Top Day Trips From Tokyo:
Japan has one of the fastest and most efficient train systems in the world, which makes doing day trips from Tokyo extremely easy. Traveling at a brisk 200-300 miles per hour helps put almost any side trip within striking distance. You can visit the Japanese Alps, the mighty Mount Fuji Volcano, hot spring villages, beaches, or even the exotic snow monkeys in a day and still be back to Tokyo in time for dinner. With all of the wonderful options and ease of travel it’s almost like the country is begging you to explore, so do it! Hope you enjoy our top day trips from Tokyo!
Train Tickets & Transportation Info:
All of our suggested day trips from Tokyo are directly connected to town by bus or train making it very easy. While you can buy tickets right at the train station, if you re planning on doing many side trips or staying in multiple cities across Japan, then consider getting a rail pass before you arrive. A Japanese Rail Pass (website) covers all of your travel in a designated period (7, 14, or 21 days) and usually pays for itself after little more than a round trip journey between Tokyo and Kyoto making your other travel free.
To help with planning your side trip transportation, HyperDia (website) is very helpful as they have the most extensive timetables and route information. You can also filter out the “Nozomi & Mizuho” trains which is important if you are traveling with a JR Rail Pass as they aren’t covered. If you aren’t staying right by Tokyo Station, make sure to enter the train station closest to your hotel like Shinkuju.
1. Nikko (2 Hours Away):
About Nikko: With a prime mountain location, the Buddhist monk Shōdō was inspired to build Rinno-ji Temple here in 766AD which quickly became a point of pilgrimage. The village of Nikko slowly grew around the holy site which expanded a series of secluded temples shrines surrounded by towering cedar trees. Our favorite complex is the Tōshō-gū Shrine from 1617AD which holds the tomb of Leyasu, the 3rd shogun of Nikko. The shrine is also very famous for its carving of the 3 Wise Monkeys who hear, speak and see no evil. The carving is the most well known depiction of the ancient Chinese tale of the monkeys. When Emperor Meiji moved the capital of from Kyoto to nearby Tokyo in 1868, the village of Nikko saw a tourism boom as a mountain resort town. Train service started shortly after in 1890 making Nikko even more accessible as a side trip to take from Tokyo.
While the arching vermilion colored Shinkyo Bridge is on many of the postcards in Nikko, it is the lesser known Kanmangafuchi Abyss that we love near the river. The hiking train leads to a grave yard and is lined with 70 Jizo Buddha statues topped with red knit stocking caps. The Abyss is rumored to be haunted with ghosts as people claim the number of statues changes each time you count them. If you really want to see the mountains in Nikko you should consider a 50 minute bus ride to Lake Chūzen-ji which formed 20,000 years ago when Mount Nantai erupted. The winding road is a beautiful and thrilling experience which leads you to the roaring 318 foot tall Kegon Waterfall that feeds the lake. Nikko is easily the top day trip from Tokyo!
Getting To Nikko From Tokyo: 2 hour direct train ride which is covered by the JR Rail Pass. Rating as a Day Trip From Tokyo: 10 out of 10.
2. Hakone (85-120 Minutes Away):
About Hakone: Located between Tokyo and Mount Fuji is the wonderful volcanic town of Hakone. The village sits over a series of thermal vents and hot springs which have produced some very famous onsen spas. One of the coolest ones has a pool filled with warm red wine and another with green tea which are great experiences. While in town you can also take the ropeway cable car up the mountain side and over the thermal vents for a bird’s eye view of the alien landscape. There are hiking trails between the vents and even some unique egg cooking stations. Hakone is well known for its hard boil eggs cooked in the volcanic water which turns the shells from white to back during the process. One a clear day you can also get great views of the iconic Mount Fuji from the ropeway, but the best views are from Lake Ashi. The lake has taken the common ferry boat experience and bumped it up a notch with two huge pirate-like cruise vessels to take you out on the water. With such a range range of sights, it’s no wonder the Hakone has become so popular over the decades as a top day trip from Tokyo.
Getting To Hakone From Tokyo: It takes about 1 hour and 40 minute minutes with a train from Tokyo to Odawara followed by a transfer to the local bus line. But and the ropeway cable car wil get you from the onsens to the steam vents and lake. Rating as a Side Trip From Tokyo: 9 out of 10.
3. Kamakura (75 Minutes Away):
About Kamakura: While Japan was ruled by shogun warlords in Medieval times, the most powerful of them was based in Kamakura. They rule much of Eastern Honshu from 1180-1330AD and the city served as a defacto capital of Japan during part of the span. During a visit today, you can still get a feel of the power early Kamakura had with numeral ancient temples spanning much of the city. Our favorite of the temples is Kōtoku-in which is famous of the Great Buddha of Kamakura statue. The 44 foot tall bronze statue was completed in 1252AD and has truly stood the test of time. There were once a bounce of building making up the temple including a large hall around the statue which have all been ruined by storms in the 1300-1400s, but the statue lives on. The statue, which has been open air since 1495, is hollow so you can climb inside and see the view from behind the eyes of the Buddha.
Being an ocean side town, Kamakura also has our favorite beach to visit on a day trip from Tokyo. The shore of Shichirigahama Beach is wide with good sand and an amazing sunset. In addition to the temples and beaches, there are also displays showing pottery found from the Stone Age as Kamakura has been inhabited since 8000BC. Overall we still greatly prefer Nikko which is similar, but Kamakura is quick to get to and hiking between sights is a little easier.
Getting To Kamakura From Tokyo: Only 75 minutes by train . Rating As A Day Trip From Tokyo: 8.5 out of 10.
4. Kyoto (2 Hours and 15 Minutes Away):
About Kyoto: Kyoto is maybe the most magical place to visit in all of Japan and deserves a solid 3-4 days of your attention, but it can still be an amazing 1 day side trip from Tokyo if you are short on time. Thanks to high speed rail the journey is now only just over 2 hours from Tokyo. Kyoto served as the Imperial capital of the country from 794 until 1868 and is the best place to experience old world Japan. It was Kyoto’s beauty that saved it from WW2 air raids. From ancient temples, flowing rivers, towering bamboo forests, wild monkeys, old timber homes, and cobblestone alleys, the city of Kyoto is mysterious. You’ll see Geiko, the local term for Geisha, quickly popping out of traditional wooden tea houses, and can even pay to be dresses up like one yourself for the day. There are countless festivals throughout the year, but the best times to visit are during the Fall colors of late Autumn and in the Spring for the beautiful Sakura cherry blossoms that engulf the town. As you find peace in a zen garden or on a quite afternoon stroll, you’ll notice that there is hidden symbolism everywhere in Kyoto. While the squeaky nightingale floors of the Nijo Castle are impressive, our favorite attraction are the 10,000 vermilion gates that line the mountain path up the Fushimi Inari Shrine. If you are willing to explore and get lost Kyoto, it will be one of the best travel experiences of your life.
Getting To Kyoto From Tokyo: High speed train takes 2 hours and 15 minutes from Tokyo Station. Add 30 minutes if leaving from Shinjuku Station. Add an additional 25 minutes from either station if you need the Hikari high speed train which is covered by the Japanese Rail Pass. Rating as a Day Trip From Tokyo: 8.5 out of 10, but a 10 out of 10 if you can make it a couple day visit.
View Our Kyoto Section: HERE.
5. Mount Fuji (2.5-3 Hours Away):
About Mount Fuji: As the tallest peak in the country at 12,388 feet, Mount Fuji is the most iconic image of an everlasting Japan. On a clear day you can easily see the huge volcano from Tokyo even though it is 3 hours away. Fuji-san, as it is known locally, can be a little difficult to visit but very rewarding. You need to be flexible with your schedule, because you won’t be able to see the mighty mountain if it is a foggy day and it won’t be worth your time. If the skies are clear, however, you will get stunning views of Mount Fuji from the surrounding lakes near its base. our favorite view is during early-April’s cherry blossom season next to the Chureito Pagoda tower. A little later in the month is the Shibazakura Festival from late April to late May when over 80,000 blooming Shibazakura flowers fill 6 acres of gently sloping hills with brilliant red, pink and white. The ultimate Mount Fuji experience comes in July & August when the volcano’s hiking trails are open allowing you to visit the summit. Hiking on the mountain is closed the rest of the year for snow and safety reasons. Most visitor hiking to the top will start in the afternoon and stay overnight at one of the mountain huts for a chance to watch the early morning sunrise above the clouds. You do need to plan ahead and be dressed properly for the hike, but it is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do on vacation.
Getting To Mount Fuji From Tokyo: You can reach mount Fuji by express bus or by train. Rating as a Day Trip From Tokyo: 8 out of 10, 10 out of 10 if visiting overnight in July/August to climb to the summit for sunrise.
6. Jigokudani Monkey Park (3 Hours):
About Jigokudani Monkey Park: If you want something that feels straight out of National Geographic, you need to visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park in the Winter to watch the wild snow monkeys relaxing in the thermal hot spring. The snow monkeys, known as Japanese macaques, live in the dense forest of the surrounding mountains and come down to the warm springs in the Winter to stay warm. If you are able to visit between late December and mid February you can expect to see dozens of monkeys relaxing in the warm water, bathing, and playing. The monkey park opened in 1964 for the Olympics in nearby Nagano, but the larger park itself has been bringing in visitors for centuries. Jigokudani (Gee-Go-Coo-Donnie) means Hell Valley which is evident by the year-round volcanic steam vents the flow from small cracks in the ground. The landscape varies as you hike around the park from a lush forest to feeling like you are walking on an alien moon.
Getting To The Park From Tokyo: Train to Nagano followed by a 40 minute bus ride and a 30 minute hike. Rating as a Side Trip From Tokyo: 7.5 out of 10; a solid 9 out of 10 in the peak of Winter. Website: HERE.
7. Kawagoe City (30-45 Minutes):
About Kawagoe City: Known as Little Edo, the well persevered village of Kawagoe is one of the best places to see what Tokyo looked like centuries ago during the Edo Period (1603-1867). The old Warehouse District along Kurazukuri Street is lined with dozens of clay and wood walled buildings to make you feel like you have gone back in time. The Warehouse District feels like it is straight out of a samurai movie and our favorite structure is the 4 story wooden bell tower which was rebuilt in 1894 after a fire. On the West side of the Warehouse District is the pedestrian only Kashiya Yokochō Street which became known as Candy Lane after the 1923 Earthquake hit Tokyo leaving Kawagoe as the main producer of Japanese sweets.
If you are a fan of Japanese history you may want to visit the Kitain Temple which known for its 533 Buddha statues. The temple inspired third Tokugawa Shogun to take his reception hall and study from Edo Castle and move them here in the 1600s. They are the only rooms remaining from the castle which later burned down, although the foundation is preserved in present day Tokyo. If you are visiting during Sakura cherry blossom season we highly suggest taking a flat boat river tour near the Hikawa Shrine as the pink flowered branch hang over the water..
Getting To The Park From Tokyo: An easy 30-45 minute train right from Tokyo Station. The Co-Edo Loop bus then goes from the station between the sights 2-3 times an hour. Rating as a Side Trip From Tokyo: 7.5 out of 10.
8. Hatachii Seaside Park (85 Minutes Away):
About Hatachii Seaside Park: With colorful fields of plants and flowers that look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, the Hatachii Seaside Park is one of the coolest places to visit in Japan, especially for photographers. The rolling hills and unique ocean front location, make the park the perfect place for a wide variation of amazing plants. While each month has different types of flowers that bloom there are a few that stand above the rest. From late April to mid May 4.5 million gorgeous blue Nemophila flowers fill the fields making it hard to know where the ground ends and the sky begins. From early to mid October the over 30,000 round Kochia bushes which bloom green in the Summer gain a stunning pinkish red tint. There is almost no better quick day trip from Tokyo on a warm sunny day during a blooming time.
Park Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:30am-5pm; open until 6pm mid-Summer; Closed Mondays. Park Website: HERE. Getting To The Park From Tokyo: Takes 70 minutes to Katsuta Station then 15 by bus or taxi to the park. Alternatively takes 2 hours to the park including a transfer to the Hatachii Seaside line followed by a walk. Rating as a Side Trip From Tokyo: 7 out of 10.
9. Mount Takao (1 Hour Away):
About Mount Takao: Maybe the most popular day trip from Tokyo for locals, the sacred Mount Takao offers some great hiking less than an hour from the city center. The wooded paths are easy to walk around and the scenery is especially beautiful in the Fall as the leaves change. If your schedule is too tight to visit the woodland temple of Nikko then Mount Takao should be on your radar to get some nature hiking in. You can hike from the base in 90 minutes and gentle paved trail or can take the ropeway halfway up and finish the hike from there.
Mountain Website: Here. Getting To Takao From Tokyo: Takes 1 hour by train with a short cable car ride or lift halfway up the mountain. You can also skip the lift and take any of the 90 minute hiking trails up. Rating as a Day Trip From Tokyo: 7 out of 10; best during Fall colors.
10. Chiba Castle (1 Hour Away):
About Chiba: The easiest place to check out a Japanese feudal castle from Tokyo is in the village of Chiba. While the current castle is a 1975 re-creation of the Otaki Castle that stood here from the 1600-1800s, Chiba Castle is still quite impressive and only an hour away. Great attention to detail was taken in the re-construction and we find the museum inside the castle 5 floors to be quite enjoyable. Each year in September they also have a huge festival in the field below the Chiba Castle with parades and battling feudal armies.
If you have time to future explore greater Japan the well preserved Himeji Castle (90 minutes West of Kyoto) is by far the best in the country and Matsumoto Castle (3 from Tokyo) is also good, but both are much further away than Chiba. If you are only looking to get a quick photo in front of a feudal castle and are also going to Hakone, consider a quick stop at Odawara Castle as you switch from the train to the local bus.
Castle Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9am-4:30pm; Closed Mondays. Castle Website: Here. Getting To The Castle From Tokyo: Takes 1 hour by train. Rating as a Side Trip From Tokyo: 6.5 out of 10.
11. Tokyo Disney (20 Minutes Away):
About Tokyo Disney: While we usually avoid putting theme parks on our top day trips lists, the Tokyo Disney stands above the rest. Opened in 1983, it is very similar to the parks in California and Hong Kong, but with the added touch of Japanese-level customer service. On weekdays you will find the lines a lot short than in American, although it gets crowded on weekends and on Japanese holidays. We also like the attached sea themed park which opened in 2001. Overall we do prefer to take day trips from Tokyo where you get more unique Japanese experiences and it why we kept it out of the top 10, but this Disney does not disappoint.
Park Hours: Daily 9am-10pm; open at 8am on weekends; crowded on weekends and Japanese holidays. Park Website: Here. Getting To The Park From Tokyo: Takes 20 minutes by direct train. Rating as a Day Trip From Tokyo: 6.5 out of 10.