Question

I need some good day trips in and around Tokyo. Any recommendations?

My girlfriend and I will be spending a week in Tokyo and we need some good day trip itineraries. We also need suggestions on good restaurants and advise on how to find our way in Tokyo.

Location

City: Edo

Prefecture: Tokyo

Country: Japan

Answers

First, I am assuming you don't live in Japan nor speak the language, so the following information is suggested with that in mind....it really depends on what you want to check out in Tokyo, but you might consider the following ideas:

1. Asakusa (temple, souvenir shopping) - boat down to Hamarikyu gardens (where you can have Japanese tea and sweet while enjoy the tranquil surroundings in the middle of a big city) - walk to Ginza for a evening stroll and dinner there. [you can also take the boat all the way down to Odaiba for the afternoon and sunset, looking at Tokyo city across Tokyo Bay...)

2. Meiji shrine (Harajuku) - Takeshita street - Omotesando - Shibuya for the evening.

3. Imperial Palace near Tokyo station - walk to Ginza - Shinjuku Tocho towers for a nice look out of the city around sunset is great, on a clear day you see Mt. Fuji, with the sun setting and all the lights come up, it's a fantastic view (or you can go to the Bunkyo ward visitor center at Korakuen, equally stunning and both are free to enter)

4. Ueno park (zoo, galleries and museums) - Ameyoko markets - Akihabara (Electric Town) - Shibuya or Shinjuku (better at night with all the lights and people)

All these are just some possible itineraries within the city, if you are looking to get out of Tokyo for a day trip, then:

1. Hakone (with early morning start you can do a day trip no problem, and if the weather's fine, you'll get to see Mt. Fuji from Lake Ashinoko. Hot spring is a must if you have time)

2. Kamakura (old capital) + Enoshima at sunset (can also see Fuji if the sky is clear) or instead, you could go to Sakuragicho (Yokohama) for the evening.

3. Nikko (again, early morning will get you plenty of time to see most of the famous places, including first going up Mt. Nantai, see the Kegon waterfall and Lake Chuzenji, then go down to the temples by around 1 and you can still see them all with ample time)

4. Mt. Fuji day trip: well, actually it's choosing one of the lakes around Fuji, and I recommend Kawaguchi Lake because it's easier to get to. It takes about 2.5 hours from Shinjuku by train (also depends on whether you want to pay more for the express train or not). If weather permits, you will have a nice and relaxing day strolling around the lake, looking at the grand volcano from up close. You can also go half way up the mountain by bus, or go around it to see some ice caves. (hot spring is also great if you have time)

There are other places like Odaiba,gardens like Rikugien, towns like Roppongi (for Roppongi Hills, museums and night clubs)...so it really depends on what you absolutely want to see and do.

As for restaurants, there are plenty but if you don't speak Japanese then most can be tricky. It also depends on if you want very authentic Japanese establishments, ones that accommodate foreigners, or non-Japanese restaurants. Any particular preferences?

As for getting around in Tokyo, there are plenty of signs here and there, many also written in Roman letters or English, with maps displayed all around, but that tend to become more confusing than helpful. The subway and train maps can also look very daunting at first, but as a rule, if you are lost, asking people in the streets, at station counters in simple, clear English should suffice. Alternatively, a good map of Tokyo in English can also be helpful. Many maps and tourist guides are provided in English at various places, but you can pick up a copy at Narita Airport, if that's where you are coming in from.

Anyway, I don't know if any of that was helpful to you, but if you let me know more details of what you are looking to do and see here, I might be able to help further :)
Find a good guide book, and follow the advice above! It is good.
The only thing I could add is "get as far out of Tokyo as possible."
Let's face it, a city is a city. It may be Paris, Rome or New York, still...its a city.

The real flavor of a country is not found in the cities.
I spent 5 days in Tokyo staying with my friend who lives in Shinjuku.
In Shinjuku, you can find the Toyo Tower (Tokyo Government Building) which has an observatory at the top (it's free). In the lobby on the ground floor, they have single page English tourism sheets for Roppongi (the expensive darling area for Tokyo's fashion-conscious shoppers), Akihabara (the electronics district), Asakusa (where the Asahi Beer company's crazy building stands and amazing temples), plus other nice places around the area. Definitely pick up these. They have English maps on these information sheets and recommended walking routes for each area to get the most out of your time.

For cultural delights, I would recommend:
The Imperial Palace in Chiyoda Prefecture (Chiyoda-ku). Get off the subway at Otemachi Station (there is no "Tokyo Station" on the subway, it is called Otemachi. The Tokyo Station is the line where the Shinkansens come and go), and you walk down the road for a kilometre or so. It's huge, so you will spend at least 30 minutes walking through the grounds and taking photos. I can't remember if I paid admission or not. I think it was free.
While you're there, Yasukini Shrine is within walking distance. They have a huge Torii (gate) out the front, and if I remember correctly, they use the cherry blossoms at that shrine to measure the start of the blooming season. It's a nice and big shrine!

Shibuya. Outside the station, you will find the biggest and most famous pedestrian crossing in Asia. Featured in many movies. It is quite a spectacle walking around there at night with the neon lights and watching hundreds of bodies crossing the road at once.

Harajuku. You will see the famous Meiji bridge (Meiji-jingu) where the people dress up in the crazy outfits. Try and go on a weekend or Friday when they're more likely to be there, I didn't see anyone because I went on a week day. Across this bridge you will also see the Meiji Shrine, after walking a long distance through a grove of trees, but to see the huge Torii (gates) and the shrine at the end, it is worth the walk.
You will see lots of people in this area out shopping in the expensive outlets, and also you will be greeted by a swarm of bodies at Takeshita-Dori, a laneway marketplace just outside Harajuku station.

Asakusa. Here you will find the Asahi Breweries building (which is a very odd sight indeed), there are ferries that go up and down the river, and you must, must, MUST see Asakusa-jinja (Asakusa Shrine). It is huge, and beautiful. Just before you reach the shrine, there is a marketplace swarming with people and then at the end of the road you catch a glimpse of this huge, marvellous shrine.
(Do not confuse this place name with AKAsaka- they are different places in Tokyo!)

Ikebukuro. I went there in the evening to visit the Sunshine City building with my friend for dinner. We went to a great make your own monjayaki restaurant (rice omelette style thing made with vegetables on a hot plate). The building has an observatory on the top floor, the lift itself is an experience. At the top, it's very Sleepless in Seattle, with a commanding view of the surrounding area! They even have soft music playing to set the mood. I think it's around 500 yen per person to go to the top.

Tsukiji Fish Markets. Go first thing in the morning to experience the bustle of the early trading. I was actually sick so I slept in and went at lunch time. There are restaurants/food stalls at the markets so you can eat the fresh seafood. At lunch time there were big queues to eat there. It was extremely delicious, by the way.

If you have time to relax for a few hours, try and see a performance at the Ginza theatre. There is a subway station right out front. I've been told they sometimes do 1hr performances there, but I didn't have time to go. The building is lovely to look at though. Near the theatre there is a huge park (you have to pay admission) but looked pleasant enough, if your feet weren't already blistering by then you could check it out! It's called Hama-rikyu Gardens. Ginza and Tsukiji are pretty close so you could walk to all of the attractions.

Roppongi. Bustling night life, and a few lah-dee-dah shopping places to visit (Tokyo Midtown, and Roppongi Hills). The only problem I had with these places was the brand names were either French or English, so it wasn't a great place to get a cultural experience. The gardens at Roppongi Hills are nice though. It made me think of Hollywood a little because it had an expensive air about it.

Re. Akihabara. I wasn't overly impressed. I was expecting a bit more "futuristic" stuff from there, but my friend told me the place has lost some of it's buzz from a recent (at the time) stabbing in the area. They have lots of gaming places and technology shops. If you're not into electronics, you might get bored. I went in September last year though, so it could be revived, I'm not sure.

Hope this helps!
If you are interested in a cultural day trip from Tokyo, be sure to visit my home town, Kamakura. It is an old capital city and there are a lot of beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines here.

Kamakura has three nationally designated places of scenic beauty; Engakuji Temple’s Byakurochi pond and Myokochi pond, the garden at Kenchoji Temple and the garden at Zuisenji Temple.

Leave Tokyo at eight at the latest, take JR Yokosuka/Sobu line from Tokyo, Shimbashi or Shinagawa and get off at Kitakamakura. From the station, Engakuji temple is within a short walking distance. From there, you can walk to Kenchoji, about a 15-minute walk. These two temples are working temples and pretty impressive in their size and simple beauty. They are both temples of zen sect.

After visiting Kenchoji temple, keep walking to Hachimangu shrine. It's the shrine that Minamoto no Yoritomo (the first shogun in Japan) had built to wish for the safe delivery of their fiest child. It is the biggest and the most famous shrine in Kamakura.

Walk through Hachimangu shrine,come out at the main gate and walk towards Kamakura station. You can walk on the main road called Wakamiya Ohji or swing towards left to walk on Komachi Dori. Komachi Dori has many small shops and restaurants and you might want to stop at a restaurant for luch on Komachi Dori. If you like sushi and would like to try a sushi-go-around restaurant, there is one very close to the station on the left hand side on the second floor of a building.

Once you get to the station, take a bus to go to Hokokuji and Jyomyoji temples. (Go to the bus stop #5 and get on a bus that has the number 23, 24 or 36 and get off at the Jyomyoji stop. The fare is 190 yen.) Hokokuji and Jyomyoji temples are close together and they both have beautiful gardens. Hokokuji is famous for its bamboo garden and Jyomyoji for its dry rock garden. Both temples offer ceremonial green tea for a fee. I recommend you get some at Jyomyoji for you can sit on a tatami-matted floor and enjoy the tea as you view the garden. Please note that these two temples close early, like around 4 pm if I remember it correctly.

Now, you want to go back to Kamakura station by bus. (Simply go to the bus stop on the Hokokuji side of the road and take any bus that comes by.) At the station, take another bus to go to Hase Kannon and Daibutsu (Kohtokuji) You can catch a bus at either the bus stop #1 or #6 and take any bus that comes by. You want to first get off at Hase Kannon bus stop (The fare is 190 yen.) and visit Hase Kannon temple, then walk to Daibutsu. Although Daibutsu is more famous than Hase Kannon, I find Hase Kannon more interesting and beautiful. If the skies are clear, you will be able to see Mt. Fuji from Hase Kannon, too. There is also a tea house where you can sit down, eat and drink something and rest. To go back to Kamakura station, go to the nearest bus stop and take any bus that comes by on the Daibutsu side of the road. By the way, in Kamakura, you pay the bus fare when you get off the bus. If you don’t have the exact change, you can use the changing machine by the driver.

This is usually the maximum I can do with my visitor for one day, but if you are energetic and physically fit, you might want to visit Enoshima after visiting Daibutsu. To go to Enoshima after visiting Daibutsu, walk towards Hase Kannon and keep walking past it towards the beach. About 150 meters past Hase Kannon, you will see a tiny train station on your left hand side. Buy a ticket at one of the ticket vending machine to Enoshima and get on this cute little train. The fare is 250 yen and Enoshima is the 6th stop from Hase. This train runs very close to people’s houses in some places and you can sometimes see people watching TV or eating at their tables. You will enjoy the scenery of the ocean, too. Once you get to Enoshima station, walk to the island, Enoshima Island, that is, and hike up to the top or pay a fee to take a series of escalators all the way to the top. There is a tower on top of the hill and you can pay a fee to go up in the tower.

Enoshima is an unique place, an old fashioned place. My American husband loves this place and never gets tired of hiking around on this island. We go there to wish for different things at the shrines and so far, all our wishes have come true!

To go back to Kamakura station, you can take the little train again. (It’s called Enoden.) Kamakura station is the last station on the line.
you can visit the old town in nara than you can see many temples there. than go to the north to hokkaidou. it's a cold town.
You could spend a day or two in Yokohama Minato Mirai. It is Japan's second largest city in terms of population. Now called Minato Mirai 21 (MM21) includes Japan's tallest building the Yokohama Landmark Tower, a large Ferris wheel called "Cosmo Clock 21," and the city's new landmark, Yokohama Akarenga (Red Brick Warehouse). The Red Brick Warehouse has great restaurants, music, ice skating, & day cruises to offer. Have fun! ;)
For a day trip from Tokyo, I highly recommend Nikko. It's about 1-2 hours away from Tokyo and you can see the Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site and final resting place of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nearby is the beautiful Kegon Falls, one of the top three waterfalls in Japan.

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