Tokyo is an amazing city, with bright lights, weird cafes and hidden watering holes – no matter how long you stay there’s always something new to discover. However for some the flood of neon and constant city bustle can get a little much, especially for us Australians used to a little space and the urge to escape is a common one.
Thanks to its rather small landmass, and incredible public transport system one of the greatest things about Tokyo is its proximity to amazing locations outside of Tokyo.
If you’re looking for a beach getaway, a little hiking trek or historic adventure that won’t cut into too much of your precious holiday time, here are some great places to visit that are less than 90 minutes from the heart of Japan’s capital.
Though a separate city, Yokohama – Tokyo’s bayside sister is actually technically closer to the heart of Tokyo than other areas of the city. Just a 30-40 minute train ride from Shibuya station; this scenic port city is a fascinating hybrid of Japanese, Chinese and European culture.
Home to numerous food attractions (including the iconic Cup Noodle Museum) Yokohama is a culinary adventure. If cup noodles aren’t quite your thing, the city is also home to the biggest Chinatown in Asia. Featuring street after street of tabe-hodai (all you can eat) restaurants that’ll set you back less than $18, so it’s easy to fill your stomach without emptying your wallet.
Though it’s the second biggest city in Japan outside of Tokyo, Yokohama has a spacious, peaceful ambience to it, which makes it the perfect antidote for any visitor suffering from Shinjuku induced neon sign overdose.
A 90 minute train ride from Tokyo, Enoshima is an ideal getaway for those who want a little urban pallet cleanser. Though the beach may look a little greyer than what we’re used to in Australia, this laid back town offers a lot more than just sandy bays.
Enoshima is separated into a harbor, which is flanked by cute little yachts, and the main island which features all the cultural and touristy attractions worth checking out. For those wanting to experience a more historic side to the area there’s Enoshima Shrine, a shrine divided into three shines dotted all over the island.
If you have a bit of a green thumb you can visit Samuel Cocking Garden, a very British style flower park, or if you’re feeling more adventurous enter the deep, dark Iway Caves located on the back of the small mountain.
Once you’re finished exploring the island stop off for lunch at one of the many traditional Japanese restaurants dotted across the mountain coastline and unwind at the Enoshima Island Spa located on the rocky corner of the island entrance.
If you’re heading out of Tokyo to avoid crowds, don’t expect too much peace and quiet during the summer months. During July and August Enoshima beach is where visitors from neighboring cities and towns flock in the thousands to get respite from the sweltering heat.
Just a short and scenic train ride east from Enoshima is one of Japan’s most historic towns. Often referred to as ‘little Kyoto’ Kamakura is a traditional town, and was actually the political center of the country back in the early 1000s.
Though its admirable dedication to its rich historic roots can draw parallels to Kyoto, this place is far from a Kyoto copy. With its own distinctive history and scenery it’s an incredibly unique place.
Featuring more temples and shrines than you can count it’s the perfect place for a history buff. But if you’re the type of traveller who doesn’t feel the need to tick off every sightseeing spot on the list, the one ‘must visit’ attraction is the iconic ‘The Great Buddha of Kamakura’ (鎌倉大仏, Kamakura Daibutsu).
At 13.35 meters high this bronze sculpture is a stunning and iconic tribute to Japan’s spiritual dedication. Plus with so many tourists attempting to fit the monolithic statue in the Intragram travel photos it’s a great people watching spot.
Positioned only about 30 minutes northwest of central Tokyo, the Edo-period castle town of Kawagoe is a perfect afternoon train ride destination. Crammed with shrines, temples and dilapidated warehouses, this pocket of the city is a photographer’s delight.
During the beginnings of ‘hanami’ (aka cherry blossom viewing) season in April, locals and tourist swarm to the area to try and catch the early glimpses of the blossoming flowers.
Potentially however the biggest highlight of Kawagoe for the casual tourist is ‘candy alley’. Tucked just around the corner from the warehouse district, ‘Candy Alley’ is exactly what you’d expect – an alleyway featuring some of Japan’s most delicious and unique candy.
Today only 20 or so stalls still exist, however it’s still a lovely trip into the history of the city post the Great Earthquake of 1923. Be ambitious and pick up something you don’t recognize, unlike more throwaway western attitude, the Japanese take their sweets business very seriously.
If you have a craving to really get out and experience the rich natural beauty of Japan, but you don’t have too much time up your sleeve, Mt Takao should be on the top of your list.
An easy 50-minute train ride from Shinjuku station, Mount Takao or ‘Takao San’ for the locals, is a breathtaking network of mountainous hiking trails. Don’t let the idea of physical exertion put you off; there are paths for every fitness level.
Lush with wildlife and vegetation the walk also featuring a Monkey park worth a quick pop in and the best thing about Takao? On a clear day, climbers can peer from the top of Takao and spot the neighboring Mount Fuji, two for one!
The best time to visit Takao is during the autumn months when the foliage, which blankets the whole mountain, transitions from green to a fiery red and gold.
Photos by the author.