When in Japan, spare a day or two (or three) on day trips to neighboring cities.
Depending on where you are, there are lots of places you can explore and they all offer a different experience.
From temples with chirping floors in Kyoto to deer in Nara to Sakuras in Fuji, each city offers a special piece of Japan and carries with them stories that only add up to why Japan is probably one of the best places to explore–at least for me. 🙂
I’ve gone to Japan twice and spent most days in Osaka and Tokyo. Here are the side trips we made during those two visits.
DAY TRIPS FROM TOKYO, JAPAN
We hired a private shuttle for our family when we visited Tokyo so that was our means of transportation for our whole trip. It was very convenient because this not only allowed us to travel at our own time and pace but we were also able to go wherever we wanted–already at a set price.
I recommend hiring a private shuttle if you’re travelling in a big group but if not, there are trains that will take you wherever.
I didn’t know what I was more excited to see, the Sakuras (Cherry Blossoms) in full bloom or Mt. Fuji, but we were on our way to LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO to see both anyway!
Unfortunately, it was too foggy that day that it completely covered Mt. Fuji with zero visibility.
So no, I did not get to see Mt. Fuji but behind me was a gorgeous stretch of pink trees that blended well with the blue silhouettes of the mountains and the green grass.
It was my first time to see Sakuras and I was at instantly captured by its beauty. Cherry blossoms only bloom for two weeks in a year so we were pretty lucky to see it–almost made me forget about Mt. Fuji behind me that was nowhere to be seen anyway!
There are a lot of food stalls at the entrance of this park that serve really good grilled food. Our favorite was the grilled squid!
After spending much time admiring the Sakuras, we were off to lunch.
We went to a nearby restaurant and lo and behold, they serve HORSE SASHIMI. My adventurous stomach was excited!
Horse meat is tough! It wouldn’t break when you chew on it. It was like meat-flavoured bubblegum.
Kamakura highly reminded me of Kyoto and it is less than an hour away from Tokyo.
It is where the military government of Japan was first established; hence, it was the home and training ground of many Samurais.
There are a lot of shrines, temples, and historical monuments in this city and it is also where the Great Buddha, KAMAKURA DAIBUTSU, is located.
THE GREAT BUDDHA
This buddha is made of bronze and it stands on the Kotoku-in Monastery.
It was originally located inside a temple until numerous typhoons and a tsunami destroyed the temple in the 14th and 15th century, leaving the grand buddha in open air since then.
They say that when you light an incense (Osenko) in the incense burners and fan the smoke to yourself, the smoke can heal you. Here’s my mum trying it out. 🙂
the Hase-dera Temple is where the 11-headed Kannon Statue and the 1,001 stone monks statues are found.
Hase-dera also has a beautiful garden with a rainbow of colors and a pond that reflects and doubles its beauty.
Around the garden, you would see a box full of fortunes you can get from and if you get a bad fortune, you have to tie it on the wooden bars (where you would find a lot of other bad fortunes tied to it) to ward off the bad luck.
But if you get a good fortune (like we did), keep it.
Our last stop in Kamakura was the Hachimangu Shrine where we saw a just-married Japanese couple and where I asked my parents to give me a selfie kiss on the cheek.
I AM IN LOVE.
This city is, by far, the most beautiful city I have ever seen and we weren’t even able to really go around it– what more if we did?
Yokohama is a mix of Singapore and San Diego. It was clean and for some reason, I found the vibe so romantic.. perhaps that’s why I was so in love with the place!
We only went to Yokohama to grab dinner at Chinatown but we made a little detour to the viewing deck to see the city’s skyline just in time for twilight.
The colorful wheel in the scene is called the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel–yes, it’s a ferris wheel AND a clock and it’s not just any clock BUT only the biggest clock in the world!
Yokohama’s Chinatown is one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world.
It is also full of pandas.
Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city and is less than an hour away from Tokyo by train and an hour by car. If I were to go back to Japan, I would definitely explore this city some more!
DAY TRIPS FROM OSAKA, JAPAN
My personal favorite.
This city gives you the best of both worlds–city and nature in one. With deer freely roaming on the streets, you get to play with them and feed them with deer food that is sold left and right by street vendors.
Nara is also the home of the world’s largest wooden structure, The Tōdai-ji Temple, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, The Daibutsu.
Kyoto used to be Japan’s imperial capital from 794 to 1868 until they transferred the imperial court to Tokyo in 1869.
Home of 17 of the world’s heritage sites, Kyoto is a treasure chest of Japanese history and culture. Though we weren’t able to visit all 17, we got to check out some of it at least.
KINKAKU-JI TEMPLE (ROKUON-JI TEMPLE)
Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
A 3-storey pavilion located at the strolling garden of the Rokuon-ji temple complex. This area is usually very crowded as tourists flock to take photos of or with the golden pavilion.
The Ninomaru Palace.
This was the shogun’s residence and office. Now open to the public, you can see a lot of paintings and elaborate wood carvings that were once used to impress all visitors and show how powerful and wealthy they were.
However, what impressed me the most about this castle was the Nightingale Floor where in every step you take, you would hear “chirping birds”. This was a security measure for the shoguns so as to alarm them if there are intruders in the palace.
It’s very impressive how they thought of using the wood to create subtle chirp sounds that wouldn’t even alarm intruders when they hear it–it’s actually sounds very relaxing as if you are in a garden!
Speaking of garden, the Ninomaru Garden was yet another breathtaking sight!
Here are other photos of Kyoto:
HOW TO GET THERE:
The best way to get to Kyoto from Osaka is by train.
Here’s a link I found on different railways you can take to get there.
I can’t wait to go back to Japan and visit more cities!
In the meantime, please feel free to comment and suggest more day trips in Japan. I’d love to hear all about it and learn from you guys too!
xx, The Loco-in-Motion.