There are a million and one things to do inside the sprawling metropolis that is Tokyo, but sometimes you just want to get away for a while. Fortunately, the excellent transportation system that gets you around the city also excels at getting you out of it. Here are 4 easy trips you can do in a day out from Tokyo.
Photo by Dick Thomas Johnson on FlickrThe city of Utsunomiya lies 100km north of Tokyo, in Tochigi prefecture. Easily accessible by Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno station, it takes only 50 minutes to reach – though of course if you want to save some of your cash you can take an ordinary train for half the price but taking closer to 2 hours.
The city itself has the usual smattering of castles, parks, and museums that can be found in many locations around Japan, but its main claim to fame is as the birthplace of gyoza, the delicious Japanese pan-fried dumpling. As well as the ordinary varieties you can find elsewhere, the many gyoza restaurants of Utsunomiya offer unique versions such as mochi gyoza, bacon gyoza, spinach gyoza, and more. It’s well worth a visit just to try these!
Photo by bryan... on FlickrUtsunomiya is accessible by the Tohoku Shinkansen departing Tokyo and Ueno station 4 times an hour for around ¥4500 one way, taking 50 minutes, or by the Utsunomiya line from Tokyo for around ¥2000, taking 120 minutes.
Mount Takao is actually located within the Tokyo metropolitan area, though you wouldn’t know it. Separated from the bustling centre of the metropolis by a stretch of about 50km, it is easily reached by train from Shinjuku at less than ¥500 one way, taking about 50 minutes.
There are three ways to get to the top of the mountain: by funicular, cable car, or by a scenic hike up – though be warned, it is probably a better idea to hike down the mountain as it can be one heck of a climb! Either of the former two options will take you close to the peak, an area with a temple (Yakuoin temple) and a monkey park, plus plenty of scenic walks.
Takao is easily accessible from Shinjuku station by either the Keio line or JR Chuo line. Takaosanguchi station is the station you want, however, so if you travel by JR you will need to change to the Keio line at Takao station to go one more stop. The Keio line is slightly cheaper and more convenient due to this.
Only about 50km south of Tokyo is Kamakura, ancient capital of Japan and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. Sporting everything from temples to beaches, Kamakura is the easiest way to escape and unwind from the city.
Kotoku-in is perhaps the most famous symbol of Kamakura, and one of the most famous images of Japan in the wider world, and a visit to see the Daibutsu, a giant 15th century statue of the Amidha Buddha, is a vital part of any exploration of the country.
Kamakura is easily accessible from Tokyo station on the Yokosuka line, taking around one hour and costing under ¥1000 one way.
Home of Nikko National Park and the famous Nikko Toshogu shrine, Nikko is an area of outstanding natural beauty and ancient majesty.
Toshogu shrine, a UNESCO world heritage site and home to many national treasures, is the site of the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Tokugawa government and a key figure in Japanese history. Filled with gorgeous shrines, carvings (including the three wise monkeys), and historical artifacts, the shrine itself can easily take up your day.
However, should you wander away from the shrine you will still find lots to see and do. The nearby town sells many unique souvenirs, and you can find onsen, waterfalls (see top photo of Kegon Falls), and lakes all around.
For those planning on travelling around Nikko, consider purchasing a travel pass for the area from Tobu.
Nikko and the surrounding area is easily accessible by train, car, or bus, taking around two hours from Tokyo. Expect to spend around ¥5000 if traveling by Shinkansen. See this Nikko Kinugawa Travel Guide for detailed access information.