I’ve written about what to do in Tokyo and tips about getting around and safety in Tokyo. Here’s three ideas for when you have time for a day-trip near Tokyo. As always the trains are super efficient in getting you where you need to go and back. All these destinations were easy to reach from the Tokyo station.
If you only have time for one, make it either Kamakura or Nikko and see the big Buddha. The little seaside towns on the Izu Peninsula are pretty but not as impressive as the temples and shrines of Kamakura and Nikko.
Izu Peninsula: Shimoda and Shira-hama
Shimoda and Shira-hama are seaside towns on the Izu pensisula. It takes about two hours by train from Tokyo to get to Shimoda. Shira-hama is a surfing hot-spot which ten minutes by bus connection Shimoda station.
Shimoda is the town where the opening-up of Japan to the world began and the town has monuments that will remind you of that. Make sure to check out two temples – Ryosen-ji and Choraku-ju. The first saw the signing of atreaty between Japan and the US and the latter the sigining of a treaty between Japan and the Russian Empire. Both are beautiful little temples.
Shira-hama has a beautiful Shinto shrine between the two beaches. There is a pretty beach in Shira-hama with cafés and surf-gear rentals.
Kamakura is a small town with lots of little restaurant around the train station area but the main attraction are of course the many temples and shrines of Kamakura and a huge statue of Buddha (Daibutsu). The temples are walking distance from the train station. There is a hiking course, but you have to check if it’s opened again – when I was there in early 2020 it was closed because of typhoon damage.
Near the big Buddha or Daibutsu is the Hase-dera Buddhist temple. I would honestly say that it is one of the most impressive that I saw while visiting Tokyo and Japan. With views overlooking the ocean, beautiful gardens and huge golden Buddha statues (which you’re not allowed to photograph), it is a sight worth seeing.
Nikko is a small town to the north of Tokyo with an impressive selection of shrines and temples. It is a major tourist attraction so it can probably get very crowded. But the temples and shrines are magnificent. It might be wise to book a night in Nikko and go to the world heritage site before the crowds from Tokyo arrive.
In any case, the world heritage site is within walking distance from the train station and there are shops, restaurants and café’s along the way there.