Amazing Year-Round Day Trips from Tokyo You Haven't Thought Of | The Invisible Tourist

“Ichi go ichi e 一期一会”  translates to “once in this lifetime”, meaning we should treasure each individual moment, as it can never be completely replicated.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you’ll really be spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting exciting day trips from Tokyo. Contrasting characteristics of modern, bustling cities and peaceful natural scenery can easily be interwoven into a 2 week or 3 week Japan itinerary to ensure you make the most of your precious travel time.

But with so many options for Tokyo day trips, where do you begin? The streets of Tokyo can feel like mini day trips in themselves! Naturally, there are obvious choices to consider outside of Tokyo such as Mount Fuji, Nikko and Kamakura. But did you know there are also plenty of lesser-known gems and locations many first-time tourists to Japan haven’t thought of?

Like a waving maneki-neko (Japanese lucky cat), I’m here to send good fortune your way by sharing my unique findings and experiences on the best side trips from Tokyo in this detailed guide. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by all the options or where they are in relation to each other – I’ve sorted the destinations below by time to make things easy for you.

As a weirdo who enjoys researching every destination to death before I visit, I love nothing more than being an invisible tourist and exploring the popular locations a destination has to offer as well as hidden gems other visitors may not be aware of. By the end of this guide let’s see if I manage to convince you, too.

If you want to discover the best places to visit outside Tokyo and interesting locations you haven’t heard of to enrich your trip, read on for more!

 This guide to day trips from Tokyo will cover:

  •  How to get around in and outside of Tokyo (Suica Card + Japan Rail Pass)
  •  Day Trips From Tokyo You Haven’t Thought Of – times listed are one way
  • 30 mins day trips from Tokyo
    • Kawagoe (Kanto region)
    • Yokohama (Kanto region)
  • 1 hour day trips from Tokyo
    • Kamakura (Kanto region)
    • Sanrio Puroland (Kanto region) 
  • 1.5 hour day trips from Tokyo
    • Fuji-Q Highland (Fuji Five Lakes region) 
    • Gotemba (Chubu region)
    • Gala Yuzawa (Chubu Region)
    • Hakone (Kanto region) 
    • Hitachi Seaside Park & Mito (Kanto region)
    • Nagano (Nagano region)
  • 2 hour day trips from Tokyo
    • Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura (Kanto region)
    • Tobu World Square (Kanto region)
    • Shrines & Temples of Nikko (Kanto region)
    • Fuji Five Lakes (Fuji Five Lakes region)
  • 2+ hour day trips from Tokyo
    • Matsumoto (Nagano region)
    • Fujinomiya (Chubu region)
  • Is Kyoto a day trip from Tokyo?
  • Where to stay in Tokyo

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Unusual Day Trips from Tokyo You Haven't Thought Of | The Invisible Tourist
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This guide to day trips from Tokyo forms part of my detailed 6 days in Tokyo itinerary, which is also part of my larger 2 weeks in Japan itinerary with focus on destinations along Japan’s Golden Route. It’s also part of my huge 3 weeks in Japan itinerary, and my itinerary for a Japan honeymoon. Be sure to take a look at my full Japan travel blog once you’re done here for more inspiration, and especially my Tokyo hidden gems you haven’t heard of!

 

How to get around in and outside of Tokyo

Because there are so many places to go in Tokyo, over and over in Japan travel forums I see potential visitors ask whether they should purchase the Japan Rail Pass in advance for Tokyo, with the answers usually overwhelmingly in favour.

But were you aware of the number of privately owned railways in the country and that the JR Pass will only cover journeys on their own lines (with some exceptions)? 

In this guide, under each destination I’ve listed any relevant transport passes from the private railway companies to help you receive discounted travel on your day trips from Tokyo.

For Tokyo itself, I’d suggest pre-purchasing a reloadable Suica (IC) card or Tokyo Subway Pass to use on the Tokyo Metro (subway), buses and some light rail. The Suica Card can also be used in cities outside Tokyo, too. Super handy!

If you do plan on visiting other cities in Japan, the Japan Rail Pass could be for you! Make sure to calculate the cost of the journeys you plan to undertake to ensure the JR Pass will be a worthwhile investment.

 

How to order your Japan Rail Pass & Suica Card

For prices and to order a Japan Rail Pass, click here.
To see other kinds of Japan transport passes, click here.
Click here to order your Suica (IC) card for other Tokyo transport.
Click here to order a 24, 48 or 72-hour Tokyo Subway pass.

 

Use the convenience of trains to take these days trips from Tokyo

16 Amazing and underrated day trips from Tokyo you haven’t thought of

When you first hear the word “Japan”, there’s little doubt one of the first visions to spring to mind is an incredible image of Mt Fuji and her mirrored reflection on the calm lake below, framed by pink hues of delicate cherry blossoms or fiery red autumn foliage. I’m here to show you there’s more day trips outside of Tokyo than Fuji-san!

While there are obvious year-round day trips from Tokyo, the surrounding areas do have a few ace cards up their sleeves for curious travellers wishing to experience magic by exploring off the beaten path in Japan

I see many would-be visitors with limited time ask where are the best places to visit in Japan to experience old-world charm, tradition and scenery near Tokyo to contrast their trip. You don’t have to go far! If you’re looking for an Edo-era atmosphere just a hop, skip and jump away from the modernity of today’s capital, read on to learn where to find them.

As well as metaphorically offering the chance to teleport back in time, I’ll bet there are a few lesser-known destinations and hidden gems listed below that you haven’t thought of visiting! How many of these have you heard of?

TIP: If you’re hoping to visit during the cherry blossom season, my detailed guide to spring in Japan is packed with tips for more places to go, alternatives to popular spots, what to pack and how to avoid the huge crowds!

Day Trips from Tokyo You Haven't Thought Of | The Invisible Tourist
This guide to day tips from Tokyo covers lesser-known spots, hidden gems and popular bullet train trips ranging from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours away. How many of have you heard of?

30 mins day trips from Tokyo

KAWAGOE

30 mins from Tokyo on Seibu Railway
A booming trade hub during the Edo period, the very impressive and well preserved merchant district of Kawagoe 川越 has earnt the town the nickname of “Little Edo”. For those who are very short of time, a day trip from Tokyo to Kawagoe is a great idea for a slice of old-world charm and nostalgia.

Spend some time admiring the old show of wealth through traditional kura architecture on Kurazukuri Street. These clay buildings with decorative tiles were created to store trade goods and protect them from fire.

During the Edo Period, most wealthier merchants throughout Japan could only afford to build one small storehouse for their goods, they were very expensive. The merchants here in Kawagoe were very successful so built their entire buildings in this style!

TIP: read my full guide to a Kawagoe day trip itinerary from Tokyo!

 

Discount transport passes for Kawagoe

Grab your discounted Seibu Railway pass from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro Station to Kawagoe.
It even comes in the shape of a traditional Japanese omamori (lucky charm)!
Order your Round-trip Seibu Kawagoe Pass here

 

Things to do in Kawagoe

  • Get your sugar fix along Penny Candy Alley, famous for selling sweets after Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923
  • Catch your fortune in a wooden fish at ancient Hikawa Shrine, dating back to 6th century 
  • Marvel at Kita-in Temple, featuring the only surviving buildings from former Edo Castle
  • Ride a “Sakura Ship” along cherry blossom-lined Shingashi River during spring.

Kurazukuri Street, Kawagoe

Perfect end to a Kawagoe day trip at Hikawa Shrine

Preserved old-world charm of Kawagoe

YOKOHAMA

30 mins from Tokyo on Tokyu Toyoko Railway 
Often overlooked by first-time tourists to Japan, hugging Tokyo Bay’s southern shores lies the port city of Yokohama 横浜. Holding the title of Japan’s second-largest city, Yokohama has a fascinating history and is home to plenty of attractions to keep you busy.

Towards the end of isolationist Edo Period (1603 – 1868), Yokohama’s port was the first open to foreign trade, allowing it to grow into a thriving city. Like Hiroshima, Yokohama is a city that demonstrates the importance of resilience and hope.

Much of Yokohama was turned to rubble in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and was subsequently rebuilt only to be destroyed by USA air raids during WWII. I found a few old buildings partly left in ruin as a reminder.

TIP: read my full guide to unique things to do in Yokohama during the day & night!

 

Discount transport passes for Yokohama

The 1-Day Yokohama Enjoy Pass offers discounts to four of seven major attractions. If you decide to visit both Yokohama and Kamakura, the 2-Day Yokohama and Kamakura Pass may be for you! 
Order your 1-Day Yokohama Enjoy Pass here
Order your 2-Day Yokohama and Kamakura Enjoy Pass here.

 

Things to do in Yokohama

  • Admire the city skyline on a lunch or dinner cruise
  • Experience Yokohama from above on a helicopter flight 
  • Explore Japan’s largest China Town and the new city centre of Minato Mirai
  • Learn more about instant noodles at the popular Cup Noodles Museum
  • Find ruins of the Former Settlement Buildings
  • Stroll the grounds of the waterfront Yamashita Park
  • Get up close with a giant robot at the Gundam Factory
  • Go bar hopping in Noge
  • Admire the views from Yokohama Marine Tower
  • Ride the massive ferris wheel at Cosmo World
  • Relax in the tranquil Sankaien Gardens.

Minato Mirai, Yokohama

Instant Noodles History Cube, Cup Noodles Museum Yokohama

Yokohama Chinatown, Japan

1 hour day trips from Tokyo

KAMAKURA

1 hour from Tokyo on JR Shonan Shinjuku line
As the political centre of medieval Japan for over 140 years from the 12th century, Kamakura 鎌倉 is rich in history and is often described as the “Kyoto of the East”. Stunning and important cultural treasures such as shrines, temples, monuments and Japan’s second-tallest bronze Buddha statue can be found here in this small seaside town. 

Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, natural scenery and only an hour away, it’s easy to see why Kamakura is one of the most popular day trips from Tokyo.

TIP: Read my full guide to a Kamakura day trip itinerary from Tokyo!

Overtourism in Kamakura

I’ll first start with an important note to keep at front of mind when visiting Kamakura. While there are many guided day tours from Tokyo to Kamakura available, their popularity means the area has become negatively affected by overtourism recently.

Tourists aren’t aware of these do’s and don’ts in Japan have caused locals to report strains on their limited infrastructure and quality of daily life. There is anonymity travelling as part of a large group – I elaborate more on this when answering if Kyoto is a day trip from Tokyo towards the end of this guide, so read on to find out why.

I’d suggest skipping the larger group tours to Kamakura. Instead, I highly recommend being “invisible” here and doing a self-guided tour to avoid contributing to overtourism in Japan. By doing this, you’re able to spend more time exploring beyond the popular tourist attractions and even see them before or after the hordes of large tour groups from Tokyo.

NOTE: Psst, learn more of my overtourism solutions to help you blend in as best as possible in Japan and anywhere around the globe. Why contribute to the problem when you can prevent it? It’s easy to lessen your heavy tourist footprint when you know how!

 

Transport passes for Kamakura

Planning to visit Kamakura and Hakone during your trip to Japan? The Hakone-Kamakura 3 Day Pass might be for you! Get unlimited travel on Odakyu and Enoden transport (which are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass) and receive discounts to 70 different attractions in these areas.
Order your Hakone-Kamakura 3 Day Pass here →
Order your 2-Day Yokohama and Kamakura Enjoy Pass here →

 

Things to do in Kamakura

  • Admire the iconic 11-metre tall Daibutsu (Great Buddha) of Kamakura, a designated National Treasure (you can even go inside!)
  • Explore Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura’s most important temple dedicated to samurai
  • Visit one of Japan’s largest wooden statues of beloved goddess, Kannon, at Hasedera Temple (note that photos & videos of her are prohibited)
  • Indulge in local street food and souvenir shop along Komamachi-dori
  • Wander the lush bamboo groves and hidden caves surrounding Hokoku-ji Temple
  • Wash your money to wish it to multiply at Zeniarai Benten’s natural spring
  • Admire the stunning intertwined dragons painted on Zuisen-ji Temple’s ceiling
  • Head over to Enoshima Island, a Tokyo 2020 Olympics site
  • Watch the sunset on one of the lovely sandy beaches.

TOP: Giant Buddha ~ MIDDLE & BOTTOM: Hasedera Temple

SANRIO PUROLAND

1 hour from Tokyo on Tokyo Metro & Keio railway line
Here’s one for the little and not-so-little ones! If you’re a fan of all things Hello Kitty, Gudetama and more of your favourite kawaii (cute) Sanrio cartoon characters, Sanrio Puroland is a must-see day trip from Tokyo for you. Unlike Tokyo Disneyland, it’s located one hour outside Tokyo.

Have your photo taken in Lady Kitty’s House, take a train ride through My Melody’s World, enjoy a tour of Kiki & Lala’s World and play mini games in Gudetama Land – he’s the lazy egg who became popular due to his lethargic personality.

Parades, shows, themed cafés, the chance to meet and greet your beloved characters and the ability to shop your favourite Hello Kitty merch, make sure you add Sanrio Puroland to your Tokyo itinerary if you’re a super fan!

 

Tickets to Sanrio Puroland

Skip the line to Sanrio Puroland by purchasing tickets online in advance.
Order your skip-the-line Sanrio Puroland tickets here →

 

53AI9015” by OHTAKE Tomohiro is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1.5 hour day trips from Tokyo

FUJI-Q HIGHLAND

1.5 hours from Tokyo by bus
What’s better than a Japanese theme park? A Japanese theme park with a stunning view of Mt Fuji as a postcard-worthy backdrop! Home to four major rollercoasters to get your adrenaline pumping, often overlooked Fuji-Q Highland is actually one of the best places to see Mt Fuji in the country.

With rides names such as the King of Coasters, Panic Clock, Super Pendulum, Sky Roller, Haunted Hospital and 4-Dimension Hypercoaster, Fuji-Q Highland is a must see day trip from Tokyo to set your heart racing! For a full list of all the rides, click here.

 

Tickets to Fuji-Q Highland

Skip the line to Fuji-Q Highland by purchasing tickets online in advance.
Tickets covers entry and unlimited free rides!
Order your skip-the-line Fuji-Q Highland tickets here →

 

Fuji-Q Highland theme park experience

GOTEMBA

1.5 hours from Tokyo by bus
Sitting in the shadows of Mt Fuji, Gotemba 御殿場 can often be overlooked by first time visitors to Japan in favour of main shopping metropolises Tokyo and Osaka. As a rare occurrence in Japan, it’s actually faster to take this day trip from Tokyo by bus rather than train!

Boasting over 200 stores from luxury designer brands to mid range options, Gotemba Premium Outlets are the star attraction here and a literal heaven for anyone who is a self-declared shopaholic. For a full list of stores, click here.

The cherry on the top is the stunning views of Mt Fuji on the horizon, so it really is a must-see day trip from Tokyo if you have a lot of spare room in your suitcase to fill! You can visit Gotemba independently or as part of the below tours.

More things to do in Gotemba

  • Walk in the footsteps of Price & Princess Chichibu at Chichibunomiya Memorial Park
  • Visit the Former Kishi Residence, private home of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s grandfather
  • Enjoy tea and a stroll through a bamboo grove at Toraya Kobo Sweet Company

Gotemba Premium Outlets has over 200 stores

GALA YUZAWA 

1.5 hours from Tokyo on the Joetsu shinkansen
If you’re from a country that doesn’t experience snow during the colder months, you may wish to add Gala Yuzawa to your itinerary! Just 75mins from Tokyo on the Joetsu bullet train, Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is one of the perfect day trips from Tokyo in winter for skiiers and non-skiers alike.

Located in Niigata Prefecture, this region of Japan is known for its incredibly fluffy powder snow. Ride gondolas, chairlifts, go sledding down the slopes, grab a bite to eat with amazing panoramic views over the mountain range and more. My absolute highlight of the day was the Bell of Love Observation Deck – the panoramic scenery will leave you speechless!

TIP: Read my full guide for how to get to Gala Yuzawa from Tokyo, including a visit to the sake vending machine wall in nearby Echigo Yuzawa!

Views over Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort, Niigata, Japan

Views from Bell of Love Observation Deck, Gala Yuzawa

Gala Yuzawa & Echigo Yuzawa are some of the best day trips from Tokyo in winter

HAKONE

1.5 hours from Tokyo on Odakyu Railway
Famous for hot springs, Hakone 箱根 is one of the easiest and most convenient day trips from Tokyo due to its easy accessibility on the Odakyu rail line. It’s popularity is in part due to it being faster to reach than Fuji Five Lakes, mentioned further down the page. 

If you’re fortunate enough to visit during a time when Mt Fuji decides to peep out from her usual cloudy blanket, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views from many vantage points around Hakone. 

Once you arrive at Hakone, navigating around the area is a very simple loop with clear signage. It’s fun to see all the sights by bus, ropeway, pirate ship cruise on Lake Ashi, and cable car. You are free to explore Fuji Hakone Izu National Park as a self-guided adventure like I did, which is a great option as you’re able to take your time to soak in all the attractions as you please.

Alternatively, if you prefer to take a guided tour to Hakone there are many on offer that also include a combination of other destinations to make the most of your day.

 

Mt Fuji Tours from Tokyo to Hakone & Transport Passes

 

More things to do in Hakone

  • Visit the Kubota, Picasso and Open Air Museums
  • Sail on a pirate ship across Lake Ashi
  • Pay your respects at Hakone Shrine
  • Watch sulphur steam out of the ground at Owakudani
  • Take in the sights from Hakone or Komagatake Ropeways
  • Stroll around the lovely Botanical Garden
  • Admire the stunning Odawara Castle
  • Check out the western-style Gora Park landscaped gardens.

Day Trip to Hakone from Tokyo

HAKONE HIGHLIGHTS: TOP – 1) Lake Ashi ~ 2) Ropeways ~ 3) Sulphur rising at Owakudani ~ 4) Cruise on Lake Ashi ~ 5) Old Tokaido Road Cedar Avenue ~ 6) Botanical Gardens ~ 7) Picasso Museum ~ 8) Open Air Museum. BOTTOM: Pirate ship cruise on Lake Ashi.

HITACHI SEASIDE PARK

1 hour 45 mins from Tokyo on JR Joban line
Boasting an ever-changing colourful landscape, Hitachi Seaside Park ひたち海浜公園 is one of the best day trips from Tokyo for families. Even year round!

Located near Mito, there’s even an amusement park featuring a giant ferris wheel and picnic areas if you’re keen to stay a while and enjoy the fresh seaside air. With pathways winding around the 350 hectares of land, you’re sure to find a spot to avoid any crowds.

Miharashi Hill is perhaps the most picturesque spot, and for good reason. A sea of beautiful blue nemophila flowers almost seamlessly blends into the sky above during spring, peaking in late April – early May. Vibrant crimson kochia bushes change the landscape again in autumn, which make for some amazing photos. The flowers blooming in each season are:

  • Spring: Narcissuses, tulips, nemophila, Japanese plum trees
  • Summer: Poppies, roses, zinnias, sunflowers
  • Autumn: Kochia, cosmos flowers
  • Winter: Ice tulips 

More things to do in Mito

Mito 水戸 is one of the perfect day trips from Tokyo in spring. Along with Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en and Okayama’s Koraku-en, Mito boasts the third of Japan’s top 3 gardens, Kairaku-en

Kairaku-en is one of the first in the country to experience blossom viewing, although not sakura (cherry blossoms)! Over 3000 ume (plum blossoms) burst to life from mid-February and the wonderful Mito Ume Matsuri festival celebrates this occasion. The gardens also showcase a bamboo grove and cedar woods.

Take your time and explore much of what Mito has to offer! Alternatively, if you prefer to take a guided tour to Hitachi Seaside park and Kairaku-en, the below tour may be an option for you.

 

Tours to Hitachi Seaside Park & Mito

Make the most of your visit to this area!
Combine your trip to Hitachi Seaside Park with the highlights of lovely Mito city below.
Click here for Hitachi Seaside Park & Mito Kairakuen Day Trip from Tokyo→

 

Kairaku-en, Mito day trips from Tokyo
TOP: Hitachi Seaside Park ~ BOTTOM: Kairaku-en in Mito

NAGANO

1.5 hours from Tokyo on Hokuriku bullet train
The alpine region of Nagano 長野 will be perfect for you if you love to be at one with nature. This day trip from Tokyo by bullet train is where you’ll find each of
Japan’s 30 highest peaks (except Mt Fuji) so it’s no surprise the area is known for snowy adventures.

Despite this, Nagano transforms into a gorgeous emerald beauty in the off-season and is the ideal base for treks and activities – and the snow monkeys!

Aside from hosting the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Nagano is mostly known for Zenko-ji, one of Japan’s most important temples. Dating back to the 7th century it has survived countless earthquakes, natural disasters and is believed to house the first ever Buddhist statue brought to the country. The quaint town of Nagano developed around the temple over time and is now one of the few remaining pilgrim sites in Japan. It’s truly humbling to visit! 

TIP: Keep your eye out for the most Japanese thing you’ll see in Nagano: A temple-shaped vending machine dispensing omamori (Japanese lucky charms) at Zenko-ji.

Contrary to popular belief, the cheeky snow monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park are there year-round… even in summer! Visiting during the warmer months definitely has its perks (hint: fluffy snow monkey babies and fewer tourists).

TIP: I’ve written about what it’s really like visiting Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in summer if you’d like to take a peek, and my 2 day Nagano itinerary covers other things to see and enjoy in the area.

Things to do in Nagano

Nagano in Japan off the beaten path

Yes, the snow monkeys are there in summer!

2 hour day trips from Tokyo

EDO WONDERLAND

2 hours from Tokyo on Tobu Kinugawa line
I’m yet to visit these two but you can bet they’re on my list of day trips from Tokyo. Yes, they’re touristy, but to me sometimes that’s what makes these places half the fun! Destinations like this are the reason why I personally LOVE being a tourist.

Embrace being a foreigner and soak up Japanese culture by stepping back in time at Edo WonderlandExperience the atmosphere of what life was like from the bygone Edo Period. As well as nostalgic games, you’re also able enjoy the historical accuracy of traditional architecture and taste delicacies popular during the Edo era at the specialty restaurants throughout the village.

There are different performances throughout the day from ninja shows to the interesting oiran procession (I’ll let you look up that one). Be sure to check the theatre schedule on arrival to see what interests you. Get yourself and your kids involved in the activities and transform into a ninja, samurai and try to escape the Ninja Trick Maze!

TIP: Read my full guide including discount passes and overlooked attractions for a Nikko day trip from Tokyo!

 

Discounted Entry to Edo Wonderland +
Tobu World Square with the Nikko All Area Pass

The Nikko All Area Pass offers discounted entry into local Nikko attractions such as Edo Wonderland, Tobu World Square as well as unlimited bus travel in the area. The return train journey on Tobu Rail from Tokyo’s Asakusa Station is also included. Good value if you also decide to visit many attractions the Nikko area has to offer!
Find out everything the pass covers here.
Click here to purchase your Nikko All Area Pass →
Or for individual entry purchase your Edo Wonderland entry tickets here →

 

The Oiran procession at Edo Wonderland is not to be missed

TOBU WORLD SQUARE

2 hours from Tokyo on Tobu Railway

This is one you won’t find on other lists for Tokyo day trips! Have you always wanted to visit the Seven Wonders of the World? You’ll be able to do it in a few hours at Tobu World Square. Explore the six themed zones that feature 47 UNESCO World Heritage sites from around the globe at 1:25 scale.

I couldn’t believe the level of detail at this place! The tiny figurines are all doing something interesting. Mini vehicles such as trains, cars and boats all move around, while the bonsai plants that accompany each miniature landmark are so gorgeous and well-kept.

Kids (and big kids at heart like myself) will thoroughly enjoy landmark-spotting at Tobu World Square. It’s certainly one of the unusual day trips from Tokyo.

TIP: Read my full guide to visiting and what to expect at Tobu World Square!

 

Transport Passes for Nikko

Don’t forget to save some money with the Nikko All Area Pass!
Click here to purchase your Nikko All Area Pass →

 

London Tower Bridge at Tobu World Square, Nikko

European Landmarks at Tobu World Square, Nikko

SkyTree at Tobu World Square, Nikko

SHRINES & TEMPLES OF NIKKO

2 hours from Tokyo on Tobu Railway
The UNESCO World Heritage Shrines & Temples of Nikko 日光 are one of the most significant day trips from Tokyo on my list.

Ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate from 1603 – 1868, the Edo Period marked the end of isolationist policy and Tokugawa is credited as one of the three unifiers of Japan. He is entombed at the ornate Toshogu Shrine in Nikko (near Edo Wonderland and Tobu World Square, mentioned above).

Toshogu Shrine and Taiyuin are some of the most picturesque shrines in Nikko National Park, their exquisite attention to detail and beautiful gold leaf features proudly on show. As these wooden structures were built before the official separation of Shinto and Buddhist religions in the following Meiji Period, the shrines showcase elements from both religions, which is a rare treat.

Towards the entrance of Nikko’s temples and shrines lies Shinkyo Bridge. Translating to “sacred bridge”, this bright red icon of the area arches over the rocky river below and makes for a wonderful photo spot. The surrounding forests feature hiking trails to explore and discover waterfalls along the way. Perfect for nature lovers.

 

Transport Passes for Nikko

Don’t forget to save some money with the Nikko All Area Pass!
Click here to purchase your Nikko All Area Pass →

 

More things to do in Nikko

  • Visit Rinnoji Temple, described as Nikko’s most important and a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Explore Tamozawa Villa, the former residence of the Imperial Family
  • Relax in the Botanical Garden
  • Hike through the forest to Kirifuri Waterfall
  • Make the most of your Nikko day trip from Tokyo and visit Edo Wonderland and Tobu World Square.

Toshogu Shrine, Nikko Japan in Summer

Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko in Summer
Nikko is one of the iconic day trips from Tokyo

FUJI FIVE LAKES

2 hours from Tokyo by bus
The beautiful lakes of Kawaguchiko, Motosuko, Saiko, Shojiko and Yamanakako are the icons that give this region its name. Lake Kawaguchiko from Tokyo is the easiest to access of the five. Whilst it takes a little more effort and time to reach than popular Hakone, Fuji Five Lakes 富士五湖 is one of the worthiest day trips from Tokyo visitors can take. 

Covering a huge area north of Mt Fuji, the Fuji Five Lakes area boasts a tonne of things to see and do. Visit some of the many museums, use the area as your base to begin the long climb to Mt Fuji’s summit, go skiing or visit traditional temples with envious views. It’s also an excellent destination to enjoy an onsen experience (or two)!

Do you love traditional gassho-style wooden Japanese farmhouses? Like the ones at Shirakawa-go blanketed in snow and made famous by being splashed all over tourist brochures? For a truly special experience, Oshino Hakkai is a lovely alternative here at Fuji Five Lakes. Its 8 sacred ponds are fed with icy waters from Mt Fuji. One of the ponds is crystal clear – 8 metres deep!

You can visit Oshino Hakkai independently or as part of the below tours.

TIP: I personally took this Mt Fuji day trip from Tokyo bus tour that included a tea ceremony at Lake Kawaguchiko, an ancient shrine, the sacred ponds of Oshino Hakkai and finished off the day at Gotemba Premium Outlets. It was super convenient and unforgettable experience!

 

Tours to Lake Kawaguchi, Oshino Hakkai & surrounds

Why not combine your visit to Gotemba with some nearby cultural treasures & scenery?

 

More things to do at Fuji Five Lakes

  • Visit Kubota Museum
  • Try Hoto noodles, the delicious local specialty
  • Get your Japanese temple fix at Chureito Pagoda and Sengen Shrine
  • Enjoy magnificent views over the region from the Panoramic Ropeway
  • Soak in an onsen overlooking Mt Fuji dotted around each of the five lakes
  • Step into the future of train travel at the Maglev Exhibition Centre.

Oshino Hakkai is one of the lesser known day trips from Tokyo by foreign tourists

Mt Fuji day trips from Tokyo
Oshino Hakkai and Fuji Five Lakes are some of the most scenic day trips from Tokyo

2+ hour day trips from Tokyo

MATSUMOTO

2.5 hours from Tokyo on JR Azusa limited express train
If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you’re curious to see how far a day trip from Tokyo will take you. Incredible Matsumoto 松本 is often overlooked due to the effort it takes to get there, but is a great option if you wish to spend most of a day away from Japan’s capital. 

Known colloquially as the “Black Crow”, Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto-jo) is one of four castles listed as National Treasures of Japan. Towering above the town below this must-see structure is actually Japan’s oldest wooden castle! Inside the castle is a collection of impressive artefacts and weaponry collected throughout the reigns of its leaders from the 16th century and is worth a visit.

I really had to wonder how ninjas actually managed to hurl themselves up and down the steep 60° angle of the staircases inside. At 5’2”, my legs weren’t long enough to descend the old wooden stairs without shuffling down on my bottom!

What many tourists don’t realise is Matsumoto is a wonderful town for art and culture lovers. If you’re familiar with the yellow and red polka-dot pumpkins on Naoshima Island, Yayoi Kusama was commissioned to create them and her works are celebrated at Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

 

Transport passes for Matsumoto

Have unlimited use of the hop-on-hop-of sightseeing bus with the Matsumoto bus pass.
Includes discounted entry into Matsumoto Castle, too
Order your Matsumoto Sightseeing bus pass here →

 

Things to do in Matsumoto

  • Explore the traditional whitewashed merchant buildings along Nakawachi-dori
  • Have a laugh at the kitschy frog souvenirs along Frog Street (Nawate-dori)
  • Wander the beautiful grounds of Yohashira Shrine
  • Discover the largest collection of Japanese woodblock prints at Ukio-ye Museum
  • Sample the city’s delicious soba buckwheat noodles, the local specialty.
Matsumoto Castle in Japan off the beaten path
Matsumoto Castle

FUJINOMIYA

2.5 hours from Tokyo by bullet train, car or bus
Although most foreign visitors pass by on bullet trains between Tokyo & Kyoto, the majority don’t hop off to explore the beauty of the Fujinomiya 富士宮 area. It definitely hasn’t hit the mainstream tourist radar yet, allowing you to have some of the best views of Mt Fuji in the country – without the crowds! 

As the closest city to Mt Fuji on its overlooked western side, Fujinomiya was once the starting point for pilgrims to climb to the summit when Kyoto was Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years. Featuring the new Mt Fuji World Heritage Centre, artisan stores, stunning waterfalls, natural scenery and ancient shrines, why wouldn’t you want to visit Fujinomiya?

I enjoyed a customised foodie tour to help me sample all the local specialties during my visit. There is even a century’s-old sake brewery that uses springwater from Mt Fuji to create all its products! 

In my opinion ,Fujinomiya and its surrounds are one of the best nature day trips from Tokyo.

TIP: Alternatively, read more about the tour my guide to 18 things to do in Fujinomiya as a weekend trip from Tokyo to maximise your experience!

The Mt Fuji World Heritage Centre is one of the best things to do in Fujinomiya

Visiting Shiraito Falls is one of the best things to do in Fujinomiya

Fujinomiya Yakisoba

Is Kyoto a day trip from Tokyo?

3 hours from Tokyo on Tokaido bullet train
Now this may be a controversial opinion but no, I personally believe Kyoto 京都 does
not make a good day trip from Tokyo for a few reasons. If you absolutely feel as though you need to go in one day, then of course that decision is up to you but I kindly urge you to reconsider.

As a passionate travel writer it’s my duty to provide you with some unpopular truths beyond flashy Instagram photos and provide different perspectives you may not have thought of. Aside from the 6-hour return journey, I hope to make you aware of the below factors for why I don’t recommend Kyoto as a side trip from Tokyo.

Overtourism in Kyoto

In recent years, Kyoto has been absolutely swamped with foreign tourists who all concentrate at a small handful of popular attractions. The tourism board did too good a job in promoting this inspiring destination! 

As I’ve witnessed first-hand and mentioned in my article about overtourism in Japan, the majority of these tourists were day-trippers from outside the city, making it almost unbearable for locals in particular locations from 9am – 6pm. 

Often individuals demonstrating poor behaviour aren’t held accountable as these large groups can be intimidating. Day-tripping coaches showing up with thousands of tourists at a time at popular, crowded destinations like Kyoto and Kamakura (mentioned earlier) are an unsustainable way to see a city and not enjoyable for anyone. 

TIP: Do you really want to rush around and contribute to the problem when there are smarter options to see the city?

Overtourism in Kyoto, Japan | The Invisible Tourist

Experience old-world charm elsewhere

Obviously the centuries-old allure of Kyoto is a huge drawcard for tourists to Japan. Because it’s perhaps one of the most well-known and preserved Edo-era destinations in the country it’s a natural choice, which is understandable. 

In saying that, if you’ve managed to read this far you’ll now be aware of a few alternative destinations that are much closer to Tokyo to experience old-world charm if you have a single day. Gorgeous Kawagoe, fun Edo Wonderland, jaw-dropping Oshino Hakkai… Each destination has equally intriguing history in its own right – and they don’t take up half a day in travel time to get there. 

Give Kyoto the time it deserves

I honestly can’t stress this enough – there is SO much more to Kyoto than Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kinkaku-ji and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. For me, whenever I visit this city and cross attractions off my list, I seem to end up learning about many more to add to my next trip! 

Kyoto is a city where it’s definitely beneficial to travel The Invisible Tourist Way. Allow yourself to fall in love by staying longer, dear old Kyoto deserves more of your time than one day! My 4 day Kyoto itinerary allows plenty of time to see the popular spots before and after the hordes of day-trippers flock to them. It also gives you several chances to experience the fun and intrigue of Kyoto at night.

As well the possibility of exploring at an enjoyable, relaxed pace and having the chance to really take in the significance of Japan’s ancient capital, spending a few days means you can also uncover many of Kyoto’s hidden gems. 

The best part is some of these hidden gems feature alternatives to popular spots (like Kodai-ji Temple has its own uncrowded bamboo grove to rival the emerald hues at Arashiyama). Take a look at my detailed hidden gems in Kyoto guide to inspire your separate visit and avoid contributing to overtourism issues.

Where to stay in Tokyo

As I’ve personally stayed in over half a dozen Tokyo hotels now, read my full reviews and honest advice for where to stay in Tokyo, suited for first-time and repeat visitors. Whether you’re flying solo, travelling as a couple, on business or on a budget, I’ve stayed in a hotel that will suit you!

Concluding the best year-round Tokyo day trips

That’s a wrap for the places I believe are the best day trips from Tokyo! You really don’t have to travel far to experience neighbourhoods with old-world Edo charm or stunning natural scenery that makes you feel like you’re in a far-away land.

This guide has featured some lesser-known destinations that can be visited any time of the year to make the most of your trip. There is always something exciting incorporating the current season, whether it be blossoms, summer flowers, autumn foliage or snow.

I hope my guide has inspired you to experience some new and exciting places you may not have heard of, and some alternatives to popular places to immerse yourself in Japan’s unique culture! If you’re planning to spend some time in Osaka, my guide to the best Osaka day trips covers alternatives to popular spots, too.

How many of these Tokyo day trips will you add to your itinerary? Let me know in the comments below! If you’re after more inspiration, I have many more travel guides and itineraries here on my Japan travel blogFrom finding hidden gems, detailed city guides, best time to visit for cherry blossoms and more, I have your Japan trip covered.

As this guide to Tokyo forms part of my series on Japan’s Golden Route, if you’re interested take a look at my separate guides for Japan’s off the beaten path destinations, hidden gems and reviews of cultural experiences to enrich your trip.

If you found this helpful please share it with your friends or come and join me on Facebook, PinterestInstagram and TikTok for more Japan inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist


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Unusual Day Trips from Tokyo by Bullet Train [Year-Round] | The Invisible Tourist

Amazing Year-Round Day Trips from Tokyo You Haven't Thought Of | The Invisible Tourist

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6 Comments

  1. I absolutely agree that Kyoto has more to offer than what can be covered in a single day. However, this is my first trip to Japan and Kyoto and Tokyo were two destinations on top of my list the moment I started planning for the journey. I have therefore planned a quick organised day trip of Kyoto in a day from Tokyo. I definitely plan to have a dedicated journey to Kyoto and other important destinations like Hiroshima in the not so distant future and then I willl for sure dedicate multiple days for Kyoto alone.

    Thank you for the Great blog and cheers!!

    1. Hi Harisankar, thanks for your ind words!
      That will be a long day for you, but yes you will definitely have more time to enjoy Kyoto on your next trip.
      I hope you have a fantastic time!

  2. Thank you Alyse. It has been a lifelong dream of mine (I am now 67 years old!) to go to Japan and I am now realising that dream by going to Tokyo next month (February 2023). I am staying with a family there and was looking for ideas about what to do during my stay. Your guide has been invaluable!

    1. That is SO exciting, Peter!
      I’m very happy for you, Japan is absolutely worth the wait 😃
      Thank you for your kind words, that means a lot 🙏
      I hope you have a wonderful time in Japan with your family, happy and safe travels!

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