Tokyo is well placed for day trips, writes PIERRA WILLIX.
You could stay in Tokyo for weeks and still only scratch the surface of all the bustling metropolis has to offer.
But, if you have some time in the city and want to get out and explore other areas of Japan, Tokyo is the perfect base for day trips, which each offer a completely different experience.
Armed with my JR Pass, which allows unlimited travel on Japan Railways train lines countrywide, I took four days out of my week-long stay in Tokyo to get out of the city.
After a late night out in Tokyo, I preceded my first day trip to the port city of Yokohama with a sleep-in before hopping on the train for the 30-minute journey from Tokyo Station.
The second-largest city in Japan by population, Yokohama is a regular pit stop for many cruises, however the city doesn’t seem to be full of tourists like many other Japanese cities.
One of its main attractions is the largest Chinatown in Japan, which developed after Japanese ports were opened to foreign trade in 1859, becoming the home of many Chinese traders.
Four intricately decorated gates cover the entrances to Chinatown, while the area offers endless shops and restaurants to visitors.
A short stroll away is Yamashita Park, which stretches around 750m along the waterfront.
The end of the park takes you to the front of the Red Brick Warehouse, an old customs building that has been turned into a complex with shops and restaurants. Australian chef Bill Granger also has a cafe in the development.
Other attractions in the city include Sankeien Garden, the Cup Noodles and the Ramen Museums, as well as the Kirin Beer Factory and the Cosmo World Amusement Park.
The next day, I ventured out to Kawagoe, again about 30 minutes from central Tokyo.
For about $10, the Kawagoe Discount Pass can be purchased, which covers the return train journey, and also offers discounts to several stores in the town.
Known as “Little Edo”, Kawagoe’s main street is lined with Kurazukuri (clay-walled warehouse-styled) buildings, retaining a sense of walking through an old town from the Edo Period (1603-1867).
The shopping strip known as “Candy Alley” is close by, which sells traditional Japanese sweets and cakes, carrying on a long tradition for the town which supplied candy to the Tokyo area after a shortage caused by the Great Earthquake of 1923.
One of the most popular day trips from Tokyo is a journey to Nikko, which after visiting, I am eager to get back to and explore further.
Located in the Tochigi Prefecture, the journey to Nikko is completely covered by the JR Pass, with the two train journeys to the town taking just over two hours in total.
The mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, is located within the Toshogu Temple in Nikko National Park.
The walk from the town to the temple also takes you past other famous sights, including the stunning Shinkyo Bridge, constructed in 1636, and the Rinnoji Temple, founded by the monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko in the eighth century.
Venture a little further out of town to explore more of the national park, which includes waterfalls, lakes and walking trails.
My last day trip of the holiday was to Kamakura, a coastal town famous for the Daibutsu, or Giant Buddha, the largest in Japan only after the one in Nara.
The towering 11.4m bronze statue elicited many awe-struck stares from everyone around me, the stunning backdrop of the forest framing the sacred structure perfectly.
Other temples are also worth a look while in Kamakura, with the Hasedera holding a wooden, 9m-tall, 11-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, while the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu draws crowds eager to see the imposing sight.
For those with more time in the city, a trip to nearby Enoshima Island is also worth the trip.
My list of cities to see across Japan is ever-increasing, but even taking just a day to immerse yourself in one of the country’s smaller cities or towns is well worth the time it takes to get there.
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