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Tokyo, located in the Kanto region in the island of Honshu and Japan’s capital since 1869 is not only a bustling metropolis known for its 23 special wards but also its proximity to other prefectures and areas that make for a great weekend getaway. Are you itching for a short escape from the capital’s crowds?
We’ve put together eight short weekend getaway trips that you could make! Look out for those long weekend holidays now.
There is a Japanese saying that goes, “Never say kekko (satisfied) until you’ve seen Nikko.” This reflects the beauty of Nikko that you truly won’t be satisfied until you’ve seen it.
Nikko sits in Tochigi Prefecture and is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples of Nikkō which makes up 103 temples and shrines. But besides these architectural wonders, Nikko also boasts magnificent natural surroundings.
The most famous structure here is Toshogu Shrine, which serves as the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Toshogu Shrine is known for its lavish decorations and intricate carvings. Before Toshogu Shrine was built, Nikko also served as an important place for Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship.
If you want to surround yourself in nature, Nikko offers nothing short. Lake Chuzenji’s crystal clear waters are breathtaking, and the Okkuniko around the lake has various hot spring towns to enjoy. In autumn, Nikko transforms into a myriad of orange, red and yellow and is one of its busiest seasons as you can admire the astounding autumn foliage.
Nikko also has plenty of waterfalls to admire with Kegon Falls topping the list. This almost 100-meter tall waterfall is considered one of Japan’s top three most beautiful waterfalls. Other points of interest include Kanmangafuchi Abyss, a beautiful gorge near Central Nikko known for its 70 stone Jizo statues, Tamozawa Imperial Villa, the former Nikko residence of the Imperial Family and Shinkyo Bridge, ranked as one of Japan’s top three finest bridges and serves as the entrance to Nikko’s shrines and temples.
Being just 2.5 hours away from Tokyo, Nikko certainly makes for a perfect weekend getaway.
Another Tokyolite favorite destination is Hakone, a town in Kanagawa Prefecture, one of Tokyo’s closest neighbor. There’s many things to love about Hakone: a view of Mount Fuji on a clear day, hot springs and cruising along a breathtaking lake. It’s certainly an excellent place for a weekend getaway.
Easily reachable via the Hakone Romancecar in just 1.5–2 hours, Hakone is also known for its beauty throughout the four seasons. Hakone’s top attraction is its hot spring resorts, some of which offer the best views of Mount Fuji.
To admire the natural landscape, take the Hakone Ropeway where you can also see Owakudani, an active volcanic zone which still emits sulfur vapors and has active sulfur vents. While you’re here, you must try the Kuro Tamago (black boiled eggs) which are cooked from natural hot water — the eggs are said to extend your life up to seven years!
You can also take a cruise along Lake Ashinomoto, a beautiful caldera of Mount Hakone. The ride takes about 30 minutes. On a clear day, the lake and Mount Fuji make an unbeatable combination. To get the best views, visit during the colder seasons.
After that, you can stop by Hakone Shrine, known for its large torii gate in the lake along the shores of Lake Ashinomoto.
Shizuoka Prefecture shares Mount Fuji with Yamanashi Prefecture, so if you’re looking to see the World Heritage Cultural Site, then Shizuoka is a must visit. Located just 1.5 hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo, Shizuoka itself is packed with wonders.
Shizuoka is most famous for its tea products which you can try around the prefecture. If you’re looking for a combination of green tea fields with Mount Fuji in the background, you can have it here. Fuji City is one of the country’s best green tea producers, and the tea plantation in Imamiya area is the go-to for green tea lovers.
If you want to spend more time surrounded by nature, the Izu Highland in Izu Penninsula is the place to go. Visit the area around Mount Omuro, an extinct volcano, where you can walk around the crater. The entire highland is filled with natural beauty and also hot springs.
If you’re up for some island hopping, Dogoshima, on the western side of the Izu Penninsula makes for a great side trip. Here, you can get scenic views of the coastline filled with cliffs, caves, and even beaches. And speaking of beaches, Shimoda on the southern side of the Peninsula has plenty to offer.
Head over to Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture, known for its hiking trails, shrines and Chichibu Night Festival in December. Rich in nature and surrounded by beautiful mountains, Chichibu has been a significant place for mountain worship.
Located just 1.5 hours away from Tokyo’s hustle and bustle, you’ll get treated with incredible nature and beautiful parks. In Nagatoro, you can go water rafting while enjoying the forested mountains and scenic landscape. Nakatsu Valley also offers similar majestic natural views.
For something more colorful, head to Hitsujiyama Park and marvel at the carpet of sakura flowers known as shibazakura. The flower grows on the ground and is in peak during the spring. With Mount Buko, Chichibu’s highest mountain in the background, you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re looking for something more cultural, Chichibu’s Night Festival that takes place in December is a must to experience. Along with Kyoto’s Gion Festival and Hida’s Takayama Festival, Chichibu Night Festival makes up for the three great float festivals in Japan. Floats as tall as 7 meters are paraded around the town accompanied by blazing firework displays and beautifully illuminated lanterns.
For shrines, head over to Mitsumine Shrine, located at the summit of Mount Mitsumine. The three-styled torii gate at the shrine’s entrance is considered rare. The shrine houses various other decorative statues including two stone wolves. In fact, Mitsumine Shrine worships Japanese wolves, known for dispelling misfortune. Other detailed carvings seem to rival that of Toshogu Shrine in Nikko.
A mere hour away from Tokyo, Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture makes for another favorite weekend getaway. With an easy side trip to Enoshima, an island conveniently connected to the mainland, Kamakura is also another Tokyolite ideal getaway destination.
Being a coastal town, Kamakura has plenty of beaches for those wanting a swim. It also has plenty of shrines and temples to offer. Start your journey at the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), a giant bronze Buddha statue that sits at 11.4 meters tall, making it the second largest Buddha statue in the whole of Japan. Initially created in 1252, the statue has overcome several historical events and disasters.
If you’re looking to get attractive views, Hasedera Temple would be the one to go to. The temple houses an eleven-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The abundance of hydrangea that grows there is also a must-see. There’s a path especially for it, and from there, you can also see a view of the town.
A little side trip to nearby Enoshima is also a must. The Iwaya Caves where you see the waters embracing the cliff and explore two of the caves, the first housing various Buddha statues and the second dedicated to a dragon believed to have wrecked the area in the past.
For astounding views, head over to Enoshima Tower, also known as Enoshima Tower. For relaxation, there’s Enoshima Inland Spa or bring the kids to Enoshima Aquarium.
The land of Mount Fuji is definitely an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. Not only will your breath be taken away seeing Mount Fuji in all its glory but you’ll also be amazed at the picturesque views and tranquil scenery.
Located just two hours by bus from Tokyo, Yamanashi Prefecture has plenty to offer. For thrill-seekers, FujiQ Highland boasts some of the most hair-raising and exciting rides, many of which are world-class and record-breaking rollercoasters. Even from afar, you can hear the screams of people visiting.
Treat yourself and visit the Fuji Five Lakes, most notably, Lake Kawaguchi. Different museums are located in the vicinity, including Kawaguchiko Music Forest and Kawaguchi Museum of Art. For adventurous travelers, visit Lake Saiko, which has plenty of outdoor ventures and activities. Surrounded by mountains, the area is perfect for camping and fishing too.
While the lakes can give immense views of Mount Fuji as well as climbing the mountain (in summer months from Fuji 5th Station), my personal favorite would be Chureito Pagoda. Part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, climb almost 400 steps until you reach the Pagoda where you will be rewarded with the most breathtaking view of Mount Fuji — and take it in all its glory.
For a more impeccable combination, visit during spring or autumn where the cherry blossoms of colorful fall foliage with Mount Fuji add a sprinkle of mesmerizing beauty. Other places to visit include Oshino Hakkai, a small village made up of eight scared ponds and Iyashino Sato Nenba, famed for its thatched-roof kabuto-zukuri houses. For explorers, hike around Aokigohara Forest and venture into the Ice and Wind Cave.
Located in Nagano Prefecture, Nagano is 1–2-hour Shinkansen ride from Central Tokyo. A popular mountain resort situated along the foot of Mount Asama, Karuizawa is a popular weekend getaway destination, especially during winter as a summer retreat.
Thanks to its high 1000 meters altitude and cool climate, it’s a great place to escape the throbbing summer heat. Karuizawa is a wonderland for those who love the outdoors. You can go cycling, hiking, skiing, and ice skating in the winter and sports like tennis or golf.
To see the downtown area, visit Kyu-Karuizawa. Today, it’s the main center of the resort, but in the past, it used to be a post town along the Nakasendo Road that connected Kyoto and Tokyo. Dine with various restaurants to choose from, buy some souvenirs, and even enjoy some leisure activities.
For nature lovers, Shirato Waterfall is a must-see. Its Japanese name means “the waterfall of white threads,” which is reflected on the curtain of water that flows looking like white threads. The waterfall and its surrounding landscape are beautiful throughout the entire four seasons, lush greenery in the summer, flowers bloom in spring, fall foliage in the fall and snow-capped trees in the winter.
And speaking of winter, Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area is a must visit during the winter. Here, you can enjoy various ski courses and even sightsee using its gondola lifts.
Chiba Prefecture doesn’t get enough credit. Tokyo seems to have taken all the glory from Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea and even Narita Airport when they’re in fact, located in Chiba. But because of its proximity to Tokyo, Chiba makes for a wonderful weekend getaway.
Besides visiting the two Disney parks, Chiba also has Naritasan Shinshoji, a famous temple visited by many locals every year. The temple is known for granting success in different aspects of your life, including finances, business, and love. After that, you can stroll along Monzen-machi Road and enjoy its Edo-styled houses. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to visit.
To get a more local experience, explore Minami Boso in the southern side of the prefecture. Loved for its mountains and beaches which are popular among surfers. Visit Takabe Shrine, the only shrine dedicated to the god of cooking or enjoy local produce from the farmer’s markets. Minamiboso has plenty of activities to offer like fruits and flower picking activities, hiking and fishing.
Alternatively, you can visit Boso-no-Mura, an interactive museum with Edo-styled structures like samurai houses, merchant houses, and farmhouses from the Edo Period and relive the past. Here you can also enjoy various demonstrations like soba making and bamboo craft making.
You can also travel back in time and escape to Sawara, a picturesque town in Katori City. Feel the Edo period atmosphere still lingering in the city heightened by its old buildings and traditional crafts. Steeped in history, the town thrived as a rice trading hub.
There you have it, folks! We’ve listed eight perfect weekend getaway destinations from Tokyo that you must visit at least once. Whether you’re the outdoor type, nature lover or just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo — you’ll surely enjoy visiting all of these places. What are you waiting for? It’s time to start planning.