Top 5 day trips from Tokyo using a Japan Rail Pass
Day trips from Tokyo using a Japan Rail Pass
Tokyo is without question one of the worlds great cities and although there is so much to explore and delight in within its boundaries, it is also fantastically placed for day trips to explore other parts of Honshu, Japan’s main island.
How to travel on a day trip from Tokyo
Japan has one of the world’s most efficient rail networks and with a little guidance from your personalised Bamboo Travel information-pack and Japan Rail (JR) pass, you’ll find it incredibly easy to navigate and explore lots of Japan on a self-guided basis. We’ll usually include a JR pass valid for 7,14 or 21 days in your tour package and this entitles you to unlimited travel on any trains in the JR network. This is valid for use on most of the famous shinkansen (bullet) trains. Your JR pass is not only used for travelling between cities as you tour around Japan but is also incredibly handy for day trips from the big cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. In this blog we’ve listed our top 5 destinations to visit if you’re thinking of doing a day trip from Tokyo using your JR pass.
An hour southwest of Tokyo, on a direct train from Shinjuku station, you’ll find the ancient capital of Kamakura. Since its heyday in the 12th century, the grand city has retracted into a peaceful seaside town with a scattering of delightful shrines and temples for day-trippers to explore. The town’s most famous site is the Daibutsu, The Great Buddha of Kamakura, which is a large bronze Buddha statue. For a nominal fee, you can buy a ticket to walk inside the statue itself. You’ll find all the main sites of Kamakura within a 30 minute walk from the station and many fine local eateries are hidden around the narrow streets near the station.
Travel two hours north of Tokyo to Nikko, an ancient region, now a national park because of the beautiful surrounding scenery. The trail of Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples have made this a popular pilgrimage site for hundreds of years and more recently the impressive Toshogu Shrine has been awarded World Heritage status, which will not come as a surprise when you see this magnificent temple complex with its ornate features, positioned amongst the ancient forest. Like many shrines and temples in Japan, Toshogu has elements of both Shintoism and Buddhism. You could easily spend a whole morning exploring Toshogu itself so if it is of particular interest and you also want to do some exploring in the surrounding hills and forests then you might want to consider staying the night in a hotel around Nikko rather than visiting as a day trip. You’ll find that nearby Chuzenji-ko Lake and Kegon waterfalls are particularly pleasant places to explore. There is one direct train from Shinjuku to Nikko a day, otherwise you’ll have to change at Utsumoniya but the whole journey should not take you much more than two hours.
3) Odawara and the Hakone National Park
The small city of Odawara is the gateway to the Hakone National Park and a place very much worth exploring on its own. It is a mere 50 minute train journey by shinkansen (bullet train) or a leisurely 1h45m on local trains from Tokyo station and so very easily accessible as a day trip. We can include a day Hakone Free Pass if you wish to make use of the local bus route which loops around the national park from Odawara and take a ride on the famous Hakone Ropeway. Or for those simply wishing to potter around the city there is the famous reconstructed 15th century castle, which has a particularly interesting museum full of weapons and armour. If you are visiting with kids then a short stroll from the castle is Odawara Children’s Forest Wanpaku Land, a botanical garden with impressive playground facilities and other kid friendly activities such as pony rides. In the area around the station you’ll find numerous local eateries and a branch of ‘Don Quijote!’ – a discount store where you can buy interesting Japanese snacks including endless flavours of KitKat (wasabi, strawberry cheesecake, sake to name just a few!)
4) Lake Kawaguchiko
For perhaps the best Mount Fuju view of all, take a two and a half hour train from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station to Kawaguchiko. Here you’ll find a gorgeously clear carp filled lake situated close to the foot of Mount Fuji. On a clear day the trip is worth it just to take in and photograph the view of this sacred mountain and photograph it, however there are plenty of other activities to do at the lake when you the with some of the best views of the mountain. Enjoy a picnic or a local lunch around Oishi park; rent bicycles and set off on the three hour (20km) cycle around the lake or explore the nearby Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum. A few kilometres west of Lake Kawaguchiko is Lake Shoji and a few kilometres south is Lake Yamanaka, both of which are also excellent spots to visit on a day-trip from Tokyo and soak in magical views of Mount Fuji.
5) Mount Takao
An easy train journey of around an hour due west from Tokyo and to the north of Hakone National Park is Mount Takao, considered one of Japan’s sacred mountains. From the train station keen hikers can set off on clearly-marked trails to the summit of this beautiful mountain, a hike of around 2-3 hours, depending on your speed and fitness. If hiking isn’t your thing then there is also a cable-car. There are a number of different hiking trails that can be taken, many lined with temples and statues. On reaching the summit of Mt Takao you are rewarded with splendid views out over the surrounding national park.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of day trips that can be done from Tokyo so if you are looking for further inspiration or to indulge a specific interest that you have (e.g.food, walking, wildlife), please get in touch and one of our Japan experts will be more than happy to discuss what else is possible. All our recommended tours of Japan include a few nights in Tokyo and unless you specifically request not to, we recommend having at least one day to explore the city itself and then a full day clear to embark on a day trip from Tokyo using your Japan Rail Pass.
If you’re looking for suggestions of things to do in Tokyo, rather than day-trips out of the capital, then take a look at our blog entitled ‘5 things to do in Tokyo’.