Editor’s note: We are not suggesting that you will ever run out of things to do in Tokyo. Just outside the metro though, there are beautiful beaches, edo-era old town and centuries-old temples waiting to be discovered. Here are three day-trip ideas – tried and tested by Sandy and her daughter.
My daughter and I have visited Tokyo three times already, and we have done all the usual touristy stuff. On this trip we looked for day trips we can take from Tokyo, and our research took us to two beautiful green treks as well as more attractions in the neighbouring cities.
To many of us, and to me for a very long time, Narita is just known as the gateway to Tokyo, where the main international airport to the city is.
Many years back, I was somehow introduced to the beautiful temple Nartiasan Shinshoji. I told myself that someday I will return, and on this trip I revisited the temple with my daughter. And yes, that felt good.
We arrived into Narita airport early in the morning following a red eye flight. Naritasan Shinshoji was our very first stop. We deposited our luggage at a left luggage locker in Narita airport, and took the JR Narita Line, a 15-minute train ride, into the city to visit the temple.
The temple has a rich history, and was founded in 940. We paid our respect, then took a stroll through the extensive grounds.
It was then back to Omotesando Street, the main street of the town. This is a lively area with traditional Japanese shops selling traditional food stuff, and many restaurants lining the street. But our mission was clear – we headed straight to one of the best known grilled eel restaurant in Narita, Kawatoyo, where the chefs prepare the eels for the grill in front of the restaurant. Oiishi!
The whole excursion took under 5 hours – a worthwhile detour. It can also be done easily in the reverse, as a stop before your flight out for Tokyo on the way home.
Editor’s note: CNN Travel recommends Narita as a must-see city, a great venue for an overnight layover right up the list with London and NYC. Read their article on Narita here.
Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city. The sunny coastal town of Yokohama is also the country’s biggest port, so if you ever do feel like you are running out of things to do in Tokyo, try Yokohama.
Getting there from our hostel wasn’t difficult, but involved quite a number of train changes!
Our target of the day was the Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise Aquarium (www.seaparadise.co.jp). We first embarked on a 30-minute train ride from Tokyo central station to Yokohamo Station. From the Yokohama Station, we had to take another train (JR Negishi Line) to Shin-sugita, and then transfer to the Seaside Line to Hakkeijima Station. All in all it was another hour to get from Yokohama Station to reach our destination!
Coming from the tropics it was interesting to me, that pine trees were dotted the beach.
We then continued on the Seaside Line. This was was especially nice ride. The view on the ride was lovely.
Am pleased to share that the Sea Paradise Aquarium was worth the extra effort and commute. There’s a theme park attached with the Aquarium – you could buy thrill rides individually or with a combination ticket.
But our focus was not the rides. What brought us here, and what we came all the way for – to see this whale shark… It’s interesting to observe the little “cleaner” fish attached to the shark and swimming alongside it.
Observing the sardines – they would be swimming in their school, and whenever a large fish swim into them, the sardines will quickly move and open up a tunnel for the large animal. It was fascinating to observe.
We also caught the very impressive performaces by the seals, penguins, walrus and dolphins.
And how could we not visit SOGO at Yokohama Station? The food hall, on B2 level, is a paradise for a foodie like me. For example, this camembert cheese would cost at least SGD5 back home, and is only about SGD3 here. It was already getting quite late, so we only had time for some quick browsing – or the damage (to my wallet) would have been worse!
Editor’s note: There are many things to do on a day trip to Yokohama – such as visiting the famous Instant Noodles Museum by Nissin. We’d recommend checking out Yokohama Official Visitors Guide (http://www.yokohamajapan.com) for more ideas of day trips or longer itineraries.
Getting there: From Tokyo station take the JR Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo Line and get off at Honkawagoe Station [本川越駅]
How long is the commute: 30 minute
Transport cost: JPY570 / adult each way
Kawagoe city is located in the Saitama prefecture. Just a 30-minute train ride from Tokyo, and you are transported a world and an era away.
The city is nicknamed “Little Edo Town”, and the streets are lined with Kurazukiri, warehouse-style, clay houses, representative of the Edo Period. It feels like a suburban town – we saw lot of school children walking home after classes on their own.
To be sure this is a well-visited, touristy town. A must-visit in Kawagoe is the Kita-in temple. There’s a calm feeling that permeates the ground here and my daughter and I felt so blessed to be there. Behind the gates in the picture, are 538 arahats, each with a different expression. Legend has it that if you feel the arahat head at night and it feels warm, mark that down and come back the next day. You will notice that you look just like the arahat.
Strolling through the old warehouse district was very pleasant experience too. As a hobbyist potter, I enjoy looking at the many lovely pottery pieces decorating the street. Looking at the old building that had survived so many centuries, earthquakes and wars. We also visited the iconic Toki-no-Kane, the bell tower that is more than 390 years old.
There are lots of unique souvenirs to buy here too. At “Candy Alley”, I bought a longish dry crispy bread, topped with brown sugar – it supposedly brings good luck and was really yummy too.
Many have compared the beauty and peace of Kawagoe to Kyoto, the famous city closer to Osaka. So if don’t have time to travel to Kyoto, I do recommend checking out Kawagoe.
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