After working at Tokyo Disney Sea for nine months in 2009-2010, I had already wet my palette for Japan. When I returned here in 2017 with my husband I hit the ground running. Using other popular blogs for resource, like Matcha, Best Living, Donny Kimball, Tokyo Chapter, and Time Out, I was able to choreograph many memorable day trips. By popular demand I’m going to detail what you find on my Instagram account from bottom to top because everyone knows it’s a pain to scroll, but now that you know what’s there, perhaps you will! Tip: You can also start a ‘saved collection’ on Instagram by clicking the little tag on the lower righthand corner of a post you are enjoying. Save away and plan your Japan vacation!
Yokohama – We lovedddd the Artrick Museum in Yokohama. Ramen Museum slightly overrated… Cup of Noodles Museum, yet to be explored! If you fancy a sky view, the Landmark Tower is where it’s at, and there’s some great shopping and sales around the holiday season and summertime. You can’t go wrong with the street food in Yokohama, epic dumplings and steamed bao (pork buns). Penny’s Diner is memorable if you want a burger and the best part is, this whole town is easily accessible from Tokyo by train.
Fujinomiya/Shizuoka – The green tea fields are just to die for… rent a car… get a seat on the bus… find a way to make it out here and enjoy the sites in the area.
Takasaki, Gunma Prefacture – Amazingly large kannon statue, and don’t miss the awesome caves that are just down the path a short walk. There is a very helpful tourist map detailing the location when you get off of the train. Where your walking shoes! and be ready to photograph near the charming red bridge by the statue. We combined this day trip with a trip to the Daruma Temple down the way. This is a short local train ride away from the statue. The darumas are stacked around the temple and burned in the new year.
Lockheart Castle – This is the kind of place you need to see to explain… it’s girly, fun, and unique set in the middle of the mountains in Japan. Have your camera ready because most of the girls are walking around in full princess ball gowns and it is a beautiful sight to see.
Osaka – We loved the Hilton Conrad Hotel for the views and floor to ceiling room windows. Water clock is memorable near to the station, and make sure you are touring that town hungry. Great food! We opted for the day passes you can buy from the Metro staff… it was great and the evening walking tour of the city was free and totally worth it for the photo opps and food recommendations. I wouldn’t recommend including Osaka in your itinerary unless you live in Japan and are looking for a weekend away, or you are a Harry Pottery fan and have Universal Studios at the top of your list.
Gotokuji – Cat Temple! How cute it is. If you come during the plum blossom season there is a festival nearby.
Miura Peninsula – Leaving the train station, the steps alone are enough to inform you that this is a super cute part of Japan worth exploring. There are so many walks to take and things to see here. If you plan in advance and make sure to catch the bus (you need to buy tickets at a different train station so make sure you do your research) you can take the tour around Jogashima. We of course did not plan ahead so we ventured off at Misakiguchi and walked up to Miruakaigan Station via the earliest style of cherry blossoms. They are absolutely perfect… We found a small farmers market at the end of our walk and delicious rotating sushi restaurant right by the beach.
Saitama – This deserves a blog post in itself, but of course, there are tons of them out there, some of which I detailed here in the first paragraph. I had bad luck when I went to see the beautiful shibazakura at Chichibu, but let me tell you, I still had the best time riding the trains. Other favorites in Saitama include Kawagoe (on the 28th of each month there is a delightful shrine sale well worth checking out numerous times) and Kasukabe (which has some amazing ramen called Shampoo… but you want to type it in hiragana to find it online). This prefecture is just full of endless possibilities.
Kinschicho– Bull Finch Temple is the place to be for Wisteria season, and while you are visiting, don’t miss the Kinshicho Daiso nearby to the station. Biggest and bestest ever!
Shibazakura – Depending on the time of spring, these blossoms may or may not be worth writing home about, but the station stop alone is very attractive and on a clear day you will see Fuji-San peaking his head out from above. When you get off at this station stop, head to the left and buy a bus ticket for the Shibazakura Festival. The more expensive the ticket, the better the blossoms, so no complaining! Be prepared to sit in a little bit of traffic; however, the buses are comfortable and safe.
Tobu Pleasure Garden and Raccoon Temple – I use apple maps for all of my trips… and when you get off at this very small train station for the raccoon temple you walk by (on the right) a soba noodle restaurant. It is amazing and owned by the cutest old couple who gave us silk cocoons on our way out HAHA- the raccoon temple is up on the left side and after you exit, when you walk through the tall grass and feel like you are in a clip from Oklahoma! you come up to Tobu Pleasure Garden. One of the most beautifully manicured gardens in the vicinity.
Haruna Shrine and Lake – Power spot! Read about this online somewhere and made the crazy hike out there via train and hour long local bus. Totally worth it. You can take a paddle boat onto the lake and eat a nice lunch there… head back on the local bus to shrine, but make sure to get there before sundown since they will close the grounds rather early.
Oji – There are bits and pieces of Oji scattered around my Instagram… I absolutely love this charming town. Of course while you’re there, the highlight is Rocco’s Pizza. This is the original branch, and rumor has it, Tokyo’s famous Pizza Slice came from this gem. There’s also the most pristine tiny park just down the road from the pizza shop. If you head towards the busier part of town there is another park, much bigger, and complete with a little incline ride, funicular type thing. Oji is also a stop along the Sakura Train which is a mini train that has a track lined with rose bushes during the spring. I believe it stretches from the Waseda part of town all the way over to the Kita-Senju area. By the way, The Pizza in Hiro-o is my favorite.
Suntory Distillery – Easy day trip out of the city. Make sure you holler in advance if you want to join the tour… we just went for many drinks and souvenirs… It’s awesome if you love whiskey and it’s a beautiful ride into the mountains. Could easily become an overnight trip… maybe checking out that scenic train that the JR has.
Ofuna – Art Gallery, Limestone Cave, and Restaurant – The caves are really neat! It’s a quick stop so plan on walking around a bit and finding the art gallery at the top of the hill. Message me for the information because you can call in advance and set up a glass blowing class.
Nokogiriyama, Chiba Prefacture – Either taking the ferry over from Yokohama or the trains out from Tokyo this is Japan’s best buddha in my opinion. Built into the side of the mountain, it’s incredibly unique and stunning. Get ready for a lot of stairs… I like to take the cable car up and walk down!
Narita and the windmill scene – If you’re lucky you will catch the beautiful flowers around the windmill out here towards Narita… if you’re like me, they are setting up for fireworks and all you will see are a bunch of sunflowers chopped down and white lawn chairs ready for a crowd HAHA- it was a hot summer day, but I hear the fireworks are amazing out there with less lights and less people. Leave plenty of energy for Narita. The temple is stunning, as are the grounds behind it. On the way down, as you wind through the town, there are often guys chopping up eel right on the side of the street!
Tanbara Lavender Fields – This was an expensive taxi ride because we showed up on the week day and apparently the bus only runs on the weekends? HAHA well that’s okay. We ventured out anyway and had an amazing time. Mini ski lift, pretty flowers, awesome DJ, and a huge long slip and slide when it’s in season. The smell of lavender fills the air…
Grinpa Park – Sylvania Farm Family and a vintage theme park featuring Ultraman. Need I say more.
Sea Glass Beach – I don’t even want to write about this place. Just open “Tomyodo Site” (Yokosuka) on Apple maps and find your way there. Enjoy the entire day… be sure that you take a snack and protect it from the massive birds who will try to steal!
Chureito Pagoda and walking town – Closer to winter are the best views of Mount Fuji, but we went in October and still were not disappointed. It’s a beautiful structure, quaint town, and we were lucky to catch a shrine sale on the way back! Town closes early but it really is charming… and another amazing view of Fuji-San is just walking down the main streets of the small local village… Epic.
Kamata and Kawasaki – This area used to be home to the famous claw machine Kawasaki Anato-no-Warehouse, but sadly that is gone now… There’s still tons of cute izakayas, bars, playgrounds, shopping centers, fabric stores, and the shortest escalator in the entire world, definitely worth a day to explore.
Hitachi Seaside Park – Red Kochia is a highlight here in October; however, Hitachi is another one of Japan’s parks that is constantly reinventing itself. We were able to catch the tail end of cosmo season as well, but I can’t wait to go back in April for the fields of blue nemophilia!
Tateyama Temple in a Mountain, Chiba Prefacture – This was a fairly epic day trip. I believe I took two sets of buses to get out and the train to return back to Tokyo. You have to be careful in Japan transferring on the local buses because a lot of times two will pull up within seconds of each other and you don’t have long to decide which one to take! This temple is a treat because it sits on the side of the mountain. The view is delightful and if you zoom in on Apple Maps you can see another set of temples just down the street. They are equally as impressive, well maybe not impressive in the same way, but impressive nonetheless. This day trip is a grab an egg salad sandwich at the Family Mart and go kind of trip!
Higashi Hakuraku Station – Easy train trip outside of the city. If I’m not mistaken, we combined this with a trip around Meguro on the way home. Again, I use Apple Maps to zoom in and get a feel for the area, but when you get off at this stop you can walk through the awesome shotengai here, and to a temple down the street. Tons of good food and local shops to enjoy, this place may be more bustling on a Saturday or weekday evening!
Fussa into Kokobunji Small Pagoda – Having seen a picture of a burger at an American style diner in Time Out, I ventured out to Fussa and was surprised to find tons of foreigners, since there is an Army or Navy base nearby. There is a sake distillery, and many beautiful things to see along the walks. We spent a large chunk of the day walking around here and stopped to see the replica of a pagoda that sits in the park around Kokobunji.
Machida and the Squirrel Park – I saw this park on a TV show on Netflix called “Good Morning Call” and just had to check it out… if you plan ahead you can also see the Hello Kitty Purikura town nearby. Even if you don’t like rodents, this place is still quite entertaining!
Sagamiko Pleasure Resort – Quite a funny name, but what a cool place! Paddington Bear is the theme here and in the winter it is transformed into a winter wonderland at sundown. While you wait for that you can enjoy the beautiful onsen just down the hill, this is one of my favorite onsens I’ve ever been to in Japan. It was perfect and completely empty.
Yomiuri Land – Can you tell I am obsessed with Christmas Lights and Japan’s vintage theme parks??? This one hit a home run… make sure you find the amazing hot chocolate lurking around the back end of the park area.
Shibamata Station – This town is a slice of old Japan heaven. Just get off the train and walk around to enjoy… don’t miss the candy/toy store right near the station stop.
Tsukuba – While you could do Ushiku Daibutsu and Mt. Tsukuba in a day… you might as well make a weekend of it. If you read above, I went to this place before and combined it with Wan Wan Land… totally epic. Ushiki Daibutsu has some beautiful flowering seasons, most of which we totally missed! No matter what… it’s a sight to see, and although we were not a fan of the sugar rock candy, there is some delicious food in the area starting with some of the best ramen we have ever had nearby the Hotel Okura Frontier… chunks of meat, garlic, bean sprouts, and a line out the door… What more could you ask for? (and I don’t even like ramen).
Kairaku-en – Plum blossom city… Ibaraki is full of gems and this is one of them. Sometimes there’s a pottery stand and festival trucks set up during the high season. It’s a great escape from the city if you’re needing some fresh air.
Kominato and Isumi Railway Ride – This is one of my favorite trips to take around the end of April. I think there is an on/off ticket you can buy but I went almost entirely straight through and missed a few of the sites to see on the way… I also ended up on Japan’s famous Hirunandesu! HAHA the day I went there was a comedienne on the train also touring the area. It is known for beautiful rape flowers and cherry blossoms lining the tracks… as you may suspect, it’s almost more beautiful to drive up and watch the train pass by, but if you like to ride trains, this is in my top five.
Matsumoto – While this place is easily accessible by train, you might do better to get here in a car with friends. The town is adorable and picturesque, and you shouldn’t miss strolling around the Frog Street area. The castle is best viewed in one of its special seasons of flowers or winter, but we chose to go before the crowds came at these crazy times of year.
Toshimaen – Vintage amusement and water park. In the late spring there is an extravagant hydrangea display. I went during the day with a girlfriend to just walk around and enjoy the sites. They play 60/70s rock lightly in the park and it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. If you have extra time, the town has an awesome onsen/day spa that is well worth checking out. I’ve heard it’s half price on Friday, and they have the bedrock warm beds. This will make even the tops of your feet sweat. Pretty epic if you need a detox, but do yourself a favor and stay SUPER hydrated.
BONUS: I guess I haven’t made a post but one of my top favorite things to do in Tokyo is…
Tagarazuka Theater (Yuraucho) Tickets – I listed this under day trips because it is a commitment! Requiring an early start, people (most women) line up outside of this theater for standing room only tickets the day of the shows. One show ticket is actually two shows in many cases: one straight play and one musical. The musical is what we went for and it did not disappoint. Think cruise ship shows, meets Rockettes, meets Anything Goes, combined with a Cher show. Unbeatable. Truly unique. And well worth your time!