The 4 BEST Day Trips from Tokyo

by Aug 27, 2023Japan, Travel

Looking to take one or more day trips from Tokyo, but don’t know where to go?

It can be confusing. Lots of blogs list 10 to even 25 cities to visit from Tokyo.

But let’s be honest.

They’re not all equally worthwhile, especially if you’re visiting Japan for the first time or even the second time. These long lists just confuse travelers and make planning for your trip to Japan even more challenging.

So, in this guide, I’m going to share with you the ONLY 4 day trips you should consider doing from Tokyo.

All of them can be reached in 1 or 2 hours by bus or train. And all will reward you with tons of unique cultural experiences, rich historical sights, stunning natural beauty, and exciting culinary adventures. You can’t go wrong with any of these four and they will surely make your trip to Tokyo even more memorable. 

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1. Mt. Fuji

One of the bucket list ideas on any Japan itinerary is a chance to see Mt. Fuji.  It is also one of the BEST Tokyo day trips to do in the winter because it’s the BEST time to see the whole mountain.

The Japanese consider Mt. Fuji to be its most sacred volcano. This was because after it erupted several times in the late eighth to mid-ninth centuries, the Japanese believed an angry god lived in the volcano. And so, the Japanese built shrines dedicated to the Goddess of Mt. Fuji around the mountain, and it became a popular destination for people who wanted to pray for good fortune. Today people visit for more boring reasons: climbing its summit or taking a photo of it.

Today people visit the mountain more to get a photo of it from a distance or to hike up to its summit.

The best way to visit Mt. Fuji is to go to the area around the mountain called the Fuji Five Finger Lakes region. This area consists of 5 lakes:

  • Kawaguchi-ko
  • Sai-ko
  • Shoji-ko
  • Motosu-ko
  • Yamanaka-ko

Kawaguchi-ko is the most popular and the easiest to get to from Tokyo. Yamanaka-ko is the biggest. However, all have views of Mt. Fuji from their shore, where you can see the mountain reflecting off the lake’s surface.

I recommend Kawaguchi-ko as a day trip from Tokyo. There’s a lot to do and see here besides looking at Mt. Fuji. Plus, it has a good bus and train station, making it the easiest lake to get to from Tokyo.

DIY Day Trip to Mt. Fuji

If you’re doing a day trip to Mt. Fuji on your own, I recommend taking a train or bus to Kawaguchi-ko Station (2-3 hours; ¥1,950-2,510) and making that as your base for exploring the area.

  • The station has a great tourist information center. When I visited, there was actually tourism staff standing outside the station guiding people to the appropriate buses. Everyone I spoke to had fluent English, so communication was never a problem.
  • The station has lots of signs in English guiding you on where to go and what to do
  • Kawaguchi-ko is also THE transportation hub for the region. Many buses from Tokyo terminate at its station. Plus, the station’s buses and trains connect to the other lakes and tourist attractions in the area.
  • You can get to Kawaguchi-ko using your JR Pass.
  • If you’re staying overnight, it’s got a good selection of accommodations.

Organized Day Tours from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji

The easiest and least stressful way to see Mt. Fuji is to join an organized tour. You won’t have to worry about the logistics, and you’ll probably get to see more than if you visited on your own.

The Japanese company, Klook, is one of the BEST online tour agency to use for booking tours in Japan.

All prices are as of August 2023.

1. Mt. Fuji Classic Day Tour Route

RATING: 4.4/5 (6,000+ Reviews) | PRICE: From $48.30

  • In the summer a stop at Mount Fuji 5th Station; other season you’ll visit Fujisan World Heritage Center
  • Matcha tea ceremony
  • Stop at Oshino-Hachikai springs
  • Gotumba outlet stores for shopping
  • Entrance fees included; Lunch is not included
  • English speaking guide

2. Mt. Fuji + Fruit Picking Day Tour

RATING: 4.7/5 (314+ Reviews) | PRICE: US$75.79

  • Pick your own fruit depending on season
  • Mount Fuji 5th Station
  • Mount Fuji Ropeway
  • Fun and unique experience!
  • Lunch and entrance fees are included – great value!
  • English-speaking guide

3. Mt. Fuji + Hakone Day Tour

RATING: 4.4/5 (1,000 Reviews) | PRICE: US$103.55 – $117
  • Mount Fuji 5th Station
  • Hakone – Lake Ashi boat trip and ropeway to top of Mt. Komagatake
  • Lunch is optional
  • Great way to see 2 Tokyo Day Trips in 1 day: BOTH Mount Fuji AND Hakone!

When to Visit Mt. Fuji

The BIGGEST complaint people have when they visit Mt. Fuji is that they can’t even see it. It’s so cloudy that the whole mountain is covered up.

However, there are certain times of the year when Mt. Fuji is more visible than not. Those months are when you REALLY want to do a day trip to Mt. Fuji and the other months are when you want to choose a different day trip destination from Tokyo.

Mt. Fuji in Winter

Your best chance of seeing Mt. Fuji is in from December to February. During these months in 2017, Mt. Fuji was completely visible at 8:00 am 70-80% of the time.

Plus, winter is when the mountain is capped with snow, making the views even more memorable.

The downside is that you won’t be able to go all the way to Mt. Fuji Fifth Station as the roads are closed.

Mt. Fuji in Summer

It’s rare that you will be able to see Mt. Fuji from June to August. For example, in 2017, you could only see the whole mountain at 8:00 am 20% of the time in June and August and 6% in July. Also, you won’t see it with its beautiful cap of snow.

I went in August and did see it for a few minutes at 5:00 am from the roof of my hostel, but during the day it was completely covered in clouds.

You still might want to visit Mt. Fuji in the summer if you plan to hike it. July and August are the best times to climb it. Plus, this is the ONLY season when the road to Mt. Fuji Fifth Station is open.

Mt. Fuji in Spring

Spring is also not the best time to do a day trip to Kawaguchi-ko. Your chances of seeing Mt. Fuji are not good. For example, it was visible 20-48% of the time at 8:00 am from March to May 2017. In addition, you might find some tourist attractions and hotels are closed.

One good reason for visiting in the spring is to see the Cherry Blossoms.

Mt. Fuji in the Fall

Your chances of seeing Mt. Fuji in September (35%) are also not the best but increases from October to November (57%).

However, views of the fall foliage can be stunning.

What to Do in the Mt. Fuji Area

There’s more to do at Mt. Fuji than just looking at the mountain.

  • Five Lakes – View Mt. Fuji from the shores of any of the 5 lakes—you can get a map of the region that indicates the best places to see it.
  • Chureito Pagoda – Climb to the top of this pagoda for the most iconic view of Mt. Fuji. It’s only worth going here if it’s a clear day and you can see Mt. Fuji.
  • Climb Mt. Fuji – This is probably impossible on a day trip as it takes 4-7 hours to ascend, another 1.5 to walk around the crater, and 2-3 to descend.
  • Fuji Fifth Station – Here you can view Mt. Fuji up close. The Fifth Station is the beginning of the most popular climbing route to the top. I didn’t do this, but many of the group tours that go here.
  • Fuji-Q Highland – You can visit an amusement park with views of Mt. Fuji from the top of a roller coaster.
  • Hiking – You don’t have to go to Mt. Fuji to hike. There are plenty of other mountains and hiking trails in the area that you can hike on for the day. One hiking trail, Panorama Dai, has spectacular views of Mt. Fuji. There’s also a hike you can do from the top of the Kachi Kachi Yama ropeway to Mt. Mitsutoge. The Tokai Nature Trail is a popular course with multiple views of Mt. Fuji.
  • Hoto noodles – Try the area’s specialty: Hoto (Hotou) – flat noodles served with lots of veggies in a cast-iron pot (¥1,080). There’s a restaurant across from Kawaguchi-ko station called Hotou Fudo Kawaguchi-ko Station (11 am – 7 pm) – 3631-2 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0301,
  • Mt. Tenjo-yama – Take the Kachi Kachi Yama ropeway to the top of Mt. Tenjo-yama for views of Mt. Fuji. Again, if it’s a cloudy day, skip this activity.
  • Museums – There are several museums around Lake Kawaguchi-ko: Itichiku Kubota Museum (kimonos), Kawaguchiko Muse Museum (exhibits of doll maker, Atae Yuki), Kawaguchiko Museum of Art (paintings, prints, and photos of Mt. Fuji), and Fujisan World Heritage Center (displays on Mt. Fuji).
  • Picking Fruit – I didn’t try any fruit from the region but another traveler I met while in the area raved about the peaches. Some tours offer an all-you-can-eat fruit picking activity.
  • Bike around the lakes – There are places around Kawaguchi-ko station to rent a bike. You can bike around Lake Kawaguchi-ko and to Lake Saiko, Motosuko, and Shojiko.
  • Saiko Bat Cave – You can walk around the interior of the largest lava bat cave in the region. It was formed from flowing lava from volcanic eruptions. There are 5 species of bats that make the cave their home.
  • SAIKO Iyashi no sato NENBA – This is a re-creation of a village of thatch-roofed houses that once stood in the area until it was destroyed by a typhoon in 1966. It’s got beautiful views of Mt. Fuji in the background when the mountain is visible. I saw a smidge of the mountain when I visited. I felt it was tourist trappy with most houses turned into souvenir shops
  • Sengan-jinja Shrine – The shrine is dedicated to Princess Blossom, the goddess of Mt. Fuji. A shrine has been built on the same spot as the present-day one since 807. It’s also the starting point of the Fuji Yoshida trail leading up to Mt. Fuji. It’s not used by hikers that much anymore.

How to Get to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo

You can get to Kawaguchi-ko from Tokyo by either bus or train. The easiest and cheapest way is by bus. It’s also the cheapest if you don’t have a JR Pass.

For those with a JR Pass, the cheapest way is a train, but you have to transfer once in Otsuki.

The easiest but most expensive way is by the new Fuji Excursion Express Train.

1. By Bus to Kawaguchi-ko

The easiest and cheapest way to get to Kawaguchi-ko is by bus. You can take a bus from Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, and Tokyo Station.

I left from the Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal inside Shinjuku Station (near the South Exit of Shinjuku Station). It was very easy to find the station as there were tons of signs in the underground metro station pointing the way to the bus station.

The bus from Shinjuku Express Bus Station to the Kawaguchi-ko costs around ¥2,100 (August 2023) and takes between 2 and 3 hours depending on what time of day you depart (rush hour) and where you get off.

You can buy your tickets at the bus station or online from Willer Express. When you search for bus times, you need to enter the prefecture. For Tokyo, it’s Tokyo, and for Kawaguchi-ko, it’s Yamanashi prefecture.

I bought my bus ticket a few days beforehand when I was buying my Fuji Hakone pass from Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at Shinjuku Station.

2. By Fuji Excursion Express Limited

The Fuji Excursion Limited Express train is fairly new and was not in service yet when I visited Kawaguchi-ko. The train takes you from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchi-ko and takes 2 hours.

For those who don’t have a JR Pass and JR East Pass, it’ll cost ¥4,130 (2023).

If you have a JR Pass, you can use it for part of the route: from Shinjuku to Otsuki Station. You need to buy a ticket for the rest of the route from Otsuki Station to Kawaguchi-ko. You also need to purchase a seat reservation.

3. By JR Train + Non-JR Train to Kawaguchi-ko

You can take a JR train to Otsuki station (¥1,620), where you’ll transfer to the Fuji-Kyoku Train (non-JR train) for Kawaguchi-ko Station (¥1,170). It takes 2 to 2.5 hours.

This is the cheapest way to get to Mt. Fuji for those with JR Passes because JR Pass holders only need to pay for the non-JR train from Otsuki to Kawaguchi-ko.

Tourist Passes for Mt. Fuji

Tourist Passes can save you tons of money in Japan and can just make your travels less stressful. I used two passes during my trip to the Mt. Fuji area. You have three options for passes for the Mt. Fuji area.

  • Mount Fuji Pass
  • Fuji Hakone Pass
  • Unlimited Ride Pass

1. Mount Fuji Pass

The Mount Fuji Pass allows you to easily travel around the Mt. Fuji area without much worry. It’s good for  1, 2, or 3 days) and covers a number of attractions and modes of transportation including:

  • FREE admission to the Fuji Q Amusement Park, the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway, and other attractions
  • FREE unlimited rides on buses and trains around the area
  • FREE ride on the Fuji-Kyoku train from Otsuki to Kawaguchi-ko
  • discounts on other attractions

A 1-day pass costs ¥5,500; 2-day pass is ¥8,000; and 3-day pass is ¥10,000.

2. Fuji Hakone Pass

This money-saving pass is REALLY worth it! The Fuji Hakone Pass is what I used to travel around the Mt. Fuji and Hakone area. It’s good for 3 days. The Fuji Hakone Pass will cover the following:

  • All travel around the Fuji Five Finger Lakes region,
  • Travel between Mt. Fuji area and Hakone,
  • Travel around the Hakone area
  • One-way travel from Shinjuku Station to Shin-Matsuda Station and round-trip travel from Shin-Matsuda to Odawara Station
  • Train from Otsuki to Kawaguchi-ko
  • Discounts on admission to attractions in Mt. Fuji and Hakone areas
  • Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
  • Hakone Ropeway and Cable Car

The 3-day pass costs US$64 for adults and $20 for children up to 11 years old.

3. Mount Fuji and Five Finger Lake Passport

The BEST pass to buy for a day trip to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo is the Mount Fuji and the Five Finger Lakes Passport.

You can buy the pass at Kawaguchi-ko Station.

The Pass costs ¥2,600 for adults and ¥1,300 for children.

It covers the Sightseeing buses (red, green, and blue) in the following areas:

  • Lake Kawaguchiko
  • Lake Saiko
  • Narusawa
  • Lake Shojiko
  • Lake Motosuko

There’s another pass called the Mount Fuji and Five Fingers Lake Passport Train Set that covers the Fuji-Kyuko train line from Otsuki to Kawaguchi-ko. It costs ¥3,600 for adults and ¥1,800 for children.

2. Hakone

Located 1.5 hours by train from Tokyo, Hakone is the PERFECT day trip for those of you who travel to experience culture, history, food, art, and nature.

    • Hakone’s Nature: You can spend your day taking in Hakone’s nature. Hakone is really an area made up of several villages tucked away amongst the forests and mountains of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It’s also got an active volcano you can visit by ropeway and a picturesque lake that you can cross by boat.
      and It’s surrounded by mountains, an active volcano, a picture-perfect lake, and several small quaint towns.
    • Onsen Culture: The area around Hakone is also considered one of the top 5 hot springs destinations in Japan. End your day trip to Hakone with a soak in one of the many public onsens.
    • History: During the Shogun period, Hakone was the last checkpoint on the Tokaido Highway before entering Edo (Tokyo) and the first major checkpoint after exiting the city. In the forests around Hakone, you can still walk on the original stones from that highway and along the shore of Lake Taishi, and visit a re-creation of the checkpoint.
    • Culture: For those who want to go beyond a day trip, Hakone is also known for its traditional inns called ryokans, some of which are over 100 years old. A perfect place to experience Japanese food with a kaiseki meal and culture with the inn’s private onsen baths.
    • Art: Hakone also has one of my favorite museums in the world. It’s a combination sculpture park and a regular modern art museum. There’s a particularly cool building of works by Pablo Picasso.
    • Mount Fuji: Finally, you’ll get one more chance to see another memorable view of Mt. Fuji. From the shore of Lake Taishi, you can sometimes, if you’re lucky, see that iconic snow-capped mountain. You’re most likely to see it in the winter than in other seasons. The second time I visited Hakone, the clouds moved away for just a few minutes and I was able to see a slice of the top.

    If you’re interested in staying longer than a day in Hakone, check out my Hakone Itinerary 2 days post.

    DIY Day Trip to Hakone

    To do Hakone as a day trip from Tokyo, you’ll need to leave early in the morning in order to see the main sights. Take a train from Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto Station. Then hop on the Hakone Tozan Train to the Hakone Open Air Museum. After that head to the village of Gora. In Gora, you’ll take a cable car to the top of Owakudani Volcano.

    After that, take a ropeway down to Lake Ashi, where you’ll take a boat across the lake. Hopefully, when you make it to shore, you’ll be able to see Mt. Fuji. Don’t leave the lake without visiting the Hakone Shrine and getting a shot of the famous Torii gate standing in the lake.

    Next, ake a bus back to Hakone Yumoto Station. You’ll end your day trip with a soak in an onsen bath at Tenseien Hot Springs. You can buy your admission ticket for Tenseien online.

    Finally, take the train (or bus) back to Tokyo.

    Organized Tour of Hakone

    Another option is to join a tour group. There are a few that leave from Tokyo. Doing a tour group is understandable considering the confusion in getting there and if you’re not used to navigating bus systems, it can be overwhelming.

    1. Hakone + Mt. Fuji Day Trip

    RATING: 4.4/5 (1000+ Reviews) | PRICE: US$103.55 – $117

    • Fuji Fifth Station – great views!
    • Cruise across Lake Ashi
    • Ropeway to Owakudani Volcano
    • Lunch is optional
    • Get 2 day trips in 1: BOTH Hakone AND Mt. Fuji

    What Can You Do in Hakone?

    • Hakone Checkpoint – Explore the re-creation of the Hakone Checkpoint (Hakone Barrier).
    • Hakone Jinja – Visit the floating torii gate at Hakone Jinja.
    • Hot Springs – Spend a few hours at a hot spring such as Yunessun, Tenseien, Ikkyu, or Hakone Yuryo. You can buy your ticket online beforehand for Yuryo and Tenseien.
    • Japanese traditional inns – Stay in a traditional Japanese inn called a ryokan. You’ll get a kaiseki meal in your room along with a private hot spring.
    • Lake Ashi – Take a cruise on Lake Ashi.
    • Museums – My favorite was the Hakone Open Air Museum with its fun outdoor sculpture garden and a Picasso exhibition hall. Other Hakone museums, which I haven’t visited, include the Pola Museum of Art (famous western works of art), the Lalique Museum Hakone, Hakone Museum of Art, Hakone Venetian Glass Museum, and the Little Prince Museum.
    • Owakudani – Ride a ropeway up to Owakudani, a volcano. While at the top, try the eggs that have been blackened in sulphurous water.
    • Teahouses – Visit the 300-year-old Edo era Amazake-jaya Teahouse to sip some amazake (sweet sake without alcohol) and then onto the small nearby village of Hatajuku to see how the marquetry (the craft of making things out of small pieces of various colored wood) is performed.
    • Tokaido Road – Hike along the original stone path of the old Tokaido Highway.
    • Views of Mt. Fuji – If you’re here in the winter, you might be able to see Mt. Fuji peering over Lake Aishi.

    How to Get to Hakone from Tokyo

    You have several options for getting from Tokyo to Hakone. Unfortunately, none of them allows you to use your JR Pass all the way. Check out this fabulous detailed guide on how to get to Hakone.

    1. By JR Train:

    Use your JR Pass and take a JR train from Tokyo station to Odawara. Then transfer to a non-JR train to Hakone-Yumoto. PERFECT for JR Pass Holders.

    2. By Non-JR Train:

    For those without a JR Pass, it’s cheapest to take an Odakyu train from Shinjuku Station to Odawara and then transfer to another Odakyu train to Hakone-Yumoto.

    3. By Direct Train to Hakone:

    You can also splurge for a direct train to Hakone-Yumoto on the Odakyu Romance Care line from Shinjuku Station. Beautiful scenery!

    4. By Bus:

    There is a bus that goes from Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal via the Gotemba Outlet to Hakone, but it arrives at Togendai on Lake Ashi and not at the usual Hakone-Yumoto train station. Depending on where you’re staying or what you want to see, the bus could be really convenient or extremely inconvenient.

    Tourist Passes for Hakone

    Tourist passes are an excellent way to save money and avoid the stress of always having to look for change for buses and trains. These passes allow unlimited travel around the Hakone area.

    1. Hakone Freepass

    The Hakone Freepass is good for 2 and 3 days, so you might think it’s not a good pass for a day trip from Tokyo. However, you can save a lot of money on transportation by getting the pass even for one day in Hakone. The pass gives you unlimited travel on buses and trains around the Hakone area as well as the ropeway to and from the volcano and the pirate ship on Lake Ashi. You can also get discounts on certain attractions like hot springs and museums. Buy the Hakone Freepass online before your trip and pick it up at Shinjuku Station.

    2. Fuji-Hakone Pass

    For those doing longer than a day trip, check out the 3-day combination Fuji and Hakone tourist pass. It covers transportation in the Mt. Fuji area and Hakone area as well as travel between the two destinations. You can buy the Fuji Hakone Pass online ahead of time and then pick it up at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

    3. Hakone-Kamakura Pass

    You can also combine Hakone with another great Tokyo day trip destination, Kamakura. Get this Hakone Kamakura Pass for free transportation in Hakone and Kamakura as well as between the two destinations. You’ll also get discounts at attractions throughout the two destinations. You can buy the Hakone Kamakura Pass online beforehand and pick it up at Shinjuku Station.

    3. Kamakura

    Kamakura has a nice laid-back surfer vibe that makes it the perfect relaxing day trip from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Since the historic city is only one hour from Tokyo, it’s also the easiest and quickest day trip to take out of all four.

    It is one of Japan’s most important historic destinations.  The city was once the ancient capital of Japan (1182 to 1333), a period referred to as the Kamakura Period. The de facto ruler of Japan, the Shogun lived in Kamakura, while the powerless Emperor resided in Kyoto.

    As a result of its place in history, Kamakura is full of historic buildings, especially Zen temples and Shinto shrines, that it is sometimes referred to as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan.

    I preferred the Zen temples in Kamakura to the ones in Kyoto. In Kyoto, they come across as existing solely for tourists while the ones in Kamakura appear to be functioning temples with scheduled meditation times. The ones in Kamakura are less crowded than the ones in Kyoto, giving visitors a  more quiet and contemplative experience.

    DIY Day Trip from Tokyo to Kamakura

    You can easily do a day trip to Kamakura on your own by taking a direct train from Shinjuku or Tokyo stations. It’ll take around one hour. Arrange your trip for a weekday to avoid the crowds of weekend visitors.

    You can get around Kamakura by bus or train. Some temples are easy to get to, while others require navigating the bus system or walking for 20 to 30 minutes.

    The people who work at the tourist information center at the Kamakura train station are knowledgeable and helpful. They gave me better directions to my accommodations than Google Maps did, saving me a lot of time.

    Organized Tour of Kamakura

    Another option is to join a tour group for Kamakura. This might be a good idea if you’re short on time and are unsure of taking public transportation around the city

    1. Kamakura + Enoshima Day Trip from Tokyo

    RATING: 4.7/5 (53 Reviews) | TOUR PRICE: US$62
    • English-speaking tour guide
    • Explore Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine and Hasedera Temple
    • Wander around Enoshima Island
    • Visit the Great Buddha statue
    • Includes entrance fee but not lunch

    2. Kamakura Shrines and Walking Tour

    RATING: 5/5 (3 Reviews) | PRICE: US$77
    • French and English-speaking guide
    • Great tour for those interested in Buddhism and the samurai
    • Meet guide in Kamakura
    • Visit Jochi-ji Temple, Zeniarai Benten Shrine, Sasuke Inari Shrine, Great Buddha, Hase Temple, & Yuigahama Beach
    • There will be lots of walking including in mountainous areas

    When to Visit Kamakura

    From my visit, it seemed that Kamakura was more popular with Japanese than foreign tourists, so my advice is that in order to avoid crowds, visit on weekdays when the Japanese are working.

    Leave early in the morning at 7:00ish to beat the crowds and tour buses and to see as much as you can.

    The ideal seasons are spring and fall when the weather is the best.

    Summers can be brutally hot. However, in August there are fireworks and other festivals going on. When I was there in August, I got to participate in a lantern festival at the Hase-dera temple.

    What Can You Do in Kamakura?

    • Great Buddha Statue (Daibutsu) – This is the #1 must-see in Kamakura. It makes for a very quick stop, too, as the statue is the only thing to really see.
    • Daibutsu Hiking Course – You can also do the 2.2-kilometer Daibutsu Hiking Course. It’s a hiking trail that leads from Daibutsu to the temples around Engaku-ji. While on the way, visit the Zeniarai Benten cave shrine to wash your money for good fortune. I did just half the course from Daibutsu to Zeniarai Benten. I would have done the whole course, but this Japanese guy and I couldn’t find how to go the whole way as there were no signs once we got to Zeniarai Benten. In some places the trail is steep, but for most of the way, it’s easy. Check out this guided tour of the walking course.
    • Enoshima island – A visit to sacred Enoshima Island is harder to do on a day-trip, but it’s possible. There’s a shrine, an aquarium, and a botanical garden on the island.
    • Food – Kamakura is on the ocean, so it makes for a great place to eat seafood. Try the restaurant, Teishoku-ya shamoji (定食屋しゃもじ), near Hase-dera Temple. It’s a small restaurant popular with locals. There’s an English menu and a super friendly staff who spoke pretty good English when I was there. They play good music with an awesome sound system. I ate there twice and the second time they gave me a free side dish. Try the seafood donburi bowls or the mackerel set meal for only ¥1,000. It’s not touristy at all!
    • Kamakura’s Temples. My favorites were Kencho-ji, Engaku-ji, Tokei-ji, and Hase-dera. If you have only time for one, visit Kencho-ji or Engaku-ji. Hase-dera is within walking distance of the Big Buddha statue. Sugimoto-ji is a small, interesting temple as well; Hokoku-ji with its bamboo forest was a disappointment;
    • Komachi-dori and Wakamiya-oji – Walk along the pedestrian only Komachi-dori and down Wakamiya-oji, the grand street that goes from the ocean to the entrance of Hacheman-gu. There’s a pedestrian only lane that divides the street into 2 lanes.
    • Tsurugaoka Hacheman-gu – Sitting right in the center of town near the train station, Hacheman-gu is the ruling Minamoto clan’s shrine. Not my favorite place in Kamakura, but it’s so close to the station and such an important historic site that it’s a must-see.

    How to Get to Kamakura from Tokyo

    You can take a train from either Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station.

    1. By Train from Tokyo Station:

    You can get a JR train from Tokyo Station directly to Kamakura. Check Hyperdia. The train takes around 55 minutes and costs. Check Navitime or Google Maps for train schedules.

    2. By Train from Shinjuku Station:

    You can get the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line for Zushi from Shinjuku Station directly to Kamakura Station. It takes about one hour.

    There are other lines that will get you to Kamakura but require transferring in Yokohama, Ofuna, or Totsuka. Check Navitime or Google Maps for schedules.

    Tourist Passes for Kamakura

    You can save lots of money and hassle getting a tourist pass. Here are a few that you can use in Kamakura.

    1. Hakone-Kamakura Pass

    If you’re doing longer than a day trip from Tokyo, there’s the 3-day all-you-can-ride transportation pass for Hakone, Kamakura, and Enoshima. US$53 for adults and US$10 for children. You can buy your pass online beforehand and pick them up at Shinjuku Station.

    2. Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass

    The one-day Enoshima-Kamakura Pass is a good option for those just visiting Kamakura. The price as of August 2023 is ¥1,640 for adults; ¥430 for children.

    The Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass includes the following:

    • RT ticket on Odakyu line from Shinjuku Station to Fujisawa Station and unlimited rides on the Odakyu and Enoden train lines;
    • Getting this pass means you won’t be taking a direct train to Kamakura. To get to Kamakura, you’ll need to transfer from the Odakyu line to the Enoden line at Fujisawa Station.

    4. Nikko

    There’s so much to do and see in Nikko that you can’t go wrong with choosing it as a day trip from Tokyo. There’s great history, beautiful architecture, relaxing onsens, and lots of natural beauty (waterfalls!).

    The tombs of the first Tokugawa Shogunate, Ieyasu Tokugawa, and his grandson are buried here in a stunningly beautiful and intricately designed set of buildings: Toshogu Shrine and Taiyuan Temple.

    Since Nikko escaped American bombing during World War II, the buildings are the original–a rarity in Japan.

    Nikko also has a lot of natural beauty and hot springs (onsens). 11.5 kilometers outside of Nikko is the hot spring town of Chuzen-ji Onsen with its beautiful lake, waterfalls, and mountains.

    Thirty minutes away from Chuzen-ji Onsen is another onsen village called Yumoto Onsen where you’ll find more waterfalls, lakes, and hiking trails.

    DIY Day Trip to Nikko

    If you visit on your own, buy the Nikko World Heritage Area pass (¥2,040) with the extra limited express train fare (Roundtrip – ¥2,320). The train should get you to Nikko in around 2 hours. You can use the pass for traveling by bus to and from the World Heritage sites around Nikko.

    If you tour Nikko on your own for just a day, you won’t have time to see everything. You’ll have to see EITHER the historic buildings OR the natural sights like waterfalls, lakes, and onsens. Not Both. The waterfalls and lakes are 1 hour to 1.5 hours away from Nikko by bus.

    I love history and architecture, so I found the historical sights to be better than the natural sights, so I’d choose to see all of them over splitting up my time between those and the waterfalls and lakes. My opinion is probably affected by the weather. It was rainy and foggy when I visited Chuzen-ji and Yumoto Onsen villages. Kegon Falls was completely covered in fog and I got caught in a downpour on my way to the other falls.

    Join a Group or Private Tour to Nikko

    There are several group tours of Nikko that will allow you to see some (not all) of the World Heritage sites AND stop at one of the onsen villages in order to see a waterfall and lake and even visit a hot spring.

    This might be the ONLY way to get in BOTH history AND nature.

    You can find tours through Klook or GetYourGuide.

    1. Nikko Toshogo Shrine + Kegon Waterfalls (Option Onsen Visit!)

    RATING: 4.5/5 (150+ Reviews) | PRICE: US$71.70

    • Visit Toshogo Shrine and Kegon Waterfalls
    • Either take a boat tour of Chuzenji Lake or visit Nikko hot springs

    2. Private Walking Tour of Nikko with a Local Guide

    RATING: 4.3/5 (12+ Reviews) | PRICE: US$102

    • Tour the UNESCO Heritage Site of Toshogo Shrine
    • Visit Chuzenji Lake and Kegon Waterfalls
    • Meet your English-speaking guide in Nikko
    • Use public transportation

    3. Private Customized Day Trip from Tokyo

    RATING: 5/5 (4 Reviews) | PRICE: US$300+

    • Includes travel on the Tobu Limited Express Train RT from Tokyo to Nikko
    • Fully customized tour but usually includes World Heritage Sites and Kegon Falls
    • Try local specialties like yuba and sake (not included in price)
    • Guide speaks English (check on other languages)

    What Can You do in Nikko?

    • Chuzen-ji – About 50 minutes by bus from Nikko, Chuzen-ji is an onsen village located on a lake. Near the bus station, there’s a beautiful waterfall called Kegon Falls.
    • Futarasan-jinja – This Shinto shrine is right next to Toshogu and Taiyuin-byo. Built in 1619, it’s the oldest shrine in Nikko. It’s in a beautiful setting, but overall, I found the it to be average.
    • Hot springs – You can stay in a traditional Japanese inn with a private hot spring or you can try one of the public hot springs.
    • Kanma-ga-Fuchi Abyss – This is a little gorge with a roaring river. There’s an easy-to-walk path along the river. The highlight of the abyss, though, is a line of over 70 Jizo statues along the path. It requires a 15-minute walk from the nearest bus stop, but so worth it. Make sure to schedule a time to see this atmospheric sight.
    • Kinugawa Onsen village – This is another hot spring resort village with lots of traditional Japanese inns. It’s also the location of Tobu World Square, an amusement park of miniature-sized famous world buildings and Edo Wonderland, is a recreation of a seventeenth-century Edo. People are dressed up in Edo-era characters like samurai and courtesans. You can wear a kimono, eat Edo-era food, and try out Edo-period jobs/crafts.
    • Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa – This is the restored villa of the imperial family. It’s closed on Tuesdays, which was the day I was in Nikko.
    • Rinnon-ji – This Buddhist temple is another sight on must-see lists. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see it. Rain, early closing times, and not bringing snack foods with me along the way caused me to miss this temple.
    • Shin-kyo Bridge – This is the red bridge that will be the first sight that you see before you come to the World Heritage area. It makes for a lovely photo op.
    • Taiyuin Temple – The next must-see sight after Toshogu is Taiyuin Temple, the shrine to Ieyasu’s grandson, Iemitsu. Just as stunningly gorgeous as Toshogu Shrine but far fewer tourists visit it.
    • Toshogu Shrine – The highlight of your day trip from Tokyo should be the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for 250 years. It is stunningly gorgeous and should not be missed. There are a lot of buildings, lots of steps to climb to his tomb, and lots and lots of tourists. Hit this one first. Get the audio guide.
    • Waterfalls – There are 3 waterfalls that you can see around Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen area: Kegon Falls, Yutaki Falls, and Ryuzu Falls.
    • Yuba – Yuba is tofu skin, a specialty of Nikko. It’s served many different ways. One popular way is Yuba soba.
    • Yumoto Onsen village – 5 hours from Nikko is the onsen village of Yumoto Onsen located on Lake Yunoko. There are some waterfalls on the way to the village.

    How to Get to Nikko from Tokyo

    You can choose to get to Nikko by either a JR Train (good for those with a JR Pass) or a non-JR Train, which is the Tobu Train. Bus is also an option.

    1. By JR Train:

    If you have a JR Pass, you can take a Shinkansen JR train from Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya and then transfer to an ordinary JR train to Nikko.

    Price without JR Pass: ¥5,680 one way. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

    2. By Non-JR Train:

    You can also take a Tobu limited express train from Asakusa to Tobu-Nikko.

    Some trains go directly to Tobu-Nikko Station, while other trains stop at Shimo-Imachi, where you’ll need to transfer to another train.

    The cost is around ¥2,860 one way and takes around 110 minutes.

    3. By Bus:

    You can take a bus from Tokyo Station to Tobu Nikko Station. The cost is ¥2,500 and takes about 3 hours. Go to the Willer Bus website and enter “Tochigi prefecture” as your destination.

    PRO TIP: The historical attractions in Nikko don’t have any restaurants or stores nearby and taking the local bus is time-consuming, so pack a lunch and/or snack food. In this way, you don’t need to waste time leaving the World Heritage sites to go to a restaurant and then returning to them to finish exploring. What’s even more frustrating is that tourist attractions in Japan close at 4:30 pm–too early!

    Tourist Passes for Nikko

    A tourist pass is a great way to see Nikko if you’re staying for at least 2 days.

    The Tobu Limited Express Train goes directly from Asakusa Station in Tokyo to Nikko. It’s not included in any of the 2 Nikko Passes. You’ll have to pay extra for that, which is around US$18. It’ll take 2 hours to get to Nikko.

    However, the 2 Nikko Passes cover train travel from Asakusa Station in Tokyo to Nikko. You will just need to change trains in Shimo-Imachi.

    1. Nikko World Heritage Area Pass (2 days)

    The best tourist pass for a day trip from Tokyo is the Nikko Pass. The 2-day Pass costs US$14.49 for adults and US$4.30 for children

    The pass covers the following:

    • Round-trip train travel from Tokyo to Shimo-Imachi  When you get to Shimo-Imachi, you’ll have to transfer to a local Tobu Railway train. But not to worry, it is also covered in the Pass.
    • Tobu Bus lines within the World Heritage area
    • All Tobu Railway lines between Shimo-Imaichi, Tobu-Nikko and Shin-Fujiwara stations
    • Tobu World Square discounted ticket worth ¥1,800 (original price: ¥2,800)
    • Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura discounted ticket worth ¥4,230 (original price: ¥4,700)

    You can depart from Asakusa Tobu Station or Tokyo Skytree.

    For specific details on what’s all included in the pass, check out the Tobu Railway website.

    • For adults, it’s US$14.49 for the pass from Klook (August 2023). If you want to get there quickly, add on the Tobu Limited Express Train ticket at US$18 (round-trip) for a total of US$32.49.
    • For children, it’s US$4.30 for the pass plus US$8 for the limited express train tickets for a total of US$12.30

      2. Tobu Nikko Pass All Area (4 days)

      The Nikko All Area pass is good for more days (4 days) and covers more areas.

      The ticket costs US$32.65 (adults) and US$9.09 (child) with Klook as of August 2023.

      Here’s what the 4-day Pass covers:

      • Round-trip train travel from Tokyo to Shimo-Imachi  When you get to Shimo-Imachi, you’ll have to transfer to a local Tobu Railway train. But not to worry, it is also covered in the Pass.
      • All Tobu Railway lines between Shimo-Imaichi, Tobu-Nikko and Shin-Fujiwara stations
      • All buses in the Nikko, Yumoto Onsen, Chuzen-ji Onsen, and Kinugawa Onsen areas. This includes the Nikko Edomura shuttle bus and the Nikko-Kinugawa Onsen Bus
      • Lake Chuzenji sightseeing cruise
      • Tobu World Square discounted ticket worth ¥1,800 (original price: ¥2,800)
      • Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura discounted ticket worth ¥4,230 (original price: ¥4,700)

      Final Thoughts

      So, there you have it: 4 great day trips from Tokyo. If you only have time for 1 trip, which should you choose? That’s a hard question. All are great. Here’s my opinion:

      If it were December through February, I’d choose Mt. Fuji just because I’d always wanted to see the mountain. However, to be honest, it’s better to stay overnight so you can be there at 8:00 am when you have the greatest chance to see it.

      If it were other times of the year, I’d choose Nikko first and Hakone a close second. Nikko for its history and natural beauty and Hakone for its art and onsens.

      However, out of all 4, I had the best time in Kamakura. I found a welcoming local restaurant with great food and met lots of Japanese people. And I just really liked the laid back vibe of Kamakura.

      Of course, we’re all different, so here’s a breakdown of which places suit which interests.

      • Natural beauty and outdoors: Fuji, Hakone, and Nikko
      • History: Hakone (Tokaido Highway), Kamakura (ancient Japanese capital), and Nikko (where the first Tokugawa Shogun is buried)
      • Art: Hakone (museums)
      • Architecture: Kamakura (Zen temples) and Nikko (shrines)
      • Hot springs: Hakone and Nikko
      • Food: Fuji (Hoto noodles-flat thick noodles with lots of veggies), Kamakura (seafood donburi—a bowl of rice topped with raw fish), and Nikko (yuba – tofu skins)

      I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you’ve been to any of these places. If you haven’t, I’d be happy to answer your questions

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      Mt. Fuji with pagoda
      a row of Japanese statues wearing a red cap and bib


      1. I didn’t realise that actually seeing the volcano was such an unpredictable thing. A dose of luck very much needed then given that I’d love to go either for the Japanese blossom or the autumn colours. Still you can have it all. Another great post to save for my bucket list trip.

        • Yes, it’s very unpredictable. I was able to see the mountain fully at 5:00 am until about 5:45 am and then it was nearly completely covered for the rest of the day.

      2. Japan is so beautiful and love your photos! I would find it very difficult to choose one place for a day trip.

        • I agree. They’re all great places. But if Mt. Fuji isn’t going to be visible, I’d say don’t go. T

      3. Thanks for a great article 🙂

        I really love your iamges by the way, you have a great eye for composing images!

        • Thank you!


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      About the Bamboo Traveler

      Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.


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