Trip: Yokohama, Kamakura, Hakone

To complete this list of short trips around Tokyo the destinations of Yokohama, Kamakura and Hakone should be mentioned here as well. I only passed them on my Tokaido hike so i am not able to give an in depth description but rather just give some teasers why so many people like to go to these places over the weekends.

Yokohama

Yokohama is a modern city in the south of Tokyo. Some of the famous attractions are Chinatown, parade of Pickachus around the end of summer and the cup noodle museum in which you can get your own cup noodle box with customized toppings.
Fun Fact: Instant noodles are originating from Japan, when the inventor was looking for an easy but durable way to preserve Ramen after the World War II. He did a long and tiresome research until he observed his wife deep frying [something] and he came up with the idea of deep frying noodles. The water would evaporate leaving tiny holes in the noodles which then get filled up again by hot water. The iconic cup actually then came when he pitched the instant noodles in America. Since they didn’t use bowls Americans used cups to prepare the instant noodles. Looking it from this perspective he then came up with the cup design which serves as bowl as well as packaging.

Kamakura

Kamakura is quite a touristic place and i think especially known for the Buddha statue at the Kotoku-In. Funny enough it is actually possible to go inside the Buddha. You might be disappointed by its height if you have been to Nokogiriyama seeing the 31 m tall Buddha in comparison to this 13m tall Buddha. A very popular spot is also the view of the sunset while standing on the bridge leading to Enoshima.

Hakone

Hakone is located on mountain which was a very important checkpoint for travelers from and to Tokyo in the past. Today it is famous for its Hot Springs and natural beauty. If you are lucky enough you can spot Mt. Fuji from the Lake Ashinoko. If you consider to stay there for two days you might be interested into the Hakone Pass which bundles transportation into one ticket.

 

Trip: Okinawa

Okinawa is an island southwest from the mainland and was the former Ryukyu kingdom until 1879. It was a very important strategical location during World War II and today, within Japan, still harbours  74 % of all US military bases (2008, Accessed: 01.10.2019). It is a very good place to go for vacation and can be actually visited seperately from the rest of Japan. In this post i try to summarize some highlights of Okinawa.

The corresponding diary and impressions can be found here.

Overview

  • opening hours:  08:00 – 17:00
  • spendings: ~ 60000 Yen
  • suggested time spend in the area: ~ 5 days
  • personal rating: 9.5/10

Highlights

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

fee: 1850 Yen

Cape Hode

The most northern part of the Okinawa main island.

Snorkeling at Aharen beach

There are a lot of snorkeling (and diving) possibilities. One of them is at the Aharen beach which is located at the Kerama island 2 hours by ferry to the west of Naha.

Shuri Castle

Is the main castle of the former Ryuukyuu kingdom and also depicted on the 2000 Yen note.

War memorial

Nearing the end of World War II there was a bloody battle when the US force invaded Okinawa. War memorial monuments have been constructed in the south of Naha in honor for the fallen soldiers and civilians. More info at japan-guide.com

Caves

There are some caves in Okinawa to explore. One of them being the blue cave at Cape Maeda in the center of Okinawa. More info at okinawa-labo.com.

Access

If you are a tourist in Tokyo you can utilize the ANA Experience Japan ticket discount but be careful since they are bound by some requirements (2019). With this a roundtrip ticket from Tokyo to Naha was around 23000 Yen. In Okinawa you want to rent a car. Although there do exist public transportation options, they are just too inflexible. Renting a car for 3 days, 2 people was around 9000 Yen each person including fuel for around 300km (to the north and back) came use 1300 Yen each. To give you a feeling of the size of the island: We avoided highways and needed around 3 hours from the most northern part back to Naha.

 

 

Trip: Ashikaga flowerpark

Wisteria trees are beside cherry trees a very popular kind of plant in Japan. You can see those and many other flowers in the Ashikaga flowerpark around 2 hours north from Tokyo. The park is big and offers a lot of colorful and different flowers depending on the season. In the evening the flowers are literally put under a different light which makes you want to go through the park once again. However apart from the flowerpark there is nothing else worth seeing at that area.

The corresponding diary and impressions can be found here.

Overview

  • opening hours:  09:00 – 18:00, park fee: 300 – 1800 depending on season
  • overall costs: ~ 4000 Yen
  • suggested time spend in the area: ~ 4 hours
  • personal rating: 5.5/10

Highlights

Lots of flowers

Oldest Wisteria tree in Japan

The oldest Wisteria Tree in Japan
Said to be 140 years old and therefore the oldest Wisteria Tree in Japan

Access

Depending on the train combination you will take around 1.5 – 2 hours and 2000 Yen from Tokyo to the Ashikaga station.

 

 

Trip: Climbing Mt. Fuji

Mount Fuji is THE mountain in Japan. It is 3776 m tall, is surrounded by flat land and has this particular snow cap which makes it so iconic. Truth be told climbing Mt. Fuji is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. If you just want to take nice pictures with Mt. Fuji on it, there are a lot of other locations to go to. However if you want something more adventurous here is the go to receipt to climb Mt. Fuji. Most people will start from the 5th station at 2300 m above sea level and climb it up in the afternoon to the 8th station at 3100 m. You would then rest at that level and start again at 2 am to climb up the last bit, arriving just in time for the sunrise. There are guided tours but they might be a little bit more expensive and you might be limited by the weakest chain in the link.

The corresponding diary, impressions and a many more pictures can be found here. I personally did do the Yoshida trail which is why my knowledge about the other routes is limited.

Overview

  • opening season:  early July to mid September
  • overall costs: ~ 120000 – 15000 Yen
  • suggested time spend in the area: ~ 2 days
  • personal rating: 9/10

Highlights

Ascending
Views on top of Mt. Fuji:

 A post office and a shrine is also located on top of the mountain, where you can get exclusive stamps

Access

There are 4 trails which ultimately lead to the mountain peak. The most touristic one is the Yoshida trail which starts at the Fuji Subaru 5th station. You can get there by bus (e.g. Willerexpress) for around 2000 yen within 2 hours starting from Shinjuku. Make sure to reserve a return ticket as well since you don’t want to wait in hope to get a returning bus with free seats. The Subashiri trail which merges with the Yoshida trail at the 8th station starts at the Subashiri 5th station. Be aware that although the other trails do offer parking lots you still might not be able to get there by car because it is only accessible by electric car ( as that is what my friend told me). 

There are different lodges around the 8th station and they are mostly the same price and depend on the day you want to stay over night. Many of them only offer a Japanese website, however tomoekan does have an english website where you can even reserve your ticket through credit card and they also describe recommendations on your time management. It is located at the original 8th station at 3400 m above sea level from where you need another 2 hours to the peak. Be aware that a lot of people want to see the sunrise which causes bottlenecks along the trail.

At the mountain peak you should calculate another 1 -2 hours to just walk around and enjoy different angles and sights of Mt. Fuji which you mad lad just climbed up.

Tips:

Remember to pack some warm cloths with you even though it might be in the middle of the peak summer season temperatures can drop to 8°C. You can also purchase water (and beer) as well as snacks at the mountain hut but it is expectingly expensive. I packed 2l of water and a pack of peanuts and it was just barely enough.

resource japan-guide.com

 

Trip: Nikko and Chuzenji lake

The corresponding diary and impressions can be found here.

Nikko is a city around 140km north from Tokyo however when you talk about going to Nikko for a trip you most likely mean to go the Nikko national park area, which is famous as the final resting place for the first and third Toshugawa emperor therefore being especially luxuriously decorated. The National park itself is free but you want to go into the shrine area which does has an entrance fee. If time allows there is the Chuzenji lake nearby surrounded by mountains and offers a nice hike and relaxing atmosphere. To do both i would suggest to plan in for 2 days – each area one day.

Overview

  • opening hours: 08:00 – 17:00
  • overall costs: ~ 7500 – 9000 Yen
  • suggested time spend in the area: ~ 2 days
  • personal rating: 8.5/10

Highlights

Tobu Nikko National Park area:
Shinkyo bridge:

fee: 300 Yen

One of the most finest bridge in Japan built in 1636
Toshugu shrine:

fee: 1300 Yen (shrine), 1000(museum), 2100 (both)

This place enshrines the 1st Tokugawa emperor. The paid area is bigger than you would expect and even though you might have already seen several old japanese shrines this one does one up them all.

Taiyuinbyo:

fee: 550 yen

The mausoleum for the 3rd Tokugawa emperor. Although still beautiful it is built so that it does not rival the Toshugu shrine to show respect towards the grandfather.

Chuzenji lake area:
Kegon fall:

There are 2 possible observation points to see the Kegon fall. The first one is only accessable when you take the bus from Tobu Nikko to Chuzenji lake. You can get off at a [station] and take the ropeway, which is covered by your pass, to an observation deck. From there on you could potentially hike the remaining bit but it probably takes around 3 hours. The second observation point is near the [Chuzenji Onsen station]. You can also take a paid elevator down to see the waterfall from another angle.

Hangatsuyama observation deck:

To get to the observation deck you can just go by bus to the last stop of [station]. From here on it would then only take 30 mintutes by foot to reach the top. It is one of the iconic views of Nikko but unfortunately I was not able to get that shot.

Access

Nikko is accessable by train and it takes around 2 hours from Tokyo. There are 2 discounted tickets which are recommended to take.
The Nikko world heritage pass (2000 Yen) covers a roundtrip from Asakusa station to Tobu Nikko and also to the nearby onsen town Kinugawa. It is valid for 2 days and you can travel back and forth in that area only.
The Nikko all area pass (4520 Yen) covers the same area as the Nikko world heritage pass however additionally you can travel further down to the Chuzenji Lake and to the Yumoto Onsen area. It is valid for 4 days meaning you could travel back and forth from Tobu Nikko to the lake then to the Yumoto Onsen as you like. The rule for both passes is that as long as you did not finish the round trip it is still valid. Be careful though since the pass only allows you to use the train of the Tobu private railway company and as long as you don’t buy an additional express pass you are limited to the local trains. You have to transfer multiple times to get from Tokyo to Tobu Nikko but the customer service is always glad to help you out at which stations to transfer.

What you want to do is take the first day to explore the Nikko national park area. You can then use the second day to go to the Chuzenji Lake area. It takes 40 minutes from Tobu Nikko to the lake and a bus serves the route every 30 minutes. The last bus from the lake back is at 20:00 and the last train back to Tokyo is 20:48(!).

Trip: Nokogiriyama and Nihonji temple

The Nihonji temple area is a big temple complex at the 330 meter tall Nokogiriyama mountain. Although the opening hour states that it is only open until 17:00 i believe this only concerns the ropeway and you could still stay longer at that area, however be careful to get back before dawn. It is easily manageable within 1 day, has a decent trail and an absolutely stunning view.

The corresponding diary including pictures and impressions can be found here.

Overview

  • opening hours: 08:00 – 17:00, fee: 600 Yen
  • overall costs: ~ 5500 Yen
  • time spend in the area: ~ 5 hours
  • personal rating: 10/10

Highlights

A 31 m tall in stone carved, sitting Buddha statue, carved in 1780 and is said to have taken 3 years.

 

1500 statues of Buddha along the trail.

A 30 m tall standing plate of Kannon the goddess of mercy.

 

Several observation points. The most famous one would be the hells lookout, a platform shaped like a lion’s head. From here you could see Yokohama on the other side of the ocean as well as the curvature of Japan on a clear day.

 

There is also a small teahouse right after the entrance with a lovely view over Hota city.

Access

You can easily access the area by train which will take you around 2h starting from Tokyo. You could hike up the mountain or go by ropeway. If you want to take the ropeway, you would arrive at Hama Kanaya station and proceed to the ropeway in the south which gets you almost to the top of the mountain. Although i would recommend to hike since the trail looks quite beautiful. In that case you would want to get off at Hota Station. From there you would then walk north towards the mountain.

Further readings under japan-guide.

Trip: Hiking Mt. Takao

buddha statue with cap and jacket

Mount Takao is a 1 hour train ride away from Tokyo and is therefore the nearest and most easiest accessible mountain around Tokyo. There are several trails with different difficulties and to see different sights. Tokyocheapo explains it quite good however there is also a very big map with trails and their specific characteristics right at the entrance of the mountain.

The corresponding diary and impressions can be found here.

Overview

  • overall costs: ~ 1500 Yen
  • suggested time spend in the area: ~ 5 hours
  • personal rating: 9/10

Highlights

Nice hiking path and beautiful view over the mountains.

Access

Your starting point is Takaosanguchi station which is around 1 hour and 400 Yen away from Tokyo. There are different trails and i personally chose the trail number 1. It was paved but the start had an unbelievable steep slope. That being said it is very well maintained and as long as you follow the trail you will get to the top in around 2-3 hours.

 

Trip: Kawaguchiko and Fuji-Q Themepark

Mt-Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

The most iconic picture of Mt. Fuji is probably the one where you can see a pagoda in front and Mt. Fuji in the back of it. And it does not take you much to take this picture by yourself! This scenic photo spot is easily accessible from Kawaguchiko city and can be combined with a nice hike around the mountain area. As a bonus if you want to stay another day, you can go and take a ride at the Fuji-Q themepark.

The corresponding diary and impressions can be found here.

Overview

  • opening hours:  09:00 – 21:00 (Fuji-Q themepark), fee: 5700 (all day), 3600 Yen ( half day)
  • overall costs: ~ 8000 – 15000 Yen
  • suggested time spend in the area: ~ 2 days
  • personal rating: 9.5/10

Highlights

The iconic picture with the pagoda in front of mount Fuji.

Mt-Fuji and Chureito Pagoda
Mt-Fuji as seen from the Chureito Pagoda with the Pagoda on the right side – a famous setting

Lake Kawaguchiko

View on the Kawaguchi sea
The view on the Kawaguchi sea

Fuji-Q Highlands: with the steepest rollercoaster in the world (2012).

Access

It takes around 2.5 hours and 2500 Yen to get from Shinjuku station to Kawaguchiko station. If you want to get directly to the pagoda it will take you another hour, however you can also just hike along the nearby mountains to reach the pagoda.
The Fuji-Q Highland themepark is located directly at the Fuji-Q Highland station, around 20 minutes away from Kawaguchiko station by foot.