When you started making your Tokyo travel itinerary, did you focus mostly on downtown areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku? In fact, there are many bucket list-worthy spots just around 1-2 hours outside Tokyo!
These are the kinds of spots where you can dip into Japan's history and culture, plus enjoy onsen hot springs, theme parks and more. As they are quite easy to access, you don't have to worry about taking a detour.
Here we'll introduce popular tourist spots in Tokyo's suburbs that are easy to reach from Tokyo and completely worth visiting.
7 recommended Tokyo suburbs:
★ "Nikko" is a historical wonderland and home to world heritage Toshogu Shrine.
★ "Karuizawa" is a place filled with a romantic and fashionable European atmosphere.
★ "Kawagoe" retains the atmosphere and buildings of Old Tokyo.
★ "Kamakura" is a laid-back coastal city that was once Japan's capital - and is now filled with gorgeous temples and shops.
★ "Hakone" has a beautiful lake, mountains and world-famous hot springs.
★ "Chichibu" has a spectacular shibazakura blossom blanket and fantastic intangible cultural heritage, the Chichibu Night Festival.
★ "Hitachi Seaside Park" offers a beautiful view of a sea of gorgeous blue flowers that has been praised all across social media.
1. Nikko: Beautiful world heritage, Toshogu Shrine / Edo-style street view
Nikko, home to world-renowned Toshogu Shrine, is located just north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture. It is an area full of beautiful natural scenery that's stunning in every season. It is only about 2 hours' train ride from Tokyo, and you can enjoy being surrounded by ancient monuments, temples, and the comforting blanket of fresh air and refreshing nature.
★ Access to Nikko:
1) Take JR Nikko / Tobu Spacia Nikko / Kinugawa from Tokyo to JR Nikko Station or Tobu Nikko Station, about 2 hours
★ The most popular attractions recommended:
Nikko Toshogu Shrine is named in honor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun general in the Edo period. Its history goes back more than 400 years. There are many national treasures here, namely multi-colored sculptures in the hands of the well-known sculptor Sato Goro.
Among them, the most famous is the "Three wise monkeys", carved in the shapes of proverbial principles: "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", and the lifelike "Sleeping cat" animal sculpture; it is full of luxurious and rich architectural style and art.
There are 55 national cultural treasures, including 8 national treasures, 34 important cultural properties, etc. in the Nikko Toshogu area. It is also registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is definitely the first place not to be missed when visiting Nikko. An attraction you'll remember forever.
If you want to experience the magnificence of the Edo era in Japan 400 years ago, you must visit Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura! The streets of the Edo era are fully displayed in this expansive historical theme park, and there are many fun facilities and traditional performances to enjoy. If you feel that it is not enough, you can also change into period clothes and enjoy playing the role of a period actor. Anything you choose!
In addition, in Nikko Edomura, you can also enjoy a local variety of soba noodles, one of the three old Edo-style buckwheat genres, plus join in grilling your own scallops. It's the perfect place for families; children are sure to have a blast.
Lake Chuzenji, a famous spot where you can enjoy the appearance of different seasons, is a beautiful lake formed by a volcanic eruption 20,000 years ago. It is also the highest lake in Japan. There are perfect leisure facilities around the lake and different activities to enjoy, such as kayaking or taking the sightseeing ferry around the lake. With hotels and restaurants, you can enjoy the natural beauty of all seasons.
2. Karuizawa: Romance in modern style! A summer resort for shopping
Karuizawa, which can be reached in about an hour by the Shinkansen from Tokyo, was first used as a lodging place for travellers (similar to a highway rest station) in the Edo period.
Later, in 1886, a missionary from Canada, Alexander Croft Shaw, found that the natural beauty of Karuizawa was similar to his hometown, so he built a villa and began to introduce more people to the area. Since then, many foreigners have also come here to build villas and commercial facilities. Over time, Karuizawa turned into a resort town full of European style.
Now, one of the best-known features of Karuizawa is that because its location in the highlands and surrounded by verdant greenery, it can still be cool and pleasant in the hot summer. As a result, it is a popular summer getaway in the hearts of Tokyo people. In autumn it is filled with beautiful maple leaves, and in winter here you can find one of the closest ski resorts to Tokyo.
★ Access to Karuizawa:
1) Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Karuizawa Station. The time required is about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
2) After arriving at Karuizawa Station, you can use the Karuizawa Loop Bus to transfer to many popular spots
When arriving at Karuizawa Station, the closest attraction to the station is the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza Outlet. It is only a 3-minute walk from the south exit of JR Karuizawa Station to the shopping complex.
This outlet is loved very much by foreign tourists. There are about 240 well-known brands and restaurants gathered here for your shopping enjoyment. It is also one of the most scenic outlets in the suburbs of Tokyo. The park and beautiful lakeside scenery make shopping here feel very comfortable indeed!
The "cloud-filled pond" nearby is listed as one of the must-visit places to visit in Karuizawa. The calm and tranquil water of the lake will reflect the different hues of the surrounding forest and blue sky; it's stunning in every season.
There are also perfect walking trails around the lake, as well as restaurants and cafes. Whether you're looking to enjoy walking, cycling or just dining with beautiful views, it is a very fun area to visit!
Another of Karuizawa's most representative attractions is the Karuizawa St. Paul Catholic Church. This building is hidden in the lush and quiet forest and has a European-style wooden building with a steep angled roof. The romantic and beautiful atmosphere is permeating, and it also attracts many couples who want to propose to each other - or even hold their wedding here.
The Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort is also one of the closest ski resorts to Tokyo. The snow quality is good and there are several ski courses with different levels of difficulty, so that adults and children alike can enjoy the joy of skiing together.
3. Kawagoe: A town that retains the style of the Edo period
Recent years have seen the historical town of Kawagoe drawn into the spotlight. Located north of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, Kawagoe can be reached in about half an hour from Tokyo.
Kawagoe retains a lot of cultural monuments and buildings from the Edo period, and is full of strong Edo charm. The unique landscape formed by modern buildings co-existing with preserved treasures is incredible; there are many well-known old shops and foods in the area as well.
As with many of Japan's historical cities, it's popular for visitors to dress up in kimonos to experience the authentic Japanese culture in Kawagoe. Tourists from all over the world have said that this place is definitely an ideal sightseeing place to feel the traditional Japanese atmosphere - so half-day or full-day trips to Kawagoe are becoming more and more popular with tourists.
★ Getting to Kawagoe:
1) From the heart of Tokyo to Kawagoe Station / Hon Kawagoe Station
・ Take the Tobu Tojo Line from Ikebukuro Station to Kawagoe Station, about 30 minutes
・ Take the JR Saikyo Line from Shinjuku Station, then transfer to the JR Kawagoe Line to Kawagoe Station, about 51 minutes
・ From Shibuya Station to Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line directly to Kawagoe Station, about 60 minutes
・ From Seibu Shinjuku Station to Seibu Shinjuku Line to Hon Kawagoe Station, about 60 minutes
2) The closest station to the old street and the Time Bell Tower (Toki no kane) is Kawagoe Station
3) The closest station to Komiya Yokocho is Kawagoe Station
★ Must-visit attractions and facilities:
The most representative scene of Kawagoe is the Taisho Roman Dori street, along which old storehouse-like houses with black plaster walls and tiled roofs are situated. Many date back to the Edo period. There are many specialty shops, restaurants and snack bars on the sides of the street and in the alleyways between the buildings.
There is also a very famous and famous landmark, Time Bell Tower (Toki no kane). This 16-meter-high bell tower has provided timekeeping services to residents since 400 years ago.
Seiya-san Muryōshuji Kita-in, a Buddhist temple, is another must-see historical building in the area; it is said that ruins related to General Tokugawa are also preserved. This is also a famous cherry blossom viewing place that attracts countless tourists to come to see the flowers every year when they are in bloom!
If you want to pray for love, good marriage, good relationships, etc., you must come to Kawagoe's Hikawa Shrine! This shrine, which is about 1500 years old, is famous for praying for good connections. A number of fancy ornaments and prayer boards can be found here, filled with warm-hearted dedications. Between July and early September is the season of wind chimes here: some 2,000 wind chimes are hung around the shrine. When the wind blows, the chimes swaying and ringing crisply and sweetly -the beautiful pictures and videos you take will definitely make you popular across social media!
There are a lot of food and snacks to choose from in the old street. The first thing to recommend is the eel bowl found at century-old specialty shop Ogawa Kiku; these are made with carefully selected Japanese eel with fresh and fatty meat. The stores seventh-generation secret eel sauce is incredibly appetizing as well!
Candy Alley (Kashiya Yokocho) is another street where you can buy candy and snacks from all over Japan. Not only can you find cute and nostalgic sweets, but the many handmade treats in beautiful packaging are also perfect for bringing home as gifts.
4. Kamakura: A refreshing oceanside place filled with history
The Kamakura-Enoshima area should be high on the list of any day trip to the suburbs of Tokyo; it is located in Kanagawa City. It can be easily reached by train in about an hour from Tokyo.
This area has a long history as one of Japan's former ancient capitals, and here you can find various temples and shrines, and countless picturesque views. The coastline scenery, fun water activities, and vast assortment of snacks and foods are fun in any season. It's a great area for all ages, and whether you're solo, in a group, or with family, it has been a favorite destination for tourists. It is also the location of many Japanese dramas. Its charm makes compels tourists not only visit once, but also attracts many people to come back repeatedly for further exploration!
★ Access to Kamakura:
1) From Shinjuku Station, take the Odakyu Electric Railway to Fujisawa Station. At Fujisawa Station, you can transfer to Enoshima Electric Railway. Or take Katase Enoshima Station to Enoshima.
2) Take the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line from Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Shibuya Stations to Ofuna Station, Kita-Kamakura Station, Kamakura Station, or Fujisawa Station and transfer. At Ofuna Station, you can take the Shonan Monorail to Enoshima; at Fujisawa Station and Kamakura Station, you can take the Enoshima Electric Railway.
3) From Ueno, Tokyo, Shinagawa Station, take the JR Ueno-Tokyo Line, JR Keihin Tohoku Line, JR Yokosuka Line to Ofuna Station, Kita Kamakura Station, Kamakura Station, or Fujisawa Station. At Ofuna Station, you can take the Shonan Monorail to Enoshima; at Fujisawa Station and Kamakura Station, you can take the Enoshima Electric Railway.
4) You can use Kamakura / Enoshima Pass, Enoden One Day Pass, etc. to enjoy unlimited travel between Kamakura and Enoshima.
★ Must-visit attractions and facilities:
The Kamakura and Enoshima areas, which are splendid all year round, have countless sightseeing spots and facilities.
Kamakura, which has a strong ancient capital style, has many ancient historic sites, such as Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Among them, Meigetsuin Shrine, which has the reputation of being the Hydrangea Temple, is a must-visit spot. The ancient temple is full of tranquility on weekdays. During the annual rainy season, about 2,500 hydrangeas bloom around the temple grounds.
The limitless scenery is full of style! From Hase Station on the Enoden Railway, you can access one of the area's key draws: the Kamakura Daibutsu, or Great Buddha of Kamakura, which was built in 1252 AD.
The level crossing near Kamakura High School train stop is a very impressive scene - and featured in the manga Slam Dunk. Here you'll see many tourists from around Asia who are looking for the perfect photo angle.
Finally, don’t forget to visit the old streets of Enoshima and taste a lot of the local fish and other cuisine! The island also has facilities such as beaches, hot spring, aquarium, observation decks, etc., and beautiful scenery that is completely different from day to evening to night, which can make people completely relax and forget the time and have a wonderful day! Plus you can get the perfect sunset photos of Mt. Fuji right here.
There are a lot of restaurants and cafes along the Enoshima coast. Among them, Amalfi Della Sera Kamakura restaurant offers excellent sea views. When the weather is good, you can eat pizza and other delectable Italian dishes.
If you are a railway fan and you want to enjoy the retro and nostalgic Enoshima Electric Railway, you can see the YORIDOKORO ancient folk house cafe, in front of which the railway passes by. You will definitely fall in love! The menu is reasonably priced and filled with tummy-satisfying treats.
Enoshima also is famous for its seafood, and here you'll find a variety of seafood bowls and other dishes. There are many restaurants that provide food prepared with bonito, and the must-try is the raw and sweet bonito; for those squeamish about eating raw fish, they also have boiled bonito.
On the old streets near Enoshima Shrine, you'll find a delicious snack - "Octopus Scallops". It is also highly recommended to try! On the iron plate with a temperature of nearly 200 degrees, octopus meat is quickly pressed into delicious pancakes. The crispy senbei has a seductive aroma and a sweet and salty taste.
5. Hakone: Well-known hot spring spot with scenic lake and mountains
Hakone is a well-known hot springs resort and natural scenic area that is about 90 minutes from the outskirts of Tokyo. Hakone is also an area popular for fans of Mount Fuji to visit, as it is offers a variety of different angles and scenery with the mountain.
★ Access to Hakone:
1) Take the Odakyu Electric Railway Romancecar from Shinjuku Station to Hakone Yumoto Station, about 85 minutes
2) You can use the Hakone Freepass by Odakyu Electric Railway to travel around Hakone
★ The most popular attractions recommended:
If you want to enjoy the magnificent scenery of Hakone's magnificent lakes and lakes, come and take a fun 'pirate boat' ride around and see Lake Ashi!
Done in the shape of a real battleship from the 17th to 18th centuries, you'll love the beautifully carved Hakone Lake Ashi sightseeing boat.
Cruising along Lake Ashi, you can admire Mount Fuji, the huge red torii that stands by the lake, and the Hakone Shrine. Its popularity has become one of the must-see activities for tourists from all over the world.
In addition to leisurely boat rides, you can also choose to take the cable car to overlook the majestic Hakone scenery from higher up.
In about half an hour of riding time, you can see all of the main sights of the area: Owakudani, Choshi, and Lake Ashi. In addition, there are many well-known hot springs facilities in Hakone.
One of the 17 most famous onsen in Hakone, Sengishihara Onsen, is widely praised for its effect on beautifying the skin. You can indulge in the tranquil scenery of Mount Fuji while enjoying the hot springs in the open-air bath with a great view. The ultimate getaway!
6. Chichibu: Spectacular Shibazakura flower blanket / Gorgeous Chichibu Night Festival are all here!
Chichibu is located in Saitama, Japan. You can reach this city full of nature and history in about 80 minutes via the Seibu Railway from Ikebukuro.
There are many natural sights in the Chichibu region; it's filled with lush green mountains and clear rivers. Chichibu also has a lot of outdoor activities in addition to relaxing hot springs.
In addition, every year from April to May when the purple-pink Shibazakura moss phlox is in full bloom, it will attract countless locals and foreign tourists. And in winter, the annual Chichibu Night Festival is even more popular.
★ Access to Chichibu:
1) Take the Seibu Ikebukuro - Chichibu Line from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo to Chichibu Station, about 78 minutes
2) You can also purchase Seibu Railway's 1-day / 2-day ticket for Seibu Railway
★ Must-visit attractions and facilities:
When the cherry blossom season in Tokyo ends in early April, if you feel that you need to see more, then come to Chichibu to enjoy the shibazakura 'cherry blossoms'!
A large area of shibazakura is planted in the vast Shibazakura no Oka Park in the heart of Chichibu. Shibazakura bloom from April to May each year. There are 9 types of shibazakura, ranging from pink, and white to blue-purple. They are scattered around the hills, and the carpet is full of beautiful flowers.
The hills become a dreamlike canvas, and the scale is one of the best in the Kanto region! Shibazakura have a beauty that is quite different from cherry blossoms, and they linger a little while longer as well. Tourists can enjoy seeing them for around one full month.
During the shibazakura season each year, Shibazakura no Oka Park will also hold a "Shibazakura Festival", which gathers special food markets such as Yatai delicious snack vendors, Chichibu local agricultural products, and handicrafts. You can also enjoy food while enjoying flowers, and you can visit local specialty markets. It is definitely recommended to visit!
Chichibu Shrine, which has a history of more than 2,000 years, has been incense-filled since ancient times. The main shrine inside was reconstructed by Tokugawa Ieyasu and has a strong Edo period architectural style. There are also many beautiful carved decorations by the same sculptor of Nikko Toshogu that deserve to be seen as well.
In addition, in late December the "Chichibu Night Festival" held by the Chichibu Shrine is one of the few grand fireworks and traditional festivals held in winter. This is a local traditional festival with more than 300 years. During the festival, there were many huge and ornately decorated floats. Down the streets they will run, with an incredibly vivid fireworks display goes, attracting countless tourists from Japan and abroad. It is on par with Kyoto's Gion Festival and the Hida Takayama Festival, and is listed as one of Japan's three major float festivals.
There are also many natural hot springs in the Chichibu area. The most convenient one is the onsen facility located next to Seibu Chichibu Station. Here there are 19 kinds of baths with different spring qualities and curative effects. You can choose according to your preferences and needs; you can also enjoy delicious food afterward!
7. Hitachi: Come and take beautiful pictures of seasonal flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park!
Hitachi Seaside Park is a state-run public park with a total area of around 2 million square meters. It's located in Ibaraki Prefecture facing the Pacific Ocean.
If only the name of the park is mentioned, many people may not know it, but when it comes to "the gorgeous blue flower field in Japan", a large and picturesque flower field of nemophila should immediately come to mind. And this picture is the famous flower landscape found at Hitachi Seaside Park!
In recent years, it has been designated by countless tourists as a must-visit spot to see the magnificent scenery in person. And not only gorgeous nemophila, but also tulips and many types of seasonal flowers can be enjoyed. In addition, the park has a wide range of facilities, including an amusement park area for family fun, a sports plaza, a bike trail, a golf course, a BBQ plaza ... it is quite perfect to bring family or friends here for a pleasant leisure time!
★ Access to Ibaraki Hitachi Park:
1) Take the JR Joban Line from Tokyo to Katsuta Station, about 1.5 hours
2) Take the bus and get off at Seaside Park West Exit or Seaside Park South Exit, about 20 minutes
★ The most popular attractions recommended:
Hitachi Seaside Park has beautiful flowers of different varieties throughout the year. There are daffodils, tulips, and canola in spring; lavender, sunflower, rose and green kochia (also called "broom-grass") in summer; and cosmos and vivid crimson kochia in autumn.
In particular, in the middle of April to early May each year, about 4.5 million blue nemophila flowers bloom throughout the hills adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. The sea of fantasy flowers that makes people feel like they're walking within a painting attracts millions of tourists every year. People will definitely want to get a selfie here!
In addition to walking tours, the park also provides different ways to explore; you can take a seaside train to roam the park and the flower fields, or rent a bicycle to relax in the park. Enjoy the fun of chasing wind inside.
A day trip outside Tokyo will allow you to experience a sense of life that is different from the bustling metropolis! It's here that you can find a completely different side of Japan, one that'll leave you with incredible memories, snapshots, and videos, while you can dive deeper into the history of Japan. Whether you're traveling solo or with friends or family, it's in these areas that you'll make new memories to cherish!