Rainy season is here again, and along with it humidity like being hit in the face with a fish. I love summer, but rainy season is the pits and I can’t wait till it’s over so I can go out and explore again. If you’re prepping for things to do once those heavy clouds clear, look no further! Here are 10 must-do day trips from Tokyo tried and tested by yours truly.
1. Tokyo Disneyland Resort & Tokyo DisneySea
Starting off with perhaps one of Tokyo’s more famous tourist spots, these always-packed theme parks are actually located in neighbouring Chiba Prefecture (also where Narita Airport is located). A popular date spot and family getaway, expect long lines for rides any time of the week. You will need to dedicate at least a full day for each, and 2-day passports are available for exactly this purpose. If you can only visit one, I recommend DisneySea as it has more thrilling rides and attractions for adults.
Getting there: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Keiyo Line / Musashino Line to Maihama Station. The journey should only take around 15 minutes. There are also shuttle buses from various key hubs in Tokyo, like Shinjuku, Akihabara and Tokyo Skytree. More details on the official website.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is most famous for the lavishly-decorated Toshogu Shrine – actually the mausoleum of former shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The national park in the Okunikko area is a popular spot for beautiful autumn colours around Lake Chuzenji, and home to breathtaking nature such as waterfalls, plateaus, and hot springs.
Getting there: There are a number of options depending on your base in Tokyo and budget. The cheapest way is to take the Tobu line from Tobu Asakusa Station to Tobu Nikko Station. It will take roughly 2 hours on the limited express train and cost around 2,800 yen one way. However, you can halve that cost if you are willing to take a slower train (adding 30 mins+ to the journey) and transfer once or more. If you are staying in the west side of Tokyo, you can also take the limited express from Shinjuku Station to Tobu Nikko Station for around 4,000 yen one way. The fastest and most expensive way is to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno Station to Utsunomiya, then transfer to the JR Nikko Line. This route will cost 5,500 yen one way and take around 1 hr 40 mins.
Located in Saitama Prefecture, which borders Tokyo to the north, Kawagoe is a Edo-period castle town known for its old clay warehouses and merchant homes. For this reason, it is often referred to as “Koedo” (Little Edo), and even has craft beer named after it. Once a year in July, Kawagoe holds the Kawagoe Million Lights Summer Festival, lighting up the entire town with hundreds (maybe thousands) of lanterns. It is truly a magical sight and the festive atmosphere of the town is a lot of fun. This is one of the easiest day trips from Tokyo so even lazy-bones can do it.
Getting there: From Shinjuku Station, take the Seibu-Shinjuku Line to Hon-Kawagoe Station or the JR Saikyo/Kawagoe Line to Kawagoe Station (either route will take around 1 hour). Alternatively, you can get there in 30 minutes from Ikebukuro Station on the Tobu Tojo Line.
Head south all the way down to Miura Peninsula for some chill vibes and super fresh maguro (tuna). The town of Misaki is well-known its fish markets and shops, so you can enjoy a delicious seafood meal here. Not surprisingly, there are also a lot of cats wandering around. But the main attraction is Jogashima, a small island located on southernmost tip of the peninsula and connected to the mainland via a bridge. Rugged cliffs and rocky beaches make for some otherworldly landscapes, and the scarcity of people adds to the atmosphere. A real breath of fresh air compared to Tokyo. Make sure to check out the Jogashima lighthouse and Umanose Domon, a naturally-formed rock formation which offers a window to the ocean beyond.
Getting there: From Shinagawa Station, take the Keikyu line to Misakiguchi Station. The journey will take around an hour and a half. From there, you can take hop on a local bus to either Misaki or Jogashima. To get more value for money, I recommend you purchase a Misaki Maguro Ticket for 2980 yen before departure. It covers the round-trip journey from Shinagawa Station, all bus routes in the area, a tuna set lunch, and free pass to a selected activity.
Nokogiriyama (鋸山) literally means “saw-tooth mountain”, and yes, it lives up to its name. Located in Chiba Prefecture‘s Bōsō Peninsula, this 330m tall mountain commands spectacular views of Tokyo Bay and beyond on clear days. 15 minutes walk from the harbour, you can elect to take the ropeway up or hike to the top through luscious greenery. The mountain is also home to Japan’s largest Buddha at the Nihon Dera Temple, 10 minutes walk from the ropeway station at the top.
You should expect lines for phototaking on the saw-tooth itself, especially on weekends.
Getting there: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Sazanami Special Express to Kimitsu Station, then transfer to the Uchibo Line and get off at Hama-Kanaya Station (1.5 hours total). A much more interesting way to get there is to take the Keikyu Line from Shinagawa Station to Keikyu-Kurihama Station, then catch a 10 minute bus to Kurihama Port. From there, you can take a 40 minute ferry directly to Bōsō Peninsula.
In the wild west of Tokyo, lies a haven of nature and haikyo. Welcome to Okutama, one of the capital’s best kept secrets. Okay, I jest. Tokyo is not exactly hiding Okutama per se, but people do often forget about the areas that exist beyond the 23 wards. And the contrast between the fast-paced concrete jungle and the sleepy neighbourhoods out west is astounding. You will hardly believe you are still technically in Tokyo.
Okutama is especially popular in autumn, when the trees come alive in hues of red, orange and yellow, and rows of drying permissions fill the retro streets. The area is also a top hiking spot, with gorgeous lakes, valleys and limestone caves. And for dark tourists who may prefer something more off-the-beaten track, the area is well-known for being the location of a top haikyo spot in the Kanto region: a couple of ropeway stations which have been abandoned for half a century. You can read more about the demise of the Okutama Ropeway here.
I went there in broad daylight and the place still gave me the creeps. There’s a lot of broken glass around so solid, closed footwear is a must. I could only access one of the stations, the other one appeared to be completely sealed off and locals were not happy when I asked if I could walk up there anyway.
Getting there: From Shinjuku Station, take the JR Chuo Line to Tachikawa Station, then transfer to the JR Ome Line for Okutama Station. The entire journey should take around 2 hours, and the river with autumn leaves is close by. If you want to go hiking, you will need to take a local bus to the start of the route. Getting to the haikyo is a bit trickier and it’s best to have your own transport. If not, a local bus route does (infrequently) pass by the stations, but it’s not obvious from the road.
7. Hitachi Seaside Park
This is pushing the 2 hour away limit, but it is definitely a doable day trip. Hitachi Seaside Park is located in Ibaraki Prefecture, which is on the other side of Chiba Prefecture. This means you will actually be traversing two prefectures, not one. Unless you’re a hardcore flowerholic, the park is only of real interest during two seasons of the year: 1) In late April – mid-May when the nemophila, also known as Baby Blue Eyes, are in bloom; and 2) in November when the kochia (summer cypress) turn a fiery red (they are green in summer). Having seen the nemophila this year, I can say it’s as brilliantly blue as the photos and definitely worth visiting.
Getting there: During the peak seasons mentioned above, special shuttle buses run between Tokyo Station and Hitachi Seaside Park. The journey time is around 2 hours. The last time I checked (Spring 2019), the bus tickets were 4,000 yen round-trip. If you prefer to take the train, you can take the JR Joban Line from Shinagawa Station or the Limited Express Hitachi-Tokiwa from Tokyo Station to Katsuta Station, then transfer to a shuttle bus that runs to the park. It will take around 1.5-2 hrs and the cost is roughly 4,000 yen one way. For that reason, you find it more value-for-money to join a bus tour for 8,000 yen – 10,000 yen, which is usually combined with a visit to Tochigi’s Ashikaga Flower Park. The only downside is that you only get around 2 hours at the park before they usher you to the next spot.
Home to one of the most prominent giant Buddha statues in Japan, Kamakura is peppered with dozens of Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. The centre of medieval Japan, it is often described as the “Kyoto of the Kanto region”, and a must-see for history buffs. If this isn’t so much your thing, the trip can easily be combined with nearby Enoshima. The Enoden is a famous tram that connects the two towns, although it is often packed like sardines. Kamakura is also a famous spot for ajisai (hydrangea) viewing during the June rainy season.
Getting there: From Shinjuku Station, take the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line to Kamakura Station. From Tokyo Station, the JR Yokosuka Line will take you directly to Kamakura Station. The best value-for-money route, however, is the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass by Odakyu Railways, which includes round-trip transfer from Shinjuku Station and unlimited rides on the Enoden.
A seaside town with a chill surfer’s vibe, this place is one of my favourite day trips from Tokyo. Enoshima, as the name suggests, is actually an island connected by a long bridge to the main port. The town is famous for shirasu (whitebait), and you can find a plethora of restaurants serving dishes with it as main theme.
Having been to Enoshima in winter, spring and summer, I would say it’s a day trip for any season. Of course, if you choose to hike the mountain in summer expect to be drenched in sweat by the end of it. (And maybe take some mosquito repellent).
Getting there: From Shinjuku Station, take the Odakyu Line to Fujisawa Station and transfer to the local line for Katase-Enoshima Station. The Romance Car runs directly from Shinjuku to Katase-Enoshima but costs double. The best value-for-money route is the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass by Odakyu Railways, which includes round-trip transfer from Shinjuku Station and unlimited rides on the Enoden.
Last, but definitely not least, Hakone. I left this to the end because I’m hesitant to call it a day trip from Tokyo. While it can definitely be done, and I have personally done it before, it seems a bit of a waste not spend at least a night there. Hakone is truly a charming hot spring town, and the experience wouldn’t be complete without a stay in one of the fantastic ryokan there. In any case, it’s one of the best weekend or day trips from Tokyo!
Also for Evangelion fans, Hakone is the purported model for Tokyo-3, and the town has picked up on the pilgrimage craze by holding stamp rallies and the like. For the best Tokyo-3 view, take a bus to Sengokugahara and hike Mt. Kintoki.
Getting there: The fastest way to get there is on the Romance Car from Shinjuku Station. It only takes around 1 hr 15 mins to reach Hakone-Yumoto Station. However, for around half the price and only a slight increase in travel time, you can take the Odakyu Line to Odawara Station and transfer to the Hakonetozan Line to Hakone-Yumoto.
So, which of these day trips from Tokyo will you try this year? Be sure to also read up on other things to do in and around the exciting capital.