2001 and draws up to 14 million visitors annually, making it one of the country's most popular attractions. With a focus on nautical themes, the park is an easy one-hour commute from downtown Tokyo and is particularly popular among adults and older teens for its faster, sometimes scarier rides (those traveling with younger children are better served by visiting Tokyo Disneyland). Highlights include the excellent Mediterranean Harbor, built to look like an Italian coastal city complete with gondolas; the American area with a section resembling Cape Cod and elements of New York Harbor; and the fascinating Mysterious Island, with its volcano and fortress right out of a Jules Verne novel.
Address: 1-13 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031
7 Kyoto by Shinkansen Bullet Train
While it might seem a little ironic that the world's leading automobile manufacturer also possesses the world's fastest and most-efficient public railway system, it's just one of the many contradictions that makes Japan so interesting. The state system, Japan Railways, boasts a network of 21,000 kilometers connecting even the remotest parts of the country with major urban cities like Tokyo. Particularly notable are the high-speed trunk lines along which the famous Shinkansen Bullet Train whizzes along at speeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour, shrinking once formidable journeys from Tokyo to cities like Fukuoka some 1,170 kilometers away to under seven hours.
For day trippers, this remarkable network makes trips to see the attractions of Kyoto, for example, a very manageable undertaking. A journey of six hours by car, it's just two hours by train, and all the more fun if you indulge in one of the country's famous Bento on-board meals as you whizz past Mount Fuji. Once in Kyoto, you'll be rewarded with a chance to explore the city's famous shrines and temples, as well as other important historical sites. Be sure to consider recruiting the help of a professional tour company to assist with the planning. A great option is the Kyoto by Bullet Train from Tokyo tour, which includes admission to many of the city's most famous shrines and temples, as well as other important historical sites, not to mention great views of Mount Fuji from the comfort of your reserved seat (if doable, consider the first-class option). Other perks include lunch, admissions, and a standard rail ticket.
8 Fashion Central: Trendy Harajuku
A popular outing for those who follow fashion - particularly over-the-top fashions favored by trendsetters, rebellious kids, and adults into "cosplay" - is a visit to the Harajuku area of Tokyo's Shibuya district. Just a half-hour subway ride from downtown Tokyo, Harajuku is famous for its fashion boutiques and the often-outlandish outfits on display. If possible, the best day to visit is Sunday, when youngsters (and some oldsters) from across the city descend upon Harajuku's streets and parks dressed as everything from Teddy Boys and Rockers to their favorite anime cartoon characters. It's a delightful and colorful experience that provides plenty of fun for participants and onlookers alike. Afterwards, spend a little time shopping, as well as exploring the many fine historic buildings found here, including the famous Meiji and Togo Shrines, where you'll see plenty of locals dressed in more traditional outfits.
9 Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku forms the western outskirts of Tokyo and makes for a fun day trip from the city's bustling downtown core (it's an easy 10-kilometer trip by subway). In addition to its vibrant shopping and entertainment districts, Shinjuku is popular for the lovely Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. An easy five-minute stroll from the train station, this attraction is famous for its splendid Japanese garden design. Once the private gardens of the wealthy Naito family, the 145-acre park fell into the possession of the Imperial household towards the end of the 19th century before transferring to the state after WWII. Also a botanical garden, it boasts a variety of plant specimens from around the world, dividing them into European and Japanese sections. The models for the European section were French parks and formal English landscaped gardens, while the Japanese section, with its pretty Chinese pavilion, attracts crowds in April when its 1,100 cherry trees, comprising 34 different varieties, blossom. Those who prefer chrysanthemums should wait until November, when chrysanthemum shows are held in the park, along with the splendid fall colors.
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0014