Adventure Iberia Plus

Tokyo Day Trips

Extend your trip to Japan’s capital by visiting nearby natural paradises. Sail among the mountains in Nagatoro in Saitama Prefecture. Marvel at the largest stone Buddha in Nokogiriyama, Chiba. Or take in the best view of Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture’s Arakurayama Sengen Park. Join us on these and other day trips from Tokyo.

The first option for anyone wishing to get to know Japan a little more thoroughly is the picturesque village of Nagatoro, a town nestled in the mountains on the banks of the River Arakawa. By the 19th century, it had already became a popular destination for enjoying the virgin forests of the island of Honshū. Today, tourists travel to Nagotoro to admire its famous Iwadatami rock formations from traditional boats, or even experience a rush of adrenaline riding the rapids on rafts. The area is also a top spot for lovers of outdoor sports, such as hiking. On Mount Hodo you can take routes suitable for all levels, observing the natural changes that transform the landscape over the seasons (in November, ‘wintersweet’, the only flower that emerges at this time of year, blossoms). You can reach Nagatoro from Tokyo by train, taking the Seibu Line to Seibu-Chichibu Station or the Tobu Line to Yorii Station, then boarding the train that will take you to the historic, centuries-old Nagatoro Station.

Escena otoñal (por los colores del bosque) en los rápidos de Nagatoro.
Autumn scene at the Nagatoro rapids

Although it’s further from Tokyo (the train ride usually takes three hours), the city of Nara, in the south of the island, is a must-see destination to learn about the more traditional side of Japan. It is famous for Nara Park, next to Mount Wakakusa, inhabited by a large population of tame deer that roam freely throughout the town, approaching visitors to receive shika senbei biscuits, which are sold in the area specifically to feed these mammals (although the deer are accustomed to the presence of humans, remember to maintain a respectful attitude towards them and their environment). In Nara there are also eight historical and monumental sites declared World Heritage Sites by Unesco, such as the Tōdai-ji Buddhist temple, whose Daibutsuden (aka Great Buddha Hall) is the largest wooden building in the world – inside, it has a bronze Buddha that is 16m high – and the Kōfuku-ji Buddhist temple, with the second tallest pagoda in Japan. Nara was the country’s first imperial city and its capital between 710 and 784, so you can also visit the remains of Heijō Palace. With Japan’s so-called bullet train, the Shinkansen, you can reach Kyoto – another of the must-see cities – and from there connect via one of the trains connecting with Nara in a journey of 40 or 50 minutes.

Torre de la campana del templo Todaji de Nara
Bell Tower of Nara's Tōdai-ji temple

Mount Nokogiri, in the Kanto region, an hour and a half on the Sazanami special train that runs on weekends from Tokyo, is home to another Buddha. Towering more than 31m high, Nokogiri is the largest (ancient) Buddha in Japan. It was carved in granite directly on the same mountain. The sculpture was made in 1783 and is part of the Nihon-ji Temple complex founded in 725, during the Nara period. Its buildings are scattered throughout the area, connected to each other by roads that today have become hiking trails. One example is Sengohyaku Rakan, a path where you can see more than 1,500 smaller sculptures that are also carved directly into the rock. There are several viewpoints at the top of the 330m-high Mount Nokogiri. One is Jigoku Nozoki, known as ‘a peek into hell’, which offers a 360º panorama overlooking the Bōsō and Miura peninsulas (on the other side of the bay) and the Uraga Channel. Also visit Hyaku-Shalu Kannon, a 30m-high monument built in the 1960s in memory of the victims of World War II.

Gran Buda de Nokogiri, de 31 metros de altura
Great Buddha of Nokogiri, 31 metres tall

Our next stop is Arakurayama Sengen Park, located in Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture. The park is home to the Arakura Fuji Sengen shrine, which boasts the pagoda with best views of Mount Fuji in all of Japan, the 26m-high Chureito Pagoda, built in 1962. Although the most spectacular landscapes of the park occur in spring, during the blossoming of the cherry trees, it is in winter when optimal visibility conditions make it possible to get the best views of Mount Fuji. Inside the park there are also several hiking routes suitable for different levels. To get to Arakurayama Sengen Park from Tokyo, a combination of trains can be used to reach Shimoyoshida Station, although the fastest way to arrive is by road, which is why most tourists opt for an organised day trip.

Vista del monte Fuji desde el interior del parque Arakurayama Sengen
View of Mt. Fuji from inside Arakurayama Sengen Park

Our last stop is Nikkō, in Tochigi Prefecture, home to a monumental complex that has been a World Heritage Site since 1999. In a village nestled among lush mountains, the Nikkō Toshogu Shrine, which was built in memory of Ieyasu Tokugawa, has ten impressive buildings. Look for the carvings of the sleeping cat, the imagined elephant and the three macaques that see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Also visit the Ieyasu Mausoleum and Honjido Hall. The latter is known for its painting of the ‘Crying Dragon’ and its impressive acoustics. After leaving this complex, visit the much smaller but older Futarasan Shrine and the Taiyuinbyo Mausoleum of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu Tokugawa. Next to it, the Shinkyo Bridge is one of the most beautiful in Japan and the star of some of the most recognised snapshots of the country. Reach Nikkō from Tokyo on the Tōhoku Shinkansen.

El santuario Nikkō Toshogu se encuentra enclavado en plena naturaleza
Nikkō Toshogu Shrine nestled in the middle of nature