As the first introduction to Japan for many visitors, Tokyo has a lot to offer with its
plethora of neon lights, restaurants, and entertainment. After about 4 days
though, the crowds and commute between one tourist spot to the next can be
draining. Since a number of mountain ranges and national parks are within easy
reach, it would be a waste not to balance your trip with some quiet time in nature.
So here are five worthwhile day hikes to add to your Tokyo itinerary.
Mt. Takao is easily the most popular hike because of its close proximity to Tokyo
and therefore is often flooded with tourists and Japanese people alike. If you’re
looking for peace and quiet, it’s not the place to go, but the beauty of the trails
and the view from the top are not to be discounted. It’s best to go early in the
morning on weekdays as there will be fewer crowds, and it’s a great hike to kick
off the autumn hiking season.
There are a number of trails you can take to the top, some more strenuous than
others. For a good workout on the ascent, take Trail #6 and on the way back
down, take Trail #1 to check out a few of the different attractions on the mountain
like the monkey park.
How to Get There: From Shinjuku Station, take the JR Chuo Line to Takao
Station (roughly 40 minutes), then transfer to the Keio Line and ride one more
station to Takaosanguchi Station.
With the exception of the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji, the view from the top of
Mt. Tsukuba is the best out of any of the mountaintop listed here. There are
unobstructed views for as far as the eye can see. When you reach the top,
there’s a rock edge where you can sort of climb out and sit down to enjoy the
view as everyone behind you snaps their pictures. It’s a real “sitting on top of the
world” kind of feeling, and Tokyo feels universes away. Mt. Tsukuba is a fun,
challenging hike that requires great concentration in some areas and one that
demands a sturdy pair of hiking boots and even walking sticks, if you feel so
inclined. Parts of the trail are steep and require minor rock climbing skills, but
don’t let that deter you. It’s all in the name of good exercise. Families with small
children as well as elderly folks frequently and successfully challenge this trail so
if they can do it so can you.
How to Get There: From Akihabara Station, take the Tsukuba Express Line
(roughly 50 minutes) to Tsukuba Station. Outside of Tsukuba Station, take the
Kanto Tetsudo Bus (roughly 40 minutes) to Tsukuba Jinja Iriguchi. Station staff
are available to help guide your journey, if you have any questions.
Kamakura is home to some easy hiking trails and one of the most impressive
Buddha statues in Japan. Just standing before it is a cleansing experience. From
Kita-Kamakura Station, you can hike the Daibutsu Hiking Course to the entrance
of the Great Buddha Statue. It’s best to go hiking in the morning when it’s cooler
and spend the rest of the day in Enoshima.
Enoshima has a gorgeous coastline where you can go down and dip your feet in
the water, go fishing, try catching crabs, walk along the water, or just sit still with
nothing but the ocean in sight. You can also buy a giant squid chip the size of
your head for an afternoon snack. Both Kamakura and Enoshima offer a nice
afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
How to Get There: For Kamakura, take the Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station
(roughly 52 minutes) to Kita Kamakura Station. For Enoshima, take the JR
Tokaido Line from Tokyo Station or the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku
Station to Fujisawa Station (roughly 45 minutes) and transfer to either the
Enoden (10 minutes) or Odakyu Railway (7 minutes).
My heart melts when I think about Shosenkyo Gorge. The first time I went with
friends, we just sat up at the top for a bit and let the whole world dissolve away.
Shosenkyo is part of Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, and out of all the hikes
I’ve done in Japan, Shosenkyo was the hardest place to leave because nature
and time stand still here. Such stillness provides a different kind of quiet at the
top like the world beyond where you are sitting is still spinning, life is still moving
forward, but you can’t hear a thing. It’s so glorious. Plus, if you go during autumn,
the colors are to die for.
How to Get There: From Shinjuku Station, take a direct limited express train
(roughly 90-100 minutes) bound for Kofu Station. From Kofu Station, buses to
Shosenkyo Gorge leave in front of the station once every 1-2 hours. They bus
ride takes roughly 30 minutes to the Shosenkyo-guchi stop.
Lake Kawaguchiko is part of the Fuji Five Lakes district that is a popular
destination during cherry blossom season, autumn, and New Year’s. The area
offers the best views of Mt. Fuji anywhere in Japan, and it’s also a photo hotspot
with walking and hiking trails aplenty. The Japanese people treasure the diamond
of a mountain that is Mt. Fuji and work hard to maintain and preserve the
environment around it. From the opposite side of Lake Kawaguchiko, Fuji stands
tall in all its majesty and grandeur. Walking around the whole of the lake, it’s
nearly impossible to take your eye off of the pearl at the center.
How to Get There: Check out Japan Guide’s info page on how to reach the Fuji
Five Lakes area.
Bonus: If you’re in the area, take a trip to the Fuji Forest Adventure Park. It’s a
5-part ropes course complete with ziplines at the base of Mt. Fuji. On a clear day
there are gorgeous views of Fuji abound when you’re up high playing in the
trees. In order to get to the park, you’ll need a car because the trains and buses
will only take you so far. Taxis are an option of course, but it’ll be a wallet drainer.
Get here if you can though because the air is so crisp and fresh, and the whole
area just feels so secluded, it’s fantastic.
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