Tokyo is, along with Kyoto, the main city people come to Japan to visit (for good reason), and there are also so many interesting places nearby that make great day trips from Tokyo to see when visiting to get to know more about Japan.
Despite Tokyo’s massive size it’s easy to get out of the city thanks to the excellent transport options, especially the fast trains.
I use the phrase ‘awesome day trips’ in the title as they aren’t ‘best’ when ‘best’ is dependant on the person and what they want. Yes, some of these recommendations are definitely the best day trips from Tokyo you can do and others are awesome, but there are so many options. I just selected the ones I would recommend and with different vibes.
Day Trips From Tokyo
The absolute best way to do day trips from Tokyo is by using the Japanese train system, especially the fast shinkansen trains that serve many places.
Depending on your plans for Japan, think about getting a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) as it will save you money and allow travel on the shinkansen.
For some destinations the bus will be the way to go.
Of course, you can always rent a car which is ok for destinations close to Tokyo, but forget it for longer day trips as it will be too far. If you can rent a car and planning day trips to places less than 3 hours away then it is very helpful as you’ll be able to stop and see things that you wouldn’t if on bus or train getting to the places.
1- Mount Fuji (Lake Kawaguchiko) Day Trip
Day trips to Mount Fuji from Tokyo are among the most popular to do. And why not? Mount Fuji is one of the iconic images of Japan and is also surrounded by interesting places.
Forget about notions of climbing Mount Fuji on a day trip! You go for the view alone and to enjoy the surrounding area of lakes and onsen towns.
There are 5 lakes around the area and Lake Kawaguchiko is the lake with the best view of Mount Fuji so my recommendation is to plan the day trip to Lake Kawaguchiko for the day and see Mount Fuji from there.
To get to Lake Kawaguchiko will take around 2.5 hours by bus and around 2 hours by train.
2 – Kyoto Day Trip From Tokyo
Kyoto is a city that should realistically be visited for at least a few days to see all the city has to offer, but if you’re short on time and based in Tokyo then at the very least it should be visited on a very long day trip from Tokyo.
It’s the main cultural city of Japan with ancient shrines and temples, some of which are the best in Japan.
Thankfully due to the fast shinkansen trains connecting Tokyo and Kyoto it’s possible to do it but leave very early in the morning and come back late at night. Without using the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto don’t do this as a day trip as it will take too long.
Transport time: 2 hours and 15 minutes by shinkansen train.
3 – Kusatsu Onsen Town Day Trip
Kusatsu is one of the best day trips from Tokyo for a Japanese onsen experience.
It’s one of the 3 top onsen resorts in Japan and the town is based around an onsen experience, with the centre based around Yubatake (hot water field) which is where the natural hot spring water comes from.
There are many onsens to choose from but Sainokawara outdoor bath is a good choice.
The train from Tokyo does not go directly to Kusatsu so you will need to change at the nearest station from Kusatsu then take a bus from there. Travel time 3 hours from Tokyo.
4 – Hakone Day Trip
Hakone is another of the most popular day trips from Tokyo and is also for more hot springs and Japanese onsen bathing.
You will get good views of Mount Fuji and there is a lake to visit (Lake Ashi) which also has a red torii gate to see.
The main reason to visit is to enjoy an onsen bath and see the natural beauty of Owakudani Valley and its sulphur springs.
It’s roughly a 90 minute train journey to reach Hakone from Tokyo.
5 – Kamakura Day Trip
If you don’t go to Kyoto on your trip to Japan ( shame on you 😉 )Kamakura is a smaller alternative due to the amount of temples there.
The Great Buddha is the main attraction but there are lots of other shrines and temples to see.
Try the Hatosabure biscuit when there which Kamakura is known for.
The historical town also has some nice beaches so if you want to relax for a while head to one of those.
It’s one hour by train from Tokyo Station and when there use the local buses to get around between the places.
6 – Kawagoe Day Trip
Kawagoe is where you can feel the old Edo past and the place is cutely referred to as ‘Little Edo’.
This is a small city where you can get a feel of the old Edo period (a few centuries ago) with a quant main street and some old houses.
Head to Kurazukuri Street to start which is the main street and enjoy wandering around the old houses and craft shops.
After that check out some of Kawagoe’s temples and shrines, especially Kita-in Buddhist temple.
It’s around 30 minutes by train from the centre of Tokyo so makes it an easy day trip to do.
7 – Nikko Day Trip
A Nikko day trip from Tokyo makes sense if you want to see some temples and get into a national park (Nikko National Park) to do a bit of hiking in nature to see a really cool waterfall nearby Nikko.
For those with energy hike up Mt. Nakimushi to the top. It will take a few hours so allow time for this.
The Nikko temple area has some great temples to see as well.
It takes around 2 – 3 hours by train to reach depending on the train option you use. When in Nikko use the local buses to reach the sites.
8 – Yokohama Day Trip
Yokohama is basically a mini-Tokyo and is a city break from a city so to speak. It’s the 2nd largest city in Japan and has in the past been a very important trade port to the foreign world.
It has history and all the modern things Japan offers as well plus the biggest and most vibrant Chinatown in Japan.
It will be around 30 minutes by train from Tokyo (Shibuya) to Yokohama.
9 – Sayama Hills Totoro Forest Day Trip
Sayama is Totoro land… Yes, the famed Totoro from the great Japanese animation My Neighbour Totoro.
It’s the forest here where the director of My Neighbour Totoro apparently got his inspiration for the forest in the animation.
For Japanese animation and anime lovers then this is a day trip to do just for that. Also if you have children and they like animation then that is a great option for them as well.
It’s around 1 hour by train from Tokyo to Sayama.
10 – Chichibu Day Trip
Chichibu is a nature place to visit and escape the big city for the day.
Set around scenic mountains and a peaceful river you can cruise down on it makes the perfect spot to unwind. Add into that a visit to the Ichiro Whiskey Distillery for some of the best whiskey in Japan to relax even more!
Yeah, life is good…
Of course being Japan there are plenty of shrines to visit as well.
If you’re there in late April and early May visit the Hisujiyama Park for all the flowers.
Chichibu is around 90 minutes from Tokyo by train.
More Japan reading:
This is one of my favourite guidebooks for Japan: A Geek in Japan
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