When we were planning our trip to Japan, we decided to dedicate one whole month to Tokyo. This was in part because we knew there was so much to see and do around the city, but also because we wanted to plan some fun and easy Tokyo day trips. The idea was to use the city as a base to explore some nearby destinations without necessarily having to pack up our bags and switch accommodations every few nights. Today, I’m going to highlight 5 of the trips Sam and I went on, so let’s dive in!
Fun & Easy Tokyo Day Trips
A day trip in search of robots
This was by far the closest and easiest day trip from Tokyo, but it just goes to show that you don’t always have to go far to be wowed by a place.
Odaiba is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay and we knew to expect futuristic constructions and lots of shopping malls, but what we weren’t expecting were robots – lots and lots of robots!
First, we came across Junco Chihira, an interactive android inside Aqua City Shopping Complex that looks just like a human. Junco works the information desk at the mall and is trilingual, speaking Japanese, Chinese and English! She can answer any queries pertaining to transport access, tourist information and restaurants, but most people around the info desk were really there to snap photos of her – ourselves included!
Next, we came face to face with Unicorn Gundam, a massive 20-meter robot that stands guard outside DiverCity. Gundam is a fictional robot from an anime series and undergoes a transformation a few times a day, changing from Unicorn Mode to Destroy Mode. I can’t say I had heard of Gundam before coming to Japan, but it was still pretty cool to see him; it felt like I was in the movie Transformers.
Last but not least, we can’t forget about Asimo, a humanoid robot housed in the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. We watched him give a demonstration of his skills and were pretty amazed. He walked, hopped on one foot, played football, and pretty much won the crowd over.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to robots in Odaiba; there were plenty more to interact with at the museum I mentioned earlier, so if you’re looking to come face to face with robots, Odaiba is an ideal day trip.
Distance from Tokyo: 17 kilometres
A day trip in search of street food
We travelled to Yokohama for food and food alone, and this turned out to be a great decision! Yokohama is home to the largest Chinatown in all of Japan and Asia, and we were spoilt for choice when it came to street food.
We wasted no time hitting up the main pedestrian street where we sampled things like steamed buns stuffed with sweet beef and caramelized onions, shrimp and pork dumplings, sesame balls, egg tarts, bubble tea, and cute panda-shaped buns, just to name a few.
Aside from all the street food on offer, Yokohama Chinatown also had an abundance of restaurants ranging from open buffet to a la carte and budget eats to fine dining. We ended up finding a little restaurant on a small side lane where we ordered a spicy ramen soup and mapo tofu with rice.
We left Yokohama feeling stuffed beyond belief, yet knowing we had sampled a mere fraction of what this place has to offer.
Distance from Tokyo: 40 kilometres
A day trip in search of temples
Our day trip to Kamakura was all about exploring this coastal city’s shrines and temples – quite the tall order when you take into account the fact that Kamakura is home to 65 temples and 19 shrines, some of which date as far back as the 8th century! Since we only had one day in Kamakura, we decided to focus on just 3 attractions.
First up, we visited Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, a Shinto shrine that is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of samurais. This temple was a short walk from the train station and we enjoyed getting to stroll the grounds where we came face to face with a massive wall of sake offerings.
From there, we continued on to Kotoku-in, a temple that’s home to the second-largest Buddha in all of Japan. It stands 11.4 meters tall and since it’s hollow inside, it’s open to visitors, though we opted out since we were visiting Japan in the middle of summer!
The third temple we visited was Hasedera, most famous for its eleven-headed statue of the Goddess of Mercy, though we were most impressed by the Benzaiten Grotto, which was basically a long cave with carvings and statues that adorned its walls.
In between all the shrine and temple hopping, we also managed to walk the full length of Komachi-dori; this is a pedestrian street that is lined with small restaurants, cafes, and street vendors serving up delicious street food, so we sampled some of the local eats.
Distance from Tokyo: 55 kilometres
A day trip in search of nature
As much as we enjoyed Tokyo, towards the end of our stay we were craving some time closer to nature and Mount Takao proved to be the perfect escape. Located just 1 hour away from Tokyo, Mount Takao felt worlds away from the city’s rapid pace.
Some of the highlights from this day trip included feasting on soba noodles at a little restaurant at the base of the mountain, strolling through a cedar-lined path on our way to visit the main temple, and sampling lots of street food from the vendors that line the mountain path. A quick heads up: you won’t go hungry on Mount Takao!
This was a really fun day trip from Tokyo and I would say it’s a great option even for non-hikers. Mount Takao stands 599 meters tall, but there are a few different ways to get halfway up the mountain including a funicular (the steepest in all of Japan) and a chair lift. From there, the “hike” to the top is actually a very light stroll with only a few sets of stairs along the way.
Distance from Tokyo: 50 kilometres
A day trip in search of culture
So technically Sam and I spent a few days in Nikko, but since it’s a popular day trip from Tokyo, I decided to include it on this list.
Nikko is a small city, that really feels more like a town, and it is best known for its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples scattered in the forest – a few of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Some of the main attractions in Nikko include Tosho-gu, a shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu who was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate; the Shinkyo Bridge, which legend says was formed by two big snakes intertwining to allow passage across the river; and Rinno-ji, a temple with elaborate wood carvings that also houses gilded wooden Buddha statues.
A day trip to Nikko might be a bit rushed to venture further afield and cruise on Lake Chuzenji, marvel at Kegon Falls, or unwind at Kinugawa Onsen, but there is plenty to enjoy in the town.
This is by far the furthest Tokyo day trip I’ve listed, so if you want to maximize your time, it’s best to start early. You can always nap on the train, but don’t miss the final approach into the Nikko where you’ll be treated to stunning forest and mountain views.
Distance from Tokyo: 149 kilometres
Of course, there are only so many day trips we could squeeze into our 1-month stay, so feel free to chime in the comments if you have any other suggestions of fun and easy Tokyo day trips to add to this list!