The Top 5 Day/Weekend Trips Outside Tokyo
Living in a city is great; it's convenient, busy, and entertaining. However, every now and then you need a bit of space and fresh air. There's so much to discover just outside of Tokyo and each place has it's own special charm (nature, activities, local food, etc). If you're travelling to Tokyo I highly recommend taking a day or two to venture out, and if you can, take the Shinkansen (super high-speed train) to get there. Grabbing a bento box and getting on the Shinkansen, to whatever destination, made for some of my best memories in Japan. Here are my 5 favourite day/weekend trips just outside of Tokyo.
1. KAMAKURAJust one hour from Tokyo, this popular historic city is nicknamed "The East of Kyoto". You can see a lot of historic monuments, a giant buddha, beautiful temples, and a nice beach. There's also a lot of boutique shops, cafés, and snack stalls to visit along Komachi Street.
HOW TO GET THERE (Takes about an hour from Tokyo)
JR Yokosuka line from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station (If you are taking JR Tokaido line or JR Kehin Tohoku line, change to Yokosuka line at Ofuna station) to Kamakura Station
JR Shonan Shinjuku line from Shinjuku Station or Shibuya Station or Ebisu Station to Kamakura Station
Odakyu line from Shinjuku. If you purchase the 'Odakyu Kamakura/Enoshima Free Pass' (1470 yen), you can travel around Kamakura town easier and quicker, since each tourist attraction is pretty far apart (if you want to see many of them). This pass offers rides of small retro train around the town and to Enoshima island (a beautiful small island near Kamakura.
If you take the JR train you can reach Nikko in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. It's Tosho-gu (Japan's most lavish shrine) is one of three temples/shrines in Nikko that are part of the world's UNESCO World Heritage historical sites. Here you can find a lot of beautiful nature (especially in the fall with the red leaves), water-falls, hot springs, temples, shrines, and lakes. There are a bunch of day-trip bus tours that can show you all around Nikko in one day. The a Japanese saying, "Never say 'kekkō' until you've seen Nikkō""- kekkō meaning beautiful, magnificent or "I am satisfied", is a representation of Nikko's beauty.
HOW TO GET THERE (Takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes from Tokyo)
JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya Station then JR Nikko Line
Chiyoda line from Otemachi Station then Tobu Nikko/Kinugawa line from Kitasenju Station
Or rent a car & take a road trip (it's pretty much all straight highway)- this was my husband & I's favourite way to get there. It makes it easier to travel around to all of the sites once you get there (other option is to join a tour bus).
Full of incredible hot springs, Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), a giant outlet mall, and museums..it's the perfect place to take a quick break from the city. Staying at a Ryokan is a quintessential Japanese experience that you will never forget. A lot of them have very traditional decor (you even sleep on tatami mats), your own private onsen, and traditional omakase meals (you can state your allergies/dietary requirements when you book your room).
HOW TO GET THERE
Take the Odakyu Railway from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station. From there transfer to the local train to go wherever you need to (Hakone is big). The time it takes differs depending if you choose the local or express/rapid trains.
By the JR Tokaido Shinkansen you can access Odawara in about half an hour from Tokyo or Shinagawa Station.
Take the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus from Shinjuku station. It operates every 30 minutes and takes 2 hours to get to Hakone.
4. LAKE ASHI
Located in the Hakone area, Lake Ashi has the most breathtaking views of Mount Fuji (an iconic symbol of Japan). Spend a day at the lake taking in the spectacular scenery, eating at their cafés (the Hammock one is my favourite), and riding on the swan pedal boats.
HOW TO GET THERE
Odakyu train from Shinjuku station- book the 'Romance Car limited Express" if you want a faster, direct ride to Hakone-Yumoto station
JR Shinkansen train Tokaido line from Tokyo Station to Odawara (takes only 40 min).
My favourite getaway place in Japan. It reminds me of cottage life in Muskoka, Ontario- Canada. There's a lot of outdoor activities, nature, fresh local food (some of the best I've tasted in Japan because most of it is grown and picked right from local farms that morning), onsen, and shopping (boutique shops and a massive outlet mall). I was first introduced to this area by Zipper Magazine, because they brought me there to do an editorial. Since then, I went back once for every season while I lived in Japan (there's different activities, food, and scenery). My favourite resort there (and possibly in all of Japan) is Hoshinoya. You stay in these waterside guest villas and take in the crisp, clean, fresh air and the peaceful sounds of birds and ducks all day. They also have rooms that dogs can stay in too (complete with your own dog bed, pooper scoopers, treats, etc). Their restaurant (Omakase-locally sourced meat, fish, and produce), spa, and onsen are outstanding. If you venture out, there's a nice hiking trail nearby, and a restaurant that serves the best veggies and rice dish I've ever had.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hokuriko Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Karuizawa Station (takes 65-80 min). *The outlet mall is just outside the station, so I recommend you drop off your suitcases in the locker room at the station and walk around there on your way back (there's a lot of good shops and restaurants).
Or by car via the Chuo Expressway.
There's a lot more places to explore, but I'm going to leave this list short and sweet. To see my favourite places inside Tokyo click here.-T