Day Trip out of Tokyo, Tokyo
About 45 mins north of Shinjuku is a sort of city outside of the city, so to speak: Keyaki Hiroba in Saitama-Shintoshin, an area that until recently was covered with sweet potato fields but now boasts a handful of 40-storey buildings and a “super arena.” This is where we go. Keyaki Hiroba and the adjacent buldings, parks and promenades are representative of 21st-century Japan. Everything is neat, clean, orderly, well laid-out; in a word: perfect. We come here when we crave a big city feel, outside of the chaos of central Tokyo. Apart from coffee shops, restaurants of every kind, a splendid tree grove, and a twenty billion square-foot Gold’s Gym, you'll find open air markets, festivals and 'flea markets' on the weekends. This is definitely off the beaten path...but I think it's a trip well worth the effort. Also, you can grab dinner or lunch at Pertutto Cafe, a splendid Italian restuarant situated right smack in the middle of Keyaki Hiroba, on the third floor of a small building. The staff are super friendly and the food is exceptional.
Mt Fuji is a must see. Here is how you do it. Take the shinkansen to the city of Fuji or Shin-Fuji is the station name. Get out of the fastest train in the world, and you will be in awe.....................BEAUTIFUL MT FUJI RIGHT IN FRON OF YOU
Also, in Saitama Super Arena, go to the John Lennon Museum, its not big, and the intro film is in japanese, but the museaum takes you through his history until his death. This museum however controversial is good and only 30 mins from Tokyo Station on the cheap JR lines
Kamakura - This is where I went on New Years Day 1999. If I did not learn about this in Japanese class I never would have thought to go. It is a small coastla town an hour and some from Tokyo by train, famous for their Big Buddha (Dai Butsu). If I remember correctly, it is the second biggest in Japan. Aside from the Buddha and a big temple, it is also a very pleasant little town to visit.
Just a couple of hours from Tokyo from the Tobu-Nikko line in the basement of Asakusa Tobu Department store. Ask for info (maps, train timetables, pamphlets..) at the train or at the Nikko Tobu Station.
Come here to run away of the rush of Tokyo. Great sceneries, temples, shrines... peace! In some of the temples you'll have to pay for entrance (there's a Combinated Ticket). Here you will see everywhere (in souvenirs shops too) the famous three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) carved in wood.
Since I lived in Kyushu and Honshu I found a lot of interesting places off the beaten path. I personally wouldn't recommend going to Tokyo. It's an ugly city, steel and concrete, full of people, cars, trucks, and buses. If seeing hi-tech Japan is your thing then have at it.
The Japanese culture has evolved over a couple thousand years. The most noteworthy period of Japanese history isn't represented in the cities. You have to get out and away from them. Kyushu is a good place to start. The geography is beautiful. From active volcanos, to green pastures, terraced rice paddies, and beautiful isolated beaches. One place that very few foreigners have ever been to or know exists is a memorial in Chiran. It is dedicated to all the kamikaze flyers from WWII. It is essentially a shrine/museum/memorial with exhibits, personal effects, and pictures of every kamikaze pilot. It is quite a moving experience to go there and is well laid out. Well worth the visit if you are ever in the Kagoshima area.
Another place that is worth a visit is anywhere along the old Tokyo-Kyoto road. I can't remember the exact name of it. It was the foot road between the two cities during feudal times. Parts of it, especially in the mountains is quite beautiful and alot of the buildings retain their original appearance from those Edo days.
Of all the temples to visit in Japan. I'd go back to Chio-in (I think I spelled it right)in Kyoto. It is magnificent, very old, and very ornate. The best time to visit it I think would be in the early spring before the summer tourist season arrives. If you can be inside it on a cool morning by yourself like I was fortunate enough to do on my first visit, then I'm sure you will have a very memorable experience.
In northern Japan, I wasn't too crazy about it. I was just up there in Jan/Feb. Yes, tons of snow and it was quite beautiful driving through snow covered country towns but there is a reason why the population is lower up there and there are far less attractions......it gets freakin' cold in the winter!! I've done the Saporro Ice festival thing a couple times. It's O.K. to see once. Don't expect to get a clean picture of anything though. If you're already up that way you might as well drive on up to the northern most point on Hokkaido. If you make it, there is a shrine on top of a hill over-looking the point. It is dedicated to a U.S. WWII submarine sunk in the straits between Hokkaido and Sakhaline. About a 100 yards away from that shrine is another monument dedicated to the KAL flight 007 that the Soviets shot down in those straits in 1983?
Again there's not much up there but if you want to eat some good king crab and see what the harsh elements shape the environment and culture into then check it out.
For theme park junkies (er... that would be me huh?), DON'T MISS the Sanrio Puroland Theme Park located in Tama City here in Tokyo. Enjoy a fun-filled day with your favorite Sanrio characters... yes, like Hello Kitty! :-))
Mt Fuji, here I come! Well, no visit to Tokyo is considered complete if one doesn't conquer Mt Fuji. You can join an excursion tour or go there on your own. For more details, do check with your hotel concierge. He'd be able to help you make the necessary arrangements and give you some great tips.
P.S. Pic taken from a moving train!
To enjoy the beautiful scenery of Fuji at the time of enjoying your hot spring, you may consider of going to hot spring centre there.
Kamakura is much more that Great Budda.
Let's experience MORE