Kanagawa might not sound familiar at first, but this prefecture is home to some of the best day trips and escapes from Tokyo. Enoshima, Hakone, Kamakura and Yokohama are all here, offering beaches, Buddhas, and botanical gardens far superior to those of the big city. It’s pretty safe to say that Kanagawa has it all, and while it’s only 0.6% of Japan, it puts the space to very good use. A week in Kanagawa can involve beach days, island explorations, alternative art scenes, ramen museums and more, and it’s especially good for families.
Lay of the land
A pretty small prefecture sandwiched between Tokyo and Mt. Fuji with Yamanashi and Shizuoka as neighbors, Kanagawa is a mix of country and city. To the east, Sagami Bay and Tokyo Bay provide ample coastlines with beach getaways like Enoshima. To the west, the Tanzawa Mountains offer hiking and panoramic views.
The capital is Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, and Kawasaki is the prefecture’s next largest, with American military bases located in Yokosuka, Fussa, Zama and Atsugi (the second-largest number after Okinawa).
Kanagawa is, of course, a popular commuter city and if you’re thinking of moving here, it can be a great way to score cheaper rent while still being well connected and close to Tokyo.
Best spots to explore
Once you’ve tired of Tokyo’s busy streets and constant bright lights, heading down to Kanagawa can be a breath of fresh air. Even Yokohama has a different feel to it, maximizing its coastal location and alternative vibe for a more unusual combination. Here are some of the best bits to explore in Kanagawa—your new favorite prefecture!
Enoshima: Island life’s a beach
An island off the coast of Fujisawa City, Enoshima is a perfect day-trip spot, with caves, a spa, and plenty of shrines to visit too. You can access the island via a bridge, or you can also take a boat for a few hundred yen which is a little more exciting.
Wash your money at the Enoshima Shrine, stroll through the Samuel Cocking Gardens and enjoy the view from the lighthouse. Couples can ring a love bell and add a padlock to the collection, while the rest of us can explore the caves and learn the legend of the island’s dragon.
If you plan to hit all the sites, the 1-day Eno Pass offers admission to the main attractions (including the garden, lighthouse, and caves) as well as use of the escalators and discounts elsewhere, like the spa—all for ¥1,000.
The Enoshima Tenno Festival takes place every July and involves mikoshi (portable shrines) being carried not only through the streets but through the sea too!
Enoshima can be reached in just over an hour from Shinjuku on the Odakyu-Odawara Line Rapid Express train for Katase-Enoshima, for the princely sum of ¥640.
Hakone: Hikes and hot springs
Another top spot with a name that overshadows that of its home prefecture, Hakone is an onsen town with a great lake, a pirate boat, and ropeways too. There are plenty of hot springs to choose from, including Tenzan, which accepts the tattooed among us, and Kohan-no-yu, which has beautiful views of Lake Ashi.
For fresh-air options (well, air, anyway), you can explore Owakudani, aka the boiling valley with sulfur-rich hot springs where you can try the signature black eggs, as well as some alternative hiking trails in the area.
Aside from summer fireworks displays, there is the Hakone Daimyo March in early November which sees costume-clad locals, a marching band and dancers marching between around 9:45 am to 2 pm.
To reach Hakone, you can choose from regular trains, bullet trains and highway buses—we have a great transport guide to help!
Kawasaki City: Art and open-air architecture
Definitely a lesser-visited spot, Kawasaki has some real gems that are worth a day trip. First is the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art, a dedicated museum to the abstract artist who grew up in the city.
Next on the list is Nihon Minkaen, an open-air folk house museum with 25 preserved Edo-period homes.
There’s also Kawasaki Daishi Temple, one of the biggest temples of the Chisan School of Shingon Buddhism in Japan and whose history dates back a millenium.
Last but not least, Doraemon fans should visit the museum dedicated to the cartoon’s artists: the Fujiko F Fujio Museum.
Kawasaki can be reached directly from Shinagawa Station in under 10 minutes on the Tokaido Line (¥220) or 30 minutes from Shibuya (¥310) or Shinjuku (¥400) with a single transfer for each.
Kamakura: Kanto’s little Kyoto
Probably the most popular day trip from Tokyo by far, Kamakura is a beautiful break from the neon streets and a taste of old Japan. See the Giant Buddha, hike in the hills and explore the shrines and temples that gave it the nickname.
There are spots for tea in a bamboo forest, beaches to stretch out on and watch the sun go down and plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops to explore. Often busy but worthwhile, Kamakura is a full day of exploring, so it’s better not to combine it with Enoshima if you can help it.
The Kamakura Matsuri in April celebrates the area with food, performances and a great chance to see horseback archery! In summer, don’t miss the hour-long Kamakura fireworks display best viewed from the beach.
Kamakura is about an hour from Tokyo and costs around 500–900 yen each way, depending on your starting point. Be sure to try the Enoden electric railway when you get into town, it’s an old-fashioned way to get to your destination! See below for details on the best travel passes including the Kamakura Free Kankyo Tegata and the Kamakura Enoshima Pass.
Yokohama: Chinatown, ramen and art
Yokohama is the city that just keeps giving: it has distinct districts to explore and makes a perfect day trip, but isn’t big enough to feel overwhelming. Spend an afternoon strolling through Chinatown with plenty of buffets and restaurants to choose from as well as interesting shops and a stunning temple.
The Minato Mirai area offers stunning night views, trendy bars anda great strolling opportunity for date night.
If you’re after something creative, there’s a unique alternative art scene to explore and a series of museums—although they aren’t the traditional kind. Lovers of noodles can choose from the Showa-themed Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum or the hands-on Cup-Noodles Museum.
Round it all off by relaxing in the beautiful Sankeien Garden—you’ll forget you’re in a city at all!
Yokohama can be reached from Tokyo in just 30 minutes from Shibuya on the Tokyu Toyoko/Minatomirai Line Limited Express train for ¥280. For Chinatown and Minato-Mirai areas, head to Motomachi-Chukagai Station instead (¥500)!
Odawara: Castles and the catch of the day
Odawara is well known for its castle, which is the closest to Tokyo and a makes for a great day out from the city. It’s been faithfully restored so you can see it in all its ancient grandeur before finding a delicious lunch at the fishing port. A hub of daily trade, the area is filled with stalls, wholesalers and restaurants serving the freshest fish; we recommend having a donburi (rice bowl) with fish at Odawara Fish Market Den. Walk off the meal in Tsujimura Botanical Garden and hop on the train back home—a perfectly relaxing day!
The Akibasan Fire Festival in early December is a great chance to see some fire-walking and traditional ceremonies!
You can reach Odawara directly in 1 hour and 10 minutes from Shibuya on the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line for ¥1,520 or in 1 hour and 30 minutes on the Inokashira and Odakyu lines for ¥970 From Shinjuku, it takes 1 hours and 30 minutes on the Odakyu Line and costs ¥900.
Theme park thrills
There might be taller roller coasters and scarier haunted houses at Fuji Q, but where else could you find a Gudetama theme or a water park to beat the summer heat? Kanagawa has two great theme parks which are a little smaller, but also a lot cheaper.
Sanrio Puroland in Tama has all the characters you know and plenty you don’t, making for a pretty surreal afternoon of fun for families.
Alternatively, Yomiuriland is a traditional theme park (the biggest in Tokyo) with rides and a water park in summer along with illuminations in winter and spring.
Yomiuriland can be reached in under 30 minutes on the Keio Line changing at Chofu to the Keio-Sagamihara Line (¥290).
For Sanrio Puroland, catch the Keio Line from Shinjuku (¥330, 50 minutes) to Keio-Tama Center.
Kanagawa travel tips and passes
The best travel passes cover the most popular areas in Kanagawa, so read on if you’re planning to visit Hakone, Kamakura or Enoshima.
The Hakone Free Pass gives you two or three days of access to eight types of transport including a round trip from Shinjuku on the Odakyu Express train. Once there, you can choose from four buses, the Tozan train, the cablecar and the pirate ship. You’ll also receive discounts at over 50 sightseeing spots including museums, hot springs and galleries. It’s overall value is a steal! You can pick it up from Odakyu sightseeing offices, train station ticket vending machines, Odakyu travel stores, or purchase it online.
The Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass offers free transport in the area including a round trip from your purchase station and Fujisawa Station, unlimited rides on the Enoden and Odakyu lines (between Fujisawa and Katase-Enoshima), and discounts at local attractions. The prices vary depending on where you purchase it from: Shinjuku is ¥1,520, Machida is ¥1,060, and Fujisawa is ¥660.
The Kamakura Free Kankyo Tegata Pass offers travel on the five bus routes in the area as well as the Enoden railway. Tickets cost ¥570 and can be bought at Kamakura Station, Hase Station and the Shonan-Keikyu bus station.