Tokyo is one of the world’s greatest cities, and this becomes readily apparent as you explore it on our scholar-led walking tours. After a few days of shopping and skyscraper-ogling, though, you might find yourself fiending for open skies and nature scenes. If you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle, just hop the train to see a different side of Japan. These are our top three day trips from Tokyo—all under an hour from the city.
Less than an hour from central Tokyo is a world away from the mad crush of people that fill every square meter of the city. Mount Takao is best known for its tranquil hiking trails, of which there are several leading to the nearly 600-meter summit. The hike to the top takes about 90 minutes—half that if you hop the cable car or the chair lift—and trekkers making day trips from Tokyo are rewarded with sweeping views of Tokyo and, on clear days, even Mt. Fuji. Truly keen hikers can keep going beyond the mountain’s summit, treading paths that connect to Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. Along the paths are shrines, steles and, near the summit, Buddhist temple Yakuo-in. A well-known spot for viewing Fall foliage and Spring cherry blossoms, it’s best to visit on weekdays to avoid crowds at that time of the year.
Take the Keio express line from Shinjuku to the line’s terminus, Takaosanguchi, at the bottom of the mountain (¥390) or, if you have a JR Pass, take the JR Chuo line from Shinjuku to Takao Station and then change to the Keio line one more stop to Takaosanguchi.
If you’re looking to spend quality time in the water on your day trips from Tokyo, trade your walking shoes for flip flops and board the train for Atami, which has been providing Tokyoites with respite since the 8th century CE. The seaside city, who name translates to “hot ocean,” is known for its naturally occurring hot springs. These are not onsen—traditional baths that take their water from hot springs—but the springs themselves. Before taking a soak, stretch your legs at Kinomiya Shrine, 15 minutes’ walk from Atami. The shrine is home to a 1,300-year-old tree that’s believed to give an extra year of life to anyone who walks around it. Cool down inside the MOA Museum of Art (¥1,600), whose contemporary entrance belies its collection of traditional Japanese and Chinese paintings and ceramics, lacquerware, calligraphy, and sculpture.
Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Atami (40-50 minutes, ¥3,670/one-way non-reserved seat). This ticket is included in the JR Pass but not the JR East or JR Kanto Area passes
Though it’s popular for its shaded hiking trails and tidy beach, what draws people on day trips from Tokyo to Kamakura is something bigger—Japan’s second-largest Buddha. The Great Buddha of Kamakura, at Kotokuin Temple, dates back to 1252 and stands 13 meters (43 feet) high. (The county’s largest is in Nara, south of Kyoto.) After gaping at this big Buddha, visit temple Hase-dera, which is surrounded by hundreds of tiny Jizo. These stone depictions of baby Buddha are believed to protect deceased children and as such are often dressed in knit hats and capes.
Take the JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station directly to Kamakura Station. or the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line bound for Zuchi from Shinjuku Station to Kamakura ( both 60 minutes, ¥920 one way). If you want to take the Enoden train around Kamakura when you arrive, the Enoshima Kamakura Pass includes round-trip travel from Shinjuku to Kamakura and use of the Enoden train (90 minutes, ¥1,4670 return).