By Valerie Kor
These Japan sites, offer abundant fresh air and countryside within an hour of Tokyo, making them the perfect idea for a day trip. Visit one location or combine them up for a brief excursion.
For more ideas, be sure to check out our companion article covering the same region with focus on man-made destinations and museums: Tokyo – Best of the West.
Share your own favorite Tokyo escapes in the comments below.
Mount Iwadono – Otsuki, Yamanashi
A comfortable climb … overlooking authentic rural experiences.
Otsuki has been making impressive efforts in green tourism to attract urban visitors and get them involved with local people, foods and rural life. Mount Iwadono is the perfect place to start your tour and get a full view of Otsuki City and the surrounding mountains from up high. The mountain itself if impressive from below as it appears to be a massive rock cliff from the front. This is mountain climbing for beginners and the summit of 634 meters can be reached in about 45 to 60 minutes one way. Halfway up is Maruyama Park where you can take a break and enter a traditionally restored museum with famous photographs and paintings of the area. Once you get to the top, the views of Mount Fuji from the summit are known as one of the most famous views of the Mountain in all of Japan.
Travel time: ~75 minutes
Train - Shinjuku Station --> Otsuki Station (Chuo Line)
Walk - Otsuku Station --> Mount Iwadono trailhead
Akigawa Keikoku Seoto no Yu Spa – Akiruno, Tokyo
Soak your fatigue away … relax and explore this hot spring in the woods.
Akiruno in western Tokyo has a variety of tourism resources focused on nature and the Akigawa valley. Seoto no Yu is an elegantly designed hot spring experience that blends perfectly with the beautiful surroundings of the Akigawa Valley. The onsen features expansive indoor and outdoor baths with sweeping views of the forest and river below. Although day trips are fine, overnight options in rustic lodges can accommodate groups with kitchen, bedroom, living, dining areas and full balcony. The nearby forest walk through Akigawa Valley provides full immersion to nature and stunning photos of Ishibune bridge over the Akigawa river below.
Travel time: ~75 minutes
Train - Shinjuku Station --> Haijima Station (Chuo・Ōme Line) --> Musashi-Itsukaichi Station (Itsukaichi Line)
Taxi - Musashi-Itsukaichi Station --> Akigawa Keikoku Seoto no Yu (~2,500 JPY)
Mount Takao – Hachioji, Tokyo
A favorite escape for Tokyoites … and the most climbed mountain in the world.
Hachioji has a little bit of everything: mountains, nature, shopping, temples, food and of course monkeys. At 599 meters Mount Takao is an easy day trip for families with adventurous enough trails (eight options) to keep hikers happy. No wonder that nearly 3,000,000 climbers reach the summit every year, nearly ten times that of Mount Fuji.
The area is so full of nature and wildlife, it's hard to wrap your head around the fact that it's still Tokyo. Over 1,500 kinds of plants (more than naturally grow in all of England) are confirmed. While catching a glimpse of the wild animals such as flying squirrels presents a challenge, a visit to the Monkey Park guarantees contact.
There are several places to buy food along the way and at the top look for dango, ice cream, soba, and a host of other souvenirs and snacks. For those who enjoy a pint on a hot summer's day, Takao Beer Mount with an all-you-can-eat buffet is open from mid-June to mid-October.
Travel time (to Mount Takao): ~60 minutes (30~60 minutes to summit by cable car and walk)
Train - Shinjuku Station --> Takaosanguchi Station (Keio Line)
Walk - Takaosanguchi Station --> Kiyotaki Station (cable car)
Mountain Resorts and the Taro, Jiro Waterfall – Tsuru, Yamanashi
Hiking to greater heights … with a famous view of Mount Fuji.
Surrounded by mountains, Tsuru full of beautiful views and mountain lodges. Famous during Autumn, with vibrant colors in every direction, and Spring, with unique weeping cherry blossom trees especially prominent on the grounds of Keirinjij Temple.
The must-see Mitsutouge Sansou Mountain Lodge offers climbing training and courses, meals mixed with local vegetables and herbs, and beautiful views of Mount Fuji. Nearby Takagawa Mountain with its three hour hike offers a great warmup for those preparing to climb Mount Fuji.
A short distance from the city visitors will find the Taro Jiro Waterfall surrounded by a beautiful landscape of forests, river and cliffs. The name is based on the legend of two brothers Taro (most common name for the first-born son in Japan) and Jiro (most common for second-born son) who defeated a great villain vandalizing the country by tricking him into falling from the waterfall cliffs.
Travel time: ~120 minutes
Train - Shinjuku Station --> Otsuki Station (Chuo Line) --> Higashi-Katsura Station (Fujikyuko Line)
Walk --> Taro Jiro Falls
Fujino Art Road – Sagamihara, Kanagawa
An artistic escape … stroll the art town of Fujino.
Fujino announces itself to the world with a huge heart-sealed envelope on the hill. This symbolic exhibit is clearly viewable from passing cars and trains, not to mention all throughout the green valley area. The influence of art has transformed the entire area with sculptures and works of art dotted around the town like Easter eggs, on roadsides, in parks and on hills. Visitors are invited to walk the area on foot or rent a bicycle, but it may be necessary to have a vehicle to take in all the sights which can be distant.
At Geijutsu no ie (The House of Art), budding designers can try their hand at several arts and crafts, from woodwork to glass engraving. A short walk up the hill from The House of Art sits a row of artists’ studios and pleasant cafes such as the Café Shimizu.
Travel time: ~60 minutes
Train - Shinjuku Station --> Fujino Station (Chuo Line)
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