The best day trips from Tokyo

Ties Lagraauw

written by
Ties Lagraauw

updated 16.04.2024

Beyond the bustling streets of Tokyo lies a world of serene landscapes, historical wonders and cultural treasures. This guide to the best day trips from Tokyo offers a combination of adventure, relaxation and cultural immersion. Discover spectacular scenery, ancient sites and unique experiences just a short drive from the capital. Perfect if you're looking to get outside of the city and explore Japan's richly diverse neighborhoods.

The 5 best day trips from Tokyo

Discover the wonders beyond Tokyo with our handpicked selection of five exceptional day trips, each offering a unique blend of nature, culture, and history. 

Nikko mesmerizes with its UNESCO-listed shrines against a backdrop of stunning scenery and vibrant autumn foliage. Kamakura invites tranquility and reflection with its ancient temples and serene Big Buddha statue, complemented by picturesque beaches. 

Hakone, a scenic spot, promises relaxation thanks to hot springs and mesmerizing views of Mount Fuji, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Be sure to visit the Five Lakes Fuji area, which offers breathtaking views of Japan's iconic peak, as well as plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. 

Finally, Yokohama, with its bustling harbor, vibrant Chinatown, and innovative attractions, provides a modern contrast to the traditional hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Each destination promises an unforgettable journey, enriching your Japanese experience with its own special charm and scenic beauty.

National Diet Building © AdobeStock

National Diet Building © AdobeStock

#1 Visit the temples of Nikkō

"NIKKŌ is Nippon”, goes the town’s slogan. It’s only half-correct, though: visitors to Japan come prepared to take the ancient with the modern, but this town, 128km north of the capital, is up there with the most traditional in the country. It certainly lives up to its billing better than Kyoto, the vaunted dynastic capital way out west.

Most visit Nikkō to see the World Heritage-listed shrine complex of Tōshō-gū, which sits at the base of mountains crisscrossed by the outstanding hiking trails of Nikkō National Park. It’s also worth investigating the far less crowded Tōshō-gū Museum of Art, and the Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park, before crossing the Daiya-gawa to explore the dramatically named Ganman-ga-fuchi abyss, which is in fact a modest gorge flanked by a tranquil walking path. 

The most beautiful parts of the aforementioned national park are around Chūzenji-ko lake, some 17km west of Nikkō, and the quieter resort of Yumoto, higher up in the mountains.

Despite its popularity as a tourist destination today, barely a century ago, in the wake of the Meiji Restoration, Nikkō was running to seed. It was foreign diplomats and businesspeople who began to favour it as a highland retreat from the heat of summer in Tokyo; grand villas such as the Meiji-no-Yakata were built and the Kanaya Inn – now the Nikkō Kanaya Hotel – was founded by Kanaya Zen’ichirō in 1873.

Outside the peak summer and autumn reasons, and with a very early start, it’s possible to see both Tōshō-gū and Chūzenji-ko in a long day-trip from Tokyo, but to get the most out of the journey it’s best to stay overnight. 

In contrast to most Japanese urban areas, the town is refreshingly quiet after dark: very little is open after 8pm, bar a couple of renegade bars and convenience stores, allowing you to wander the town’s lanes unmolested by traffic or flashing lights, drinking in the fresh air which remains clement all through the summer.

How to get there

Nikkō is accessible on two lines from Tokyo, which serve stations sitting almost side-by-side in the east of the town. The JR station is a real beauty, a historic wooden building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; however, unless you’ve got a JR Pass, the Tōbu line will generally be more convenient.

  • Tōbu train: The Tōbu-Nikkō line ( runs from Tōbu-Asakusa Station, connected by tunnel to Asakusa subway station; an alternative access point for this line is Kita-Senju Station, at the end of the Hibiya line. There are two types of train to choose from: the regular local ones (2hr 30min–3hr 30min), or the fancier limited express “Spacia” or “Revalty” services (1hr 50min); on local trains you’ll need to change at Shimo-Imaichi (and probably a couple of other places, unless you’re travelling on the commuter-time expresses).
  • JR train: You can also reach Nikkō on JR trains, but the fares are far higher (especially so if travelling by Shinkansen), so travelling this way only makes sense if you have a JR pass. The fastest route (around 2hr total) is by Shinkansen from either Tokyo or Ueno to Utsunomiya (宇都宮), where you change to the JR Nikkō line for a local train to the JR Nikkō terminus, just east of the Tōbu station.
shutterstock_431586391 Torii gate at entrance of Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Nikko by Songphon Maharojanan

Torii gate at entrance of Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Nikko by Songphon Maharojanan

#2 Explore Fuji Five Lakes

The best reason for heading 100km west from Tokyo towards the area known as Fuji Five Lakes is to climb Mount Fuji (富士山), Japan’s most sacred volcano and, at 3776m, its highest mountain. Fuji-san, as it’s respectfully known by the Japanese, has long been worshipped for its latent power (it last erupted in 1707) and near-perfect symmetry; it is most beautiful from October to May when the summit is crowned with snow. 

The climbing season is basically July and August; even if you don’t fancy the rather daunting ascent, just getting up close to Japan’s most famous national symbol is a memorable experience. Apart from Mount Fuji, don’t miss the wonderfully atmospheric Fuji Sengen-jinja, a shrine in the area’s transport hub of Fuji-Yoshida.

During the summer, the five lakes in the area are packed with urbanites fleeing the city. Kawaguchi-ko is not only a popular starting point for climbing Mount Fuji but also features a kimono museum and the easily climbable Mount Tenjō, which has outstanding views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding lakes. 

The smallest of the other four lakes, horseshoe-shaped Shōji-ko (精進湖), 2km west of Kawaguchi-ko, is by far the prettiest. The largest lake, Yamanaka-ko (山中湖), southeast of Fuji-Yoshida, is just as developed as Kawaguchi-ko but has fewer attractions, while Motosu-ko (本栖湖) and Sai-ko (西湖) – both good for swimming and camping – are fine, although not so extraordinary that they’re worth the trouble of visiting if you’re on a short trip.

How to get there

  • By bus: The easiest way to reach the Fuji Five Lakes area is to take the bus (1hr 45min in good traffic) from the Shinjuku bus terminal in Tokyo, on the west side of the train station; there are also services from Tokyo station and Shibuya. During the climbing season there are frequent services, including at least three a day that run directly to the fifth station on the Kawaguchi-ko route, halfway up Mount Fuji (1hr 15min). If you’re planning a trip out to the Hakone area, the regular bus to Gotemba (hourly; 2hr); alternatively, the Fuji Hakone Pass allows you to combine the Fuji Five Lakes area with a trip around Hakone.
  • By train: Direct services link Shinjuku to Mount Fuji station (the old name, Fuji-Yoshida, is still commonly used) and Kawaguchiko, though only twice daily (7.30am & 9.30am; 1hr 50min). Otherwise, the journey from Shinjuku involves transferring from the JR Chūō line to the Fuji Kyūkō line at Ōtsuki, then taking local trains (not covered by the JR Pass, though some have Thomas the Tank Engine decoration, which might make up for it; 2hr or so in total). It’s a popular trip, so reserving in advance is recommended.
Things not to miss: Mount Fuji reflected in Lake Yamanaka, Japan.

Mount Fuji reflected in Lake Yamanaka, Japan

#3 Wander through beautiful Hakone

South of Mount Fuji and 90km west of Tokyo is the lakeland, mountain and onsen area known as Hakone, always busy at weekends and holidays. Most visitors follow the well-established day-trip route, which is good fun and combines rides on several trains or buses, a funicular, a cable car and a sightseeing ship, styled as a seventeenth-century galleon, across Ashino lake. 

However, the scenery is so pretty, and there’s so much else to do – such as seeing great art at the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Pola Museum of Art, not to mention soaking in numerous onsen – that an overnight stay is encouraged. Weather permitting, you’ll also get great views of nearby Mount Fuji.

How to get there

  • By train: Most people visit Hakone aboard the Odakyū-line train from Shinjuku, using one of the company’s excellent-value travel passes. To get to Hakone-Yumoto – at the end of the line – on the basic trains (2hr), you may have to change in Odawara (小田原); for an extra fee you can take the more comfortable “Romance Car” (hourly; 1hr 30min) all the way. If you’re using a JR Pass, the fastest route is to take a Shinkansen to Odawara, from where you can transfer to an Odakyū train (16min) or bus into the national park area.
  • By bus: The hourly Odakyū express bus from Shinjuku bus terminal will get you to Hakone in a couple of hours; buses stop first at Hakone-Yumoto, followed by Moto-Hakone, the Prince hotel at Hakone-en and finally Tōgendai. The company also run buses from Tokyo station (6 daily) and the Tokyo airports. It’s also possible to visit by bus from the Fuji Five Lakes area, in which case you’ll enter Hakone through Sengokuhara to the north, passing through the major town of Gotemba; passes will save you money, as well as hassle on the local buses, which don’t give any change.
Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji @ Shutterstock

#4 Explore the history of Kamakura

The small, relaxed town of Kamakura lies an hour’s train ride south of Tokyo, trapped between the sea and a circle of wooded hills. The town is steeped in history, and many of its 65 temples and 19 shrines date back some eight centuries, when, for a brief and tumultuous period, it was Japan’s political and military centre. Its most famous sight is the Daibutsu, a glorious bronze Buddha surrounded by trees, but its ancient Zen temples are equally compelling. 

Kamakura’s prime sights can be covered on a day trip from Tokyo, but the town more than justifies a two-day visit, allowing you time to explore the enchanting temples of east Kamakura and follow one of the gentle “hiking courses” up into the hills, or head out west to Enoshima and its own clutch of appealing sights.

How to get there

As the Tokyo train nears the station at Kita-Kamakura, the town’s northern suburb, urban sprawl gradually gives way to gentle, forested hills which provide the backdrop for some of Kamakura’s greatest Zen temples. Chief among these are Kenchō-ji and the wonderfully atmospheric Engaku-ji. 

It takes over an hour to cover the prime sights, walking south along the main road, the Kamakura-kaidō, to the edge of central Kamakura. If you have more time, follow the Daibutsu Hiking Course up into the western hills.


Great Buddha, Kamakura, Tokyo, Japan @ Shutterstock

#5 Experience bustling Yokohama

Yokohama, Japan's bustling port city, offers a fascinating day trip from Tokyo, combining modern attractions with a rich cultural heritage. The bustling Chinatown, one of the largest in the world, offers authentic cuisine and colourful festivals. 

The picturesque harbour area with the landmark Minato Mirai is ideal for romantic walks and photo shoots, especially at sunset. Families and technology enthusiasts will enjoy interactive museums such as the Cup Noodles Museum and the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum. 

Yokohama, with its beautiful parks, historic buildings and modern works of art, is a refreshing contrast to the fast-paced atmosphere of Tokyo, making it well worth a visit for travellers looking for a mix of tradition and modernity.

How to get there

  • By train (JR Tokaido line or Yokohama line): From Tokyo Station, take the main JR Tokaido Line or Yokohama Line directly to Yokohama Station. The journey usually takes about 30 minutes. Trains run frequently, so it's convenient for travellers. Make sure you take the right train, as some may not stop at Yokohama.
  • By Minato Mirai Line: Depart from Shibuya Station, transfer to the Minato Mirai Line towards Motomachi-Chukagai Station. Disembark at Yokohama Station, the journey will take about 40 minutes. This route is scenic and offers views of the Minato Mirai skyline as you approach Yokohama.

Continue your exploration of Japan with our practical tips on what you need to know before travelling to the country.


Yokohama, Chinatown @ Shutterstock

Ties Lagraauw

written by
Ties Lagraauw

updated 16.04.2024

Ties is a true world explorer - whether it be for work or leisure! As Content Manager at RoughGuides, and the owner of Dutch travel platform, Ties is constantly on the move, always looking for new destinations to discover.

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