Spring Escapes: Top Day Trips from Tokyo

Lily Crossley-Baxter

Spring might just be the worst time to spend in a busy city. To help you escape, we have the best spring day trips from Tokyo for all the seasonal treats.

Myouhonji Temple in Kamakura
Photo by Tadashi Okoshi used under CC

Spring is the best time to travel in Japan—fight me if you like, but you know, deep down, that it’s true. The flowers, the warm weather, the pure joy of cherry blossoms—plus the food stalls and festivals that come with them—it’s a glorious time to be here. If you’re in Tokyo and don’t really want to be (which is fair), then we have some great spring-specific day trips to get you out of the city. If you’re here any other time of year or want some extra ideas, we have our trusty 25 day trips to choose from. There are some great spring hikes if you like some foot action (of the non-fetish kind) and some brilliant bus tours if you want the exact opposite. All doable in a day and with public transport, here are our top ideas for springtime excursions—be they town, mountain or lake-side retreat.

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1. Kamakura: Cherry blossoms and Buddhas

kamakura
Photo by bryan... used under CC

A great day trip at any time of year, Kamakura is one of the most popular places to visit and cherry blossom provides the icing on the Buddha-shaped cake. An ancient capital with temples and shrines aplenty, Kamakura has hiking trails and cute cafes to fill your day. During cherry blossom season, begin at Kita-Kamakura and visit Kenchoji—a 13th-century temple with some heavily blossoming trees in the grounds. Next, follow the hiking trail to Kamakura Daibutsu and stop at Genjiyama Park along the way for a hanami picnic. When you arrive at the Great Buddha, you’ll notice there aren’t too many trees, but one or two are well positioned. Nearby, Hasedera is seasonally stunning Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine has a tree-lined walk, Myohonji has some weeping blossom and Komyoji has cats as a bonus.

Getting to Kamakura: You can reach Kamakura in under an hour from Tokyo with one change and tickets costing around ¥920.



2. Kawaguchiko: All the spring flowers

Fuji Blossom
Photo by Reginald Pentinio used under CC

Known for views of Fuji and the famous Shibazakura festival which throws some non-cherry flowers into the mix, Kawaguchiko is a safe bet for a great day out. The north shore of the lake has over 300 cherry trees stretching along the 1 km walk with views of Fuji in the background. Head towards the Kawaguchiko Music Forest for a particularly nice promenade. The annual cherry blossom festival will be held on the north shore from April 6th–14th with evening illuminations from sunset until 9 pm. (Catch the bus to the Sarumawashi Theater from Kawaguchiko Station).

On the northwestern side, Oshino Hakkai has a tree-lined river with more Fuji views. If you fancy a bus tour in the area, this one offers a chance to visit the famous Chureito Pagoda as well as nearby sites and blossom spots.

A little later in the season, the Shibazakura festival takes place from April 13th to May 26th showcasing fields of moss phlox as far as the eye can see. There are bus trips here too which help avoid the stress of figuring out transport.

Getting to Kawaguchiko: Kawaguchiko is pretty simple to get to, you can either catch the Limited Express to Otsuki and jump on the Fujikyu railway which costs ¥3,910 or take the slightly longer route on the local line which adds half an hour but cuts the price down to ¥1,800. Alternatively, highway busses run from Tokyo and cost approximately ¥1,800.

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3. Takao: Hikes and blossom views

Takao Shrine Entrance
Photo by Rob Young used under CC

Technically in Tokyo but a day’s worth of sightseeing nonetheless, Takao is a popular mountainous escape from the city. While spring is a great time for a casual hike anyway, when you reach the top of Takao you’ll be greeted with 1,000 cherry trees in full bloom (if you time it right). Thanks to the altitude and slightly cooler temperatures, you’ll find the blossoms in bloom a little later than the rest of Tokyo, so it’s perfect if you are late to the (hanami) party. Take the popular Omotesando Trail as it has some trees dotted along the route, until you reach the summit. From there, you have another 30-minute hike to the Takaosan Senbonzakura area which is home to around 1,000 trees. The place is pretty popular but you should be able to find a spot for a mini-picnic while you enjoy the view.

Getting to Takao: Takaosanguchi station is just under an hour from Tokyo and if you catch the Keio Line Semi-Special Express you won’t have to change. The journey costs just ¥360 and even the non-direct route is pretty easy as it needs just one change at Kitano.


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4. Chichibu: Shibazakura and temple trails

Chichibu Shibazakura
Photo by Tanaka Juuyoh used under CC

Known for its spring Shibazakura festival which is a little closer than the one close to Fuji, this Saitama city has plenty to offer. Held on Hitsujiyama Park’s Shibazakura Hill, the festival takes place from April 12th to May 5th this year and features around 400,000 flowers. The town was once industrial but is moving towards tourism these days, with a 35-temple trail and a tradition of meisen—a special silk produced since before the Edo period. For more flower festivals, check out our list of the top 6 in and around Tokyo.

Getting to Chichibu: To reach the flower festival head to Yokoze or Seibu-Chichibu stations which are best reached from Ikebukuro. The journey costs either ¥1,440 if you catch the direct limited express (taking 70 minutes) or ¥740 on two local trains (taking 90 minutes).

5. Matsumoto: Art, cycling and spring blossoms

A little bit further afield, Matsumoto is more of a weekend getaway, but it’s too pretty to leave out entirely. Known for its famous Crow Castle, the small city is pretty much entirely flat, making it the perfect place to explore by bike. Temples, shrines and impressive art galleries are dotted around the area with historic schools and shopping streets galore. The addition of cherry blossom to this town is the finishing touch—spend a night in the town and take your time to explore the sights, If you’re lucky the seasonal food stalls will be open in the square opposite the castle too!

Getting to Matsumoto: To reach Matsumoto you can catch a highway bus from Shinjuku Station. It costs around ¥2,600¥3,500 and takes three and a half hours.



6. Omiya Park: A thousand trees to admire

Omiya Koen Sakura
Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

Located in Saitama City, Omiya Park is one of the top 100 places in Japan to see the cherry blossom, so you know you’re off to a good start. There are over 1,000 trees lining paths and grassy knolls so you can squeeze in and have a picnic however busy it gets. The trees are illuminated in the evenings and there’s even a boating lake to get all romantic on, not to mention festival stalls that set up during the blossoming times.

Getting there: Catch a train to Kita-Omiya Station which is 45 minutes from Shinjuku, with a change at Omiya Station. The journey costs ¥620.

Written by:
Filed under: Things to do
Tags: Cherry Blossom, Day Trip, Festival, Fuji Five Lakes, Hanami, Kamakura, Kyoto, Mount Fuji, Sakura, Season, Spring, Tokyo
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