Tokyo is a metropolitan city buzzing with activities promising something to do for everyone. But what if you get bored of the bustles and hustles of city life, and yearn to get away from the crowd and explore somewhere different? Then, Kanagawa Prefecture is a great alternative to check out. Why? Because it is a coastal prefecture just south of Tokyo, getting there is quick and convenient. In fact, Kanagawa is part of the Greater Tokyo area and the furthest city within the prefecture from Tokyo is only about 1.5 hours away. Discover the beauty of these unique destinations in Kanagawa through this article now!
Yokohama is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture, and the second-most populated city in Japan. It is just a quick 30-minute train ride away, with several railway lines going to Yokohama from Tokyo. The most economical way is to take the limited express or express train on the Tokyu - Toyoko Line at Shibuya Station to Yokohama Station, which costs 470 JPY (4.60 USD) for a 25-minute ride.
Soak in the scenic harbour view while chomping your way through the largest Chinatown in Japan
Being one of the earliest Japanese ports opened to foreign trade in 1859, Yokohama is famous for the largest Chinatown in the country and the former Western residences in the Yamate district. Having grown from a small fishing village to one of the largest cities in Japan now, Minato Mirai 21, which means “harbour of the future”, is also a beautiful urban centre to check out for its gorgeous harbour views with an impressive skyline including the 296-metre (971-foot) tall Landmark Tower. Of course, one should not forget a visit to the traditional Japanese style garden - Sankeien Garden - located to the city’s south. Its beautiful landscape creates the illusion that one is in Kyoto and not Yokohama!
Be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining in Yokohama
Thanks to Yokohama being one of the first few ports to be opened to foreign traders, foodies will be delighted to find a diverse international dining scene in the city. One will be spoilt for choice on the huge array of cuisine available. There are lots of mouth-watering Chinese food done the Japanese way at Yokohama Chinatown, such as Nikuman (Chinese-style steamed buns), Goma Dango (fried rice cake balls) and Shumai (Chinese-style dumplings). Or, have fun touring the world’s first food “amusement park” at the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum. For a delish Western meal, visit the Yamate and modern Minato Mirai 21 districts. The list of delicious cuisine one can tuck into never seems to end in Yokohama!
Stay overnight in the city to have more time to explore
If you just don’t feel like leaving the amazing city with a scenic harbourfront and great international cuisine so soon, book an overnight stay in the city. Yokohama has a wide range of accommodation options to suit the most discerning traveller. Regardless of whether one has a penchant for irresistible city night views, or prefers wallet-friendly accommodations, there will be a suitable accommodation to suit one’s needs in Yokohama. Staying in Yokohama is also a cost-saving alternative to staying in pricey Tokyo, as it is less than 30 minutes away from the vibrant capital.
Located about one hour south of Tokyo, Kamakura is known as the Home of the Samurai. It is a historic town filled with many ancient temples and shrines. Besides being able to immerse in the rich heritage, nature and beach lovers will rejoice in this coastal town surrounded by beautiful mountains and beaches. The fastest way to Kamakura is by JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station, priced at 890 JPY (8.70 USD) for a one-hour ride.
Seek enlightenment and get in touch with nature in Kamakura
With many famous temples and shrines, surrounded by lush forests in the mountain, roaming around Kamakura evokes a calm atmospheric feeling that one doesn’t get in Tokyo. One doesn’t need to be a Buddhist to feel inner peace at the tranquil Zen temples, such as Kenchoji (建長寺) and Engakuji Temple (円覚寺) which are also real architectural gems to admire. There is also The Great Buddha (鎌倉大仏) standing on the Kotokuin Temple grounds, which is an icon of the city. If you can, go on the famous hiking trails such as the rustic Daibutsu Hiking Trail and Tenen Hiking Trail that bring you to all these gems. Finally, beach lovers will be pleased to find great surfing spots like Yuigahama beach just 30 minutes away from Tokyo.
Relax in the Zen city with an overnight stay
Experience the warm hospitality of the Japanese and relax in this Zen city by booking a stay in one of the many nice apartments. There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from in Kamakura, from the budget dormitory and guest house to posh and stylish apartments and traditional houses. As the city is pretty compact and has an efficient public transport system, it is convenient to move around the city wherever one stays.
Bordered by the mouth of Tokyo Bay to the east and Sagami Bay on the Pacific Ocean on the west, Yokosuka has played a significant role in Japan’s naval history because of its strategic location. It takes about 1 hour to reach Yokosuka Station on the Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station at 830 JPY (7.90 USD).
Military history buffs must not miss the world-renowned 114-year-old battleship Mikasa. This is the only surviving pre-dreadnought battleship, a fascinating museum ship embedded in concrete grounds and wonderfully preserved to offer visitors insights of the bygone naval design. Following that, proceed to Blue Street to shop and people-watch. The street used to be the centre of life for sailors and their wives in the city.
Address: 82 Inaokacho, Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture
Price: 600 JPY (5.70 USD) per adult
Opening Hours: April to September: 9am - 5.30pm daily, March & October: 9am - 5pm daily, November to February: 9am - 4.30pm daily.
Duration: around 1 hour required.
Access: 7-minute walk from Yokosuka-Chuo Station on the Keihin Keikyu Line.
Contact: +81 468-246-291
Odawara is the gateway to the picturesque Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. There are several ways to access Odawara from Tokyo, and the fastest way is a 30-minute train ride on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo or Shinagawa Station (about 3,500 JPY or 33.40 USD for one way, fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, but not covered by the JR Tokyo Wide Area Pass, JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass, JR East Tohoku Area Pass and JR East South Hokkaido Pass). Note that only Kodama trains and selected Hikari trains stop at Odawara Station. The Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus and JR Tokaido Main Line or JR Shonan Shinjuku Line also go to Odawara Station, but I would recommend the latter, as it is not only cheaper at 1,500 JPY (14.30 USD) for one way, but also relatively faster (70 to 90 minutes).
See a feudal-era castle and taste fresh fish cake
Instead of merely passing by the transport hub enroute to Hakone, make a stop to visit the beautiful Odawara Castle. This was where the Hojo family, rulers of the Kanto region, called home during the warring states period. The Castle Park is exceptionally stunning with its alluring cherry and plum blossoms in spring.
In addition, do try the locally produced Kamaboko (surimi fish cake), made using fresh seafood from Odawara Harbour. There are many seafood shops in the city selling this local delight. Or, have a fun experience making the yummy fish cake in a class at the famous Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum! Don’t forget to make reservations for the class because it is a very popular activity.
Odawara Castle (小田原城)
Address: 6-1 Jonai, Odawara-city
Price: 400 JPY (3.80 USD) per adult
Opening Hours: 9am - 5pm daily. Closed on the second Wednesday in December, and from 31 Dec to 1 Jan.
Duration: around 1 hour required.
Access: 10-minute walk from JR Odawara Station east exit.
Contact: +81 465-231-373
Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum (鈴廣かまぼこ)
Address: 245 Kazamatsuri, Odawara-city
Price: 1,575 JPY (15 USD) per person for the Kamaboko-making class
Opening Hours: 10am - 5pm daily.
Duration: class is 50 minutes long.
Access: 2-minute walk from Kazamatsuri Station on Hakone Tozan line
Contact: +81 120-114-795
Hakone is probably the most popular city in Kanagawa Prefecture, as it is home to the breathtaking Fuji Hakone Izu National Park where Mount Fuji sits. Both Japanese and international tourists love to escape to Hakone to take a break from the hectic life in Tokyo, and the many transport options from the metropolitan city make it very convenient for travellers. The cheapest way to reach Hakone is via the slower express trains (kyuko) from Shinjuku Station at 1,190 JPY (11.40 USD) one-way with a travel time of about 2 hours and 1 transfer at Odawara Station. Alternatively, one can take the Romance Car limited express train on the Odakyu Railway for 2,080 JPY (19.90 USD) for about 85 minutes from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station.
Immerse in the amazing view of nature and enjoy the fabulous hot springs
Mention Hakone and most people will first think of relaxing onsens (hot springs) in the region. Indeed, onsens are aplenty in Hakone, and Yumoto, at the entrance to the Hakone area near Odawara, is the most famous one. Of course, the alluring natural beauty of Lake Ashinoko and Owakudani with awesome views of Mount Fuji are often raved about by visitors. In addition, the Hakone Open Air Museum showcases fine art pieces that blend well into the surrounding nature. One should also take a nostalgic ride on the oldest Hakone Tozan Mountain railway through the amazing nature landscapes for an unforgettable experience.
Indulge in an overnight stay with onsen facility
With onsens found in large numbers in the mountainous town, it would be a pity if one does not leave ample time to relax in the therapeutic hot spring waters. Known to have lots of curative benefits, such as beautifying skin, curing muscle pain and aches, staying in an accommodation with onsen facility would allow one more time to enjoy great benefits of the soak. Feel like pampering yourself? There are many luxury hotels and traditional Japanese inns that offer superb service and relaxing onsen. The budget-conscious traveller need not worry too as it is still possible to enjoy a great soak when on a budget for below 80 USD per night. Before leaving Hakone, don’t forget to pack in some exquisite local souvenirs such as the Yumochi and Onsen Manju!
An interesting list of things to do awaits you in Kanagawa
As part of the Greater Tokyo area, Kanagawa Prefecture is so close to the capital of Japan, making it convenient to visit the prefecture. It has an interesting mix of traditional culture and modern urban life, offering visitors something unique from the bustling Tokyo. Therefore, Kanagawa is certainly a fantastic prefecture that you must explore if you are looking for somewhere beyond Tokyo, yet not too far away! Plan your next trip out of Tokyo to Kanagawa now!
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