Escape the neon lights of Shinjuku and Ginza, packed ramen houses, and bustling train stations throughout Tokyo for relaxing getaways surrounding the city that never seems to shut off. Enjoy strolling through the various ornately decorated temples in Kamakura or exploring Suwa’s Takishima Castle. Sign up for a samurai lesson in Matsumoto or venture to the mountainous region of Yaen-Koen to share a geothermal bath with the snow monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park. Tourists coming to Japan have so many options of amazing places to visit in this culturally rich country so why not check out the following list of the top weekend trips from Tokyo, Japan before touching down at Tokyo’s Narita or Haneda Airports.
Take a break from the blazing neon of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district and retreat to serene Suwa to enjoy the mountainous lake country. Take advantage of this adventurer’s paradise to hike and cycle through the mountain paths near Mount Kirigamine. Enjoy visiting the ancient pagoda-style Takashima Castle and rose-coloured cherry trees to explore the former residence of Japanese emperors. After boating across Lake Suwa in a giant cartoonish swan paddleboat, unwind in the comforting waters of the thermal hot springs at one of the onsens tucked away in the mountains.
Board the impressive shinkansen (bullet train) out of bustling Tokyo to explore Kyoto’s cultural twin city, Kamakura, which is rich with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Visitors will enjoy walking through the mountainous hiking trails connecting numerous shrines together including Kotokuin Temple to visit the Great Buddha. Spend time relaxing at Yuigahama Beach to sunbathe, paddleboard, or take a surfing lesson the azure waters of Sagami Bay. During your visit to beautiful Kamakura, rent an intricately decorated kimono to visit Hokokuji Temple to participate in a traditional tea ceremony on tatami flooring and for strolling through the nearby emerald green bamboo forest.
Leave Tokyo’s ever-bustling streets and busy train stations behind for the peaceful Nagano prefecture to explore the gateway to the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto. Stroll down Nakamachi Street to experience commercial buildings from a bygone era before heading over to Matsumoto Castle. Join a guided tour to gain insight into the history of the Crow Castle before taking a sword-wielding tour with a local samurai warrior. Rent a car to visit Matsumoto’s outskirts to hike through mountainous wildflower-filled valleys, relax in soothing hot springs, or camp under the vast star-filled sky.
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Hakuba is the perfect location for winter outdoor enthusiasts since the popular resort area contains numerous resorts for skiing and snowboarding. During winter months, visitors can enjoy snowmobiling on the powder in the backcountry or sign up for a snowshoeing excursion. Those visiting Hakuba in the spring through autumn can enjoy hiking through the mountain valleys overrun with wildflowers. After taking an early morning sky skimming hot air balloon tour over the stunning region indulge in a luxurious spa experience at one of the nearby hot springs.
Take the bullet train from the historic Tokyo Station two hours west to admire the geologically rich Niigata Prefecture city of Itoigawa. While sunbathing along the pristine beaches of the Omni Coast visitors can scour for precious jade being washed down from the mountains by the Himekawa and Oumigawa Rivers. Enjoy stunning views of Mount Moyo’s limestone rockface while strolling past serene Takanami-no-ike pond filled with water lilies and koi. Hikers will enjoy venturing into the Geopark to explore Umidani Gorge and to behold its beech forests along with steep rock walls of Himekawa Gorge.
Leave the concrete jungle, sky-scraper filled Tokyo behind for a different kind of jungle–one filled with curious cellphone wielding snow monkeys. Enjoy admiring the centuries-old Japanese inns lining Shibu’s narrow streets while encountering other visitors wearing yukata robes and geta sandals as they venture from bathhouse to bathhouse. Visitors most likely will have the opportunity to bathe with the furry hosts of the Jigokudani Monkey Park while relaxing in the bubbling thermal waters of Yudanaka Onsen. Indulge in stunning views of the mountain valley while experiencing a hot mineral bath at Shibu Onsen overlooking the Yokoyugawa River.
Enjoy strolling through the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park to catch a glimpse of the well-known Japanese macaques also referred to as snow monkeys. After hiking through the forest, return to the park entrance to rest your weary muscles in a hot spring bath alongside these curious creatures. Visitors will enjoy witnessing the entertaining interaction between the monkeys which at times can be quite humorous. Indulge in stunning views of the Yokoyu-River valley while relaxing in the effervescent natural hot spring waters.
A walk through the streets of Obuse is memorable since visitors can enjoy strolling aimlessly while being captivated by the numerous patterned pathways. Make time to visit the numerous craft shops and art galleries before visiting Ganshoin Temple to admire its giant phoenix ceiling masterpiece. After checking out the bonsai exhibit at Taikan Bonsai Museum, voyage out of the city to experience the countryside’s orchards and vineyards. During mid-January visitors can enjoy tasting sweets made from the chestnut trees while beholding the festivities of the Yasuichi Fair at Koutai-jinja Shrine which include men walking on hot charcoal.
Hop on a train from any station in Tokyo and arrive in the stunning port city of Yokohama in under half an hour. Set your sights on Landmark Tower to observe panoramic city views by reserving a black leather recliner to enjoy a cocktail while the evening sky lights up in splashes of neon. Enjoy strolling through spacious Yamashita Park before taking a harbourfront cruise on a warm summer day. Wander through Redbrick Warehouse and Landmark Plaza in search of the latest fashions and to experience a foodie paradise. After enjoying a barbeque lunch in the sand at Marine & Walk, head over to Yokohama Hakkejjima Sea Paradise to catch a glimpse of the amazing sea life exhibits.
Buy a ticket for an exhilarating ride on the bullet train departing Tokyo to visit the beautiful Pacific coastal resort region of Izu known for its pristine beaches, mountainous interior, and numerous hot springs. Enjoy stunning views of Mount Fuji while enjoying downtime in one of the many hot springs. Rent a beautifully embroidered kimono to attend the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival in nearby Kawazu to behold the beautiful blossoming cherry trees from early February to early March. Take a hike along the thickly forested trails in Kawazu Nanadaru in search of the seven stunning waterfalls. Rent a car to explore the Irozaki Coast known for its dramatic lava sea cliffs before heading over to Shirahama Beach to sunbathe on the miles-long stretch of white sand beach.
Explore Japan's hidden treasures outside Tokyo
For those visiting Japan, Tokyo is usually the first stop on their bucket list to explore Sensoji-Temple in the busy Asakusa district, Ueno Park with its museums, giant pandas at the zoo, and baseball fields, and Ginza for an exciting Kabuki theatre performance. With the JR train line and bullet trains, visitors to Japan can journey to other locations such as the stunning Ashikaga Flower Park known for its cascading lilac wisteria and Hitachi Seaside Park to enjoy the kokia trees turn fire red during the autumn months. If you have enjoyed visiting culturally rich cities such as Kamakura, Yokohama, and others in this article, these suggestions are a starting point for exploring more of the country of the rising sun in the future.
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