While there are so many amazing things to do in Tokyo, with such punctual public transportation doing day trips from Tokyo is any easy way to explore without constantly moving from place to place. Here are some of the top day trips from Tokyo.
Day Trips from Tokyo: Mukashi-Michi Hike in Okutama
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The small town of Okutama in western Tokyo is a gateway to some of the best hiking and outdoor activities near the capital. Despite its proximity to central Tokyo, you will likely have much of this hiking trail to yourself. The madness of the Shibuya scramble crossing will feel a million miles away.
Mukashi-michi (meaning old road) is an apt name for this historic hiking trail. The trail follows part of the old Ōme highway which was first developed more than 400 years ago and connected Ōme and Shinjuku.
The mukashi-michi hike starts at JR Okutama station and ends at Okutama lake. On the way, you will pass shrines, old stone monuments and breathtaking views. There are also two suspension bridges! While you don’t need to cross them, they offer fantastic views of the river valley below. This hike is lovely at any time of year, but it is particularly spectacular in November when the trees are ablaze with red and gold leaves.
Okutama is about two hours from Shinjuku by train. The tourist information center (open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm) at Okutama station has free English maps and bus timetables. The bus stop is opposite Okutama lake and the journey back to Okutama station takes about 30 minutes.
I would allow about four hours for this moderate 10km hike as you will definitely want to stop for photos. Although there are some steep sections, most of the trail is paved and well-managed. There are toilets at the train station and there are several along the trail as well. If you need snacks for the hike, you can stock up at the convenience stores near Okutama station.
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Best Tokyo Day Trips: Kanazawa Day Trip from Tokyo
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If you love Japanese castles, gardens, and culture, a Kanazawa day trip should be on your itinerary. In a country known for epic battles and natural disasters, it’s a miracle that Kanazawa has been unaffected by history’s destructive forces. Many of the city’s Edo-period districts are still standing today. Their characteristic wooden facades and tiled roofs draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
There are several of these so-called “geisha districts” in Kanazawa. The nickname comes from the dozens of tea houses that used to operate in the 1600s-1800s. Nishi Chaya, Kazue-machi, and Higashi Chaya are the best preserved, and there are still plenty of shops and tea houses operating in the latter. If you can extend your Tokyo day trip into the evening, you’ll be able to experience the beauty of Higashi Chaya as the lanterns come on and kimono-clad hostesses stand in doorways to greet guests.
Kanazawa is also home to Kenroku-en, one of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan. Highlights of the garden include a traditional tea house, multiple reflecting pools, and panoramic viewpoints over the city.
Just across from Kenroku-en is Kanazawa Castle, an impressive raised fortress in the middle of the city. If you’re lucky enough to visit during cherry blossom season, you’ll be greeted by a flurry of pink trees against the castle’s white backdrop.
Nomura Clan Samurai House
If you’re interested in samurai or ninjas, you’re in luck! Kanazawa is home to both the Nomura Clan Samurai House and Myoryuji ninja temple. While the samurai museum is straightforward to visit, you’ll need to make a reservation by phone (076-241-0888) to tour the ninja temple. To find out more about what information you’ll need to provide when you call visit this website.
Getting to Kanazawa from Tokyo is easy thanks to the Hokuriku Shinkansen line. The reservation-only Kagayaki train from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Kanazawa takes 2.5 hours. Hakutaka trains complete the journey in 3 hours and have both reserved and unreserved seats.
Day trip from Tokyo to Kyoto
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After a business trip, I was lucky enough to plan a few days in Tokyo and extend my time in Japan. My time in Tokyo was exciting, but I knew there was a lot to explore in the rest of Japan. I booked a day trip to Kyoto and it was a highlight of my time there. Visiting Kyoto makes a lot of sense – it’s the cultural center of Japan. Historically, it was the capital of imperial Japan and the emperors ruled from Kyoto until 1869.
Kyoto is about 2 hours by train from Tokyo and gives you fantastic views of Mt. Fuji. There are so many things to do in Kyoto and one of the most famous attractions is Kinkaku-ji Temple or the “Golden Temple”. It’s in the northwest part of Kyoto surrounded by beautiful gardens. There are numerous other temples like Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine. You’ll definitely recognize the famous orange gates from Instagram stories as you climb the mountain paths. It can be a crowded attraction, so plan to arrive early in your day.
Temples and shrines are plentiful in Kyoto as well as shopping and tasty food stalls. One of the coolest food destinations is the Nishiki Market. It’s been feeding visitors and locals alike since the early 14th century. While it started as a fish market, it’s packed with modern food vendors and geared towards hungry tourists. Get lost in the ancient city and see what you find from temples and shrines to a bowl of ramen – you’ll love Kyoto.
Top Day Trips from Tokyo: Nagoya
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If you are looking for a city with an interesting history, and delicious food then you should do a day trip to Nagoya. Japan’s 4th largest city is not too far from Tokyo. Especially if you take the super-fast Shinkansen Bullet Train. From Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station it takes only about 2 hours and if you are a Japan Rail Pass holder this trip is included for free.
When you reach Nagoya Station you could start by getting an overview of the city. Walk around the Nagoya Station area, maybe visit the local Yanagibashi fish market (if you arrive in the morning) or see Nagoya from the top of Sky Promenade the highest observation deck in the region.
If you like cars visit one of the Toyota museums, train enthusiasts should visit the SCMaglev Railway Park and if you are into ceramics a visit to Noritake Garden is in order.
To all visitors, I recommend a visit to Nagoya Castle. In my opinion, one of the best castles in Japan, not because of its keep (that one is very similar to many castles in the country) but because of the newly reconstructed Honmaru Palace. Using only traditional building techniques and incredible craftsmanship they reconstructed this one-story wooden building with its beautiful wall paintings. The walls are painted golden and depict scenes of nature such as flora and fauna and other scenes. From Nagoya Station take the Meguru Sightseeing Bus to Nagoya Castle. The castle is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Don’t miss the delicious food in Nagoya. Using special local ingredients the cuisine is different from other parts of the country. For meat lovers, I recommend Miso Katsu, a deep-fried pork cutlet with a Miso based sauce. You can get it at Misokatsu Yabaton all over the city.