There are many places you can go as a day trip from Tokyo. So even if you’re really visiting Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, if you have a free day in between seeing the different sports, you can go see a bit of the Japanese countryside. A typical day trip would probably be a destination anywhere between 1 - 3 hours by train one way. And if use the famous Japanese bullet trains, 3 hours takes you quite a long way. But I suppose if you want to use more of your time for sightseeing, 1 - 2 hours one way for transportation is more practical. Below are some of the most popular places you can go on as a day trip from Tokyo. However, if you have a particular destination that you’d like to see and it’s within the time frame above, you can request a tour to the local guides and they’ll be able to suggest a tour that they can provide for you.
Best Day Trips from Tokyo in Summer 2020
TripleLights provides tours in areas all over Japan. There are many tours that you can choose from, especially in Tokyo. You can scroll through all the tours that are provided on this website. Locally based guides provide the tours since they are more knowledgeable about the area that they reside in, than people who are from other regions. And day trip tours from Tokyo are usually led by local guides residing in Tokyo as they can meet you in Tokyo and travel with you to your destination and back, which means you don’t have to worry about getting lost.
Hakone is one of the most popular day trip destinations from Tokyo. It’s about 1.5 hours from Tokyo and is a famous area where they have hot springs. It’s in a lush mountainous area in the southern part of Kanagawa Prefecture, which is south of Tokyo. You can have a beautiful view of Mount Fuji from Hakone if the weather is clear, but usually in summer there tends to be lots of clouds so if you want to see Mount Fuji, you should actually go to the Mount Fuji area (see below).
There are many sightseeing spots in Hakone and you’ll find many tourists there from abroad and from all over Japan. Some people would rather make it an overnight trip instead of taking a day trip since it involves a lot of walking. If you don’t have the time to do this, a day trip to see the highlights will suffice. A typhoon in 2019 has destroyed the railroad tracks that go up the mountain so a lot of transportation will be by bus. On the weekends, you’ll need to line up for everything as it’s so crowded so I recommend going on a weekday if possible.
Kamakura is another famous day trip destination. There are numerous shrines and temples all over the area. One of the highlights is the Great Buddha Statue located at Kotokuin Temple. Hokokuji Temple is well known for its beautiful bamboo forest garden. And Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine is a beautiful shrine that’s just a 10 minute walk from the station. The street leading to the shrine from the station is lined with shops selling souvenirs and snacks, so you’ll be able to have fun just walking down the street.
The Kamakura area is surrounded on one side by the sea and on the other by mountains, so the breeze from the sea gives you a little bit of relief from the harsh sunlight and humidity of Tokyo’s summer. A popular sightseeing spot on the bay is Enoshima Island. It’s about 20 minutes by train from Kamakura station and it’s connected to the mainland by a long bridge.
Kamakura is an area that is crowded all year long especially on weekends. If you’re planning on going to Kamakura, you should plan to do the day trip on a weekday if you can.
If you don’t have that much time in your schedule between seeing the Olympic Games, Yokohama is recommended as it’s one of the closer day trip destinations. You can get there in less than 1 hour by train, so if you only have half a day, this is the place to go. Yokohama is a modern city by the bay. It is a port city from where foreign culture entered Japan centuries ago. So the city has been greatly influenced by this, like the fact that there is a Chinatown here or that there are many old buildings using western architecture. One of the sightseeing spots, the Red Brick Warehouse, is one of the place where you can see an example of this architecture. Inside the warehouse has been converted into a bunch of shops and restaurants. There are also former mansions of foreign residents from centuries ago up on the hill, along with a cemetery where the foreigners of long ago rest. Along with several shopping malls, an example of a popular modern sightseeing spot is the Cup Noodle Museum. You can make your very own Cup Noodle, so it's a fun place for children.
Nikko is home to Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a World Heritage Site. It’s a famous shrine known for the beauty of its elaborately decorated gate. Nikko is also an area where there are hot springs. You can experience a foot bath right outside the station. This area is mountainous and definitely is cooler in the summer than the city of Tokyo. You can enjoy the beautiful natural scenery and also enjoy the cool spray from the famed Kegon Waterfalls. It’s one of the 3 great waterfalls of Japan. There’s an observation deck close to the waterfall where you can hear the roaring water and feel the spray on your face. Another natural highlight is Lake Chuzenji inside Nikko National Park at the foot of Mount Nantai. The water from this lake flows down to create the Kegon Waterfalls.
Edo Wonderland in Nikko is a theme park that takes you on a trip back in time to the Edo Era when samurais walked the streets. You can see samurai shows, take pictures with them, or even dress up as a samurai or a town girl in a kimono and immerse yourself in the traditional Japanese culture. Nikko is about 3 hours from Tokyo, so you’ll need to start very early in the morning if you want to take a day trip there.
Saitama Prefecture is adjacent to Tokyo on its northern side. A popular sightseeing spot in Saitama is the area called Kawagoe, also known as “Little Edo”. Edo is the former name of Tokyo from long ago when samurais still existed. Kawagoe is called “Little Edo” because there is a street where there are many surviving traditional Japanese buildings. The buildings were built a century ago but inside they’ve been renovated into souvenir shops and cafes. And the street has become a popular sightseeing spot among foreign tourists. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time when you walk down this street.
Or if you’re interested in “bonsai”, the Japanese art of cultivating a miniature tree, you should visit the Bonsai Village in Omiya. This is an area in Saitama where there are many “bonsai” nurseries. There’s also a “bonsai” museum. Visiting Saitama Prefecture involves changing trains a few times and the sightseeing areas tend to be far from the train station so it may prove to be a bit challenging to go by yourself. I would recommend having a guide take you there so you don’t get lost.
Gunma prefecture is about 2 hours away from Tokyo, using the Shinkansen (bullet train). There’s also a World Heritage Site in Gunma. It’s the Tomioka Silk Mill. The mill was established in 1872 using foreign silk reeling machines and was an invaluable asset in exporting high quality silk, thus contributing to Japan’s economic growth. It was closed down in 1987 and the historic buildings have been well preserved since then.
Another famous sightseeing spot in Gunma is the Ashikaga Flower Park. It was chosen by CNN as one of the Top 10 Dream Destinations of 2014. The beautiful wisteria trellis that bloom from mid April to mid May are the reason why it was chosen. Though, the wisterias will not be in bloom during the summer when the Olympics are held, the park is always full of flowers in every season. These two sightseeing spots are also not very easy to get to, especially the Ashikaga Flower Park. Having a guide to look after you may be helpful if you’d like to go there.
Mount Fuji is the most famous mountain in Japan. It’s symbol of the country itself and holds a special place in the hearts of the Japanese people. It has been the center of philosophical and spiritual worship since long ago. In Shintoism, the indigenous religion of Japan, it is believed that all things in nature, be it a rock, tree, or mountain, are imbued with a godlike presence called “kami” in Japanese. Mount Fuji, the tallest volcanic mountain in Japan with it’s beautiful symmetrical features, was considered especially sacred and was revered from centuries ago as a sacred site of the Shinto faith. When you see this amazing mountain with your own eyes, maybe you’ll understand why it’s so special. It is at its best when it has a snowy cap on top, but it’s only in the summer months that you can climb the mountain. For those of you that aren’t interested in mountain climbing, you can see Mt. Fuji from the Yamanashi prefecture side or the Shizuoka prefecture side, or at a distance from around Hakone. Mount Fuji is not very easy go see by public transportation so having a guide with you would really help. If you had a car, it would be much more easier to sightsee. Though it is extravagant, hiring a private car for yourselves maybe a good idea especially if you have a large number of members in your group.
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