While Tokyo is probably the most exciting city on earth, after a few days of nonstop shopping, eating, and sightseeing, there’s a small to medium chance you might be yearning for a change of scenery. If Kyoto and Osaka aren’t on your list—and if you don’t feel like booking a night in an expensive ryokan or hotel outside of the city—there are dozens of great places just outside Tokyo that are suitable for an easy, leisurely day trip. We’ve put together an expansive list of these short excursions, with insider tips on how to get there and what to do.
Japan’s tallest peak and most iconic mountain is actually a volcano (don’t worry too much, it last erupted in 1708), and beyond a doubt worth a day trip. Mount Fuji is only about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo, making it an easy nature getaway. Although you can see a light mirage of Mount Fuji from Tokyo on a clear day, it lacks the impact of seeing this mountain up close.
Getting There: There are many options, one of which is to take a bus from Tokyo station to Kawaguchiko Station or Fuji-Q Highland. Alternatively, take the Fuji Excursion Limited Express train from Shinjuku Station directly to Kawaguchiko Station (about 2 hours one way).
Travel Tip: If you don’t feel like navigating the train or bus, there are lots of options for guided tours of Mount Fuji.
The town of Nikko is home to Tosho-gu, a Shinto shrine that dates back to the 17th century. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the shrine also functions as a grand mausoleum for Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun in Japan. Ieyasu is now actually considered a god (the “Great Deity of the East Shining Light”), and his final resting place is one of the most stunning shrines in the whole country. Considerably more rococo than other Shinto shrines (which tend to be simple structures of wood or stone) Tosho-gu is a lavish shrine complex, with no lack of gorgeous wood carvings and decorative gold leaf. The must-see spots are the Five-Story Pagoda, the Three Wise Monkeys carving, and the Kagura-den Dance Hall. Be sure to also visit Nikko National Park for a quick hike. Nikko is a forested town—so it’s guaranteed to be a breath of fresh air from the dizzying thicket of activity that is Tokyo.
Getting There: From Asakusa station, take the Nikko-Kinugawa Toll Limited Express train towards Kinugawa Onsen, and disembark at Shimo-Imaichi station. From there, take a bus to Tosho-gu shrine. The journey takes about 2.5 to 3 hours.
Travel Tip: Nikko and the area around Lake Chuzenji are at their most beautiful in the autumn months, when the red leaves (momoji) are in full color. Also, check out Yumoto Onsen for some cozy hot springs, located in Nikko National Park.
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
Tokyo Disneyland was the first-ever Disney theme park built outside of the United States. It’s a totally different experience from what you’ll find in the states—Japan’s special gift for amplifying and commodifying cuteness has made this park perhaps more enjoyable than the originals. Some recognizable Disney names and places are Cinderella’s castle in Fantasyland, Space Mountain in Tomorrowland, and Splash Mountain in Critter Country. Nearby is Tokyo DisneySea, a theme park that was created specifically for Tokyo Disneyland. It’s worth the visit, especially if you have kids in tow and want to experience what it’s like to visit a theme park in Japan.
Getting There: There are shuttle buses from Tokyo station, but you can also take the JR (Japan Railways) Keiyo and Musashino Lines to Maihama Station.
If you’re looking for a supreme onsen experience with views of Mount Fuji, then the vacation town of Hakone should be at the very top of your list. Hakone is easily accessible as a day trip from Tokyo, and boasts some of the most stunning views of Japan’s most illustrious snow-capped mountain. Many onsen conveniently offer daytime passses, which grant you all-day access to the baths, showers, and facilities. A few hot spring spots cater directly to day-trippers, with towels available for purchase. (Hakone Yuryo is one such spot). There’s also the option to take a cable car to see Owakudani, a volcanic hot spring area with many sulphurous springs.
Getting There: Take the Shinkansen to Odawara station, and transfer to a local bus.
Travel Tip: If you want great views of Mount Fuji head to Hotel Green Plaza Hakone and relax in the hot spring. If you visit Owakudani, make sure to try the black eggs, or kuro tamago, which are cooked in the sulphurous water.
Yokohama is less known to tourists in the West, but it’s an admirable city all its own, even though it lives in the shadow of Japan’s capital. In fact, Yokohama is Japan's second largest city after Tokyo, with a population of over 3 million people. Less than a half hour from Tokyo by train, Yokohama makes for the easiest day trip on this list. There’s more than meets the eye in this city—Yokohama is actually home to Japan’s largest Chinatown, where you can find some of the best Chinese food in Japan. It also offers the unique chance to see a Chinese temple in Japan. Built in 1873, Kanteibyo Temple is dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity. If you’d rather see something more traditionally “Japanese,” check out Sankeikan Garden, a quaint landscape garden that offers respite from the surrounding cityscape. Finally, there’s the most famous area of Yokohama, Minato Mirai 21, the city’s main center of entertainment. There’s an iconic ferris wheel, a high-rise observation desk, and a waterside promenade with lots of places to eat and drink. If you’re an instant ramen lover, it’s worth checking out the Cup Noodles Museum.
Getting There: From Tokyo station, take either the Yokosuka Line or the Keihintohoku Line to Yokohama station.
Just south of Tokyo lies the idyllic seaside town of Kamakura. Once the political center of medieval Japan, Kamakura is now a bit of a surfing town, with several beachside hotels. Its most famous landmark is the Kotoku-in Temple’s Great Buddha, a 43-foot-tall bronze statue that is the perfect picture of meditative equanimity. Aside from the Great Buddha, there are many other stunning Buddhist temples here. Visit Hokokuji Temple to experience its peaceful bamboo grove. If you’re visiting in June, head straight to Meigetsuin Temple, which is famous for its stunning hydrangea flowers. Surfers should also make sure to make a trip to Yuigahama Beach.
Getting There: For a no-transfer ride from Tokyo station to Kamakura station, take the Yokosuka Line Local bound for Zushi. The trip should take only about an hour.
A stone’s throw from Kamakura, the island of Enoshima is a haven for surfers and beach-lovers. On clear days, you can also see Mount Fuji. There is a lot to do here, but probably one of the most compelling touristic options is a visit to the mysterious Iwaya Caves. If you feel like nurturing your inner adventurer, then this is the place for you. To get to the caves, you need to go up a series of stairs to a high point on the island, and then descend 220 steps back down to sea level. Then, holding a candle lantern, you’ll enter the first cave via a long, narrow tunnel. At the very end, there are statues of Buddha and other deities. The second cave is smaller, and contains a statue of once ferocious dragon, who’s now a tame local guardian.
Getting There: From Shinjuku station in Tokyo, board a Odakyu Line train towards Fujisawa and get off at Enoshima station (about an hour and 40 minutes). From Kamakura, take the Enoshima Dentetsu Line (Local), which should take about 50 minutes.
Travel Trip: If you’d like to try a fish dish that’s not sushi, try the Shirasudon (Shirasu Donburi), one of Enoshima’s local delicacies.
Mount Takao is less famous than Fuji for international travelers, but it’s much-loved by Tokyoites, due its lush scenery and easily accessible hiking areas. It’s not only easy to get to Mount Takao, it’s also easy to explore. Even if you’re not the hiking type, Trail 1 is paved, making it easy to stroll through. This trail will also take you to most of the major sightseeing spots on Mount Takao, including a monkey park, where Japanese macaques roam and play to their hearts’ content. Admission to the monkey park grants you free entry to a wild flower garden that boasts over 500 different types of plants. Toward the summit of Mount Takao is Yakuoin. First built in the year 744, this Buddhist temple is part of a lineage of shugendo, a kind of mountain asceticism practiced by some Buddhist monks.
Getting There: Take the Keio Line Limited Express towards Takaosanguchi from Shinjuku station and get off at the last stop. It should take about 50 minutes.
Travel Tip: Take advantage of the day passes at Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu, which has a variety of hot springs, including a carbonated bath.
If you can’t get enough Hello Kitty merchandise, then Sanrio Puroland is the place for you. Puroland’s overwhelming cuteness is not for the faint of heart, meaning it’s definitely not for people who couldn’t care less about Sanrio characters. Yet even if you’re lukewarm about Cinnamoroll, My Melody, and the rest, this indoor theme park might what drives you into full-on fandom. There are many chances to meet the characters, as well as frequent performances that are more engaging for kids than adults. Don’t miss out on the boat ride and sample the pink My Melody curry or blue Cinnamon-Sky curry at the Sanriotown Character Food Court.
Getting There: From Shibuya station, it’s an easy 45-minute train ride to Sanrio Puroland. Take the Keio-Inokashira Line Express towards Kichijoji and get off at Shimo-Kitazawa station. From there, board the Odakyu Line Express towards Karakida and disembark at Odakyu-Tama Center. Sanrio Puroland is about an eight-minute walk from the train station.
Kawagoe is where you can go to get a taste of “old” Japan if you’re not going to Kyoto. On Kurazukuri Street you’ll find traditional warehouse buildings, many of which are now quaint cafes, restaurants, and shops. There’s also an entire street of sweet shops, nicknamed Candy Alley. After a morning of shopping and sightseeing, refuel with a lunch of eel and rice, one of Kawagoe’s speciality foods.
Getting There: From Ikebukuro station, take the Fukutoshin Line F Liner Express towards Shinrinkoen and get off at Kawagoe station (about an hour one way).