No visit to Japan is complete without experiencing the hustle and bustle of Tokyo but after a while even the most hardcore city dwellers often find themselves wanting to swap the city’s 24 hour restaurants, contemporary art museums and glitzy shopping malls for some decidedly more laid back pursuits in the country side.
Luckily, the area around Tokyo is full of things to see and do and thanks to one of the world’s most effective public transport systems, getting there is easy and fast. Below are some places that can be visited in just one day from Tokyo.
Part of the volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is famous for its beautiful nature where visitors can soak in hot springs while enjoying the views of Mount Fuji. The area is especially popular during spring when a variety of cherry blossoms turn the park into a maze of pink, white and purple.
One of the highlights of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is Hakone Gora Park, which was opened in 1914 as Japan’s first French-style garden. Reminiscent of France’s magnificent gardens the focus is on symmetry and geometric shapes. The park changes drastically throughout the seasons but no matter at which time of the year you visit, you are treated to a magnificent sight.
For those interested in art, a visit to Hakone Museum of Art is a must. The museum has a large collection of ancient and contemporary pottery from different parts of Japan.
Trains leave from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station throughout the day and takes roughly 90 minutes.
Known as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura has a wealth of culture and history. This quaint town is located on the coast in Kanagawa Prefecture just an hour south of Tokyo. In the early 12th century it was the political centre of Japan when Minamoto Yoritomo chose it as the seat for his military rule in 1192 and it remained the capital for over 100 years. For this reason, the city is today home to a significant number of temples, shrines and other historical monuments. The combination of history, culture and beach makes Kamakura a popular day trip out of Tokyo.
A good place to start any exploration of Kamakura is at the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a bronze statue of Amida Buddha located on the grounds of the Kotokuin Temple. The statue, which dates back to 1252, stands 13.35 metres and is surpassed in height in Japan only by the statue in Todaiji Temple in Nara.
Another great attraction is Hasa Temple, which commands great views over Kamakura. The temple is famous for its eleven-headed statue which is one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan. The temple grounds also house a museum, a small restaurant, a souvenir shop and beautifully landscaped gardens.
There is a direct line from Tokyo Station to Kamakura Station.
Fuji Five Lakes
Fujigoko, otherwise known as Fuji Five Lakes, lies at the northern base of Mount Fuji around – as the name suggests – five lakes. The region lies at around 1000 metres above sea level and is one of the best places to view the mountain. Due to the abundance of natural beauty surrounding the mountains and the lakes, Fuji Five Lakes is also a popular place for outdoor activities such as hiking, trekking, biking, fishing, snow sports and camping can be enjoyed.
However there are plenty of other things to see and do that does not involve getting into a pair of trekking boots. Fuji Q Highland is an excellent amusement park with wild roller coasters and Kubota Museum takes the visitor into the world of Kubota Itchiku, who is famous for having revived Japan’s proud art of Tsujigahana silk dyeing, which was used to decorate kimonos. If you visit Fuji Five Lakes during the spring, don’t miss out on the Fuji Shibazakura Festival, when pink moss known as shibazakura turn the ground a bright pink. Almost a million stalks of various types colour the grounds and make for unreal views and great photo opportunities.
Trains leave Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station for Otsuki Station from where the Fujikyu Railway Line goes to Kawaguchiko Station.
- Japan’s rail network is one of the most extensive and effective in the world, famous for its bullet trains, also called Shinkansen. For tickets and time schedules, check out www.jprail.com
- For up to date information on exhibitions and opening hours of Hakone Museum of Art, visit http://www.moaart.or.jp/hakone/en/
- For more information on what to see and do in Fuji Five Lakes see http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/yamanashi/fujigoko.html