in Greater Tokyo
Escape the capital and enter a natural wonderland
No visitor to Tokyo can ignore the white peak of Mount Fuji emerging above the skyscrapers. It may be over 80 km (50 miles) away, but the mountain is visible from the city and is a tantalizing reminder of the stunning natural landscapes that border Tokyo. Watersports fans are spoiled for choice at Lake Kawaguchiko, while Oze National Park provides countless hiking trails through abundant marshland. Nearby Oyama Senmaida also provides incredible views of the area's cascading terraced rice paddies.
Lake Kawaguchiko: A Waterside Getaway Beside Mount Fuji
Lake Kawaguchiko is the second largest of the Fuji Five Lakes and renowned for its majestic views of Mount Fuji and plethora of outdoor activities. Thanks to its prime Fuji-viewing location, the lake's eastern shore is well-developed and features a host of tourist facilities, including hotels, museums, and hot springs.
At the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum, peruse an assortment of automatic musical instruments and take a stroll through its European-styled gardens. Another noteworthy museum is the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, which displays a number of beautifully dyed silk kimonos.
For active and outdoor enthusiasts, try windsurfing, camping, fishing, hiking, boating, or cycling beside the ever-present form of Mount Fuji. On a clear and still day, the lake's water mirrors the iconic mountain in a mesmerizing display of nature. Ride the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway off the lake's southeastern banks for elevated views of Lake Kawaguchiko and Mount Fuji.
While Lake Kawaguchiko shines in all seasons, it is especially beautiful in spring and autumn when the already captivating views are enhanced with cherry blossoms and fiery foliage.
Immerse Yourself in the Unspoiled Nature of Oze National Park
Fukushima / Tochigi / Gunma / Niigata
Extending across multiple prefectures north of Tokyo, Oze National Park is a hiker's paradise thanks to abundant mountains, marshlands, forests, lakes, and waterfalls. Its most popular spots can be found at Ozegahara Marsh and Lake Ozenuma.
Throughout the park, walk along wooden boardwalks and witness endless meadows marked by reflective lakes that mirror the surrounding naturescape. In late spring, skunk cabbages bloom across the marshland, covering the area in white blossoms. Equally coveted views occur during mid-summer when yellow alpine lilies paint the landscape golden or in mid-autumn when the area's grass turns vibrant yellow and red. The well maintained walkways cross relatively flat terrain, but be sure to dress appropriately for a multi-hour hike if you want to explore the full area.
If you are looking for a more challenging hike, Oze's mountain trails offer a number of climbing and hiking opportunities. The park also has mountain huts and campgrounds, which, in addition to lodging, provide valuable park information. With a nearby place to stay, you can start your morning with a sunrise over Gunma's majestic landscape and end your day with amber rays at sunset.
Oyama Senmaida: A Captivating Landscape of Agricultural Japan
Oyama Senmaida, situated in southern Chiba on the Boso Peninsula, is recognized as one of Japan's "100 Best Rice Terraces" and is famous for its hypnotizing views. A combination of both human-touched and natural landscapes, the cascading fields, punctuated by reflective rice paddies and encircled by lush forests, create an enchanting display of nature.
Between October and January each year, the Tanada Light Festival is held, promising a sea of lights thanks to the thousands of LED candles that illuminate the rice paddies against the night sky.
The Oyama Senmaida Preservation Society manages the fields and organizes a variety of hands-on farming activities such as rice-planting, weeding, and harvesting throughout the year to promote and preserve Japanese culture. You can also partake in agricultural activities related to soybeans, cotton, and indigo, mochi-making (pounded rice cake) experiences, indigo dyeing, traditional craft experiences, paper-making, and more. The society even has English speaking staff to ensure that everyone can enjoy the activities.
With nature's blessings as your background, experience the labor-intensive, yet rewarding life of farmers and create a deeper connection to your food.
Wander the path of exiles at Sado Island
Sado Island is located off the west coast of Niigata and is one of Japan’s largest Islands. Over the years it has become a melting pot of religions and cultures as exiles from all over the country made it their home, and now offers tourists a fascinating insight into Japan’s rich history. One such tradition is the use of Tarai Bune boats, the shallow bottom small ‘tubs’ that were perfect for fishermen to navigate the small coves of the island and today take tourists on guided tours from Ogi Port.
Immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture
For some, there is nothing more nourishing than time spent retreating from daily life. Of course, Tokyo is home to countless shrines, but beyond the hustle and bustle of the city, Greater Tokyo's shrines and temples boast a degree of tranquility you won't find downtown. Beyond traditional Buddhism, the outskirts of Tokyo include many places to discover Japanese culture. Take a trip to the Omiya Bonsai Village, dedicated to bonsai tree art, or join a Kintsugi workshop, where you can learn the art of mending broken pottery with gold or silver to create a unique masterpiece.
Witness the Ornate Beauty of Nikko Toshogu
Nikko Toshogu Shrine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The shrine is renowned for its collection of ornately designed structures and today, is part of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage site.
When you first approach the torii gate, a stunning five-story pagoda will greet you. The structure's vermillion exterior interwoven with blue, green, and gold detailing creates an awe-inspiring sight. Past the entrance stands the Sacred Horse's stable where you will find Three Wise Monkeys carvings depicting the proverb, "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil."
Located towards the back of the shrine grounds is the famous Yomeimon gate that epitomizes the shrine's intricacy and beauty. This one-of-a-kind structure features hundreds of detailed carvings, elaborate coloring, and golden accents. Powerful dragon carvings decorate the front, reminding passersby of the shrine's sacredness.
Beyond Yomeimon, climb a staircase through the forest to Tokugawa Ieyasu's tomb. In contrast to the shrine's opulence, the subdued appearance of the tomb conveys a humble message and exudes a tranquil atmosphere.
Kintsugi: The Art of Beautifying Broken Pottery
Kintsugi, which roughly translates to "golden joinery", is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold- or silver-dusted lacquer. While most approaches to repairs may seek to hide an object's flaws, kintsugi embraces these imperfections and treats them as a valuable part of the object's history. This fifteenth century repair method is an excellent example of how Japan has long prioritized using resources to their fullest. In Tokyo, a hub of traditional art, join a kintsugi workshop and create your own one-of-a-kind piece of pottery! Some facilities even allow you to bring your own damaged pottery. Of course, if you do not have your own pottery, do not worry. Most courses provide you with all the necessary equipment to perform kintsugi. At the end of the class, you will be left with a unique souvenir that embodies Japan's culture.
An Entire Village Dedicated to Bonsai Art
The art of bonsai brings together a few contradictions. They are simple, yet intricate; natural, yet crafted. And Omiya Bonsai Village puts this living piece of culture on a pedestal. Located in Saitama Prefecture, which lies directly northwest of Tokyo, the neighborhood is home to six distinct gardens open for viewing, although you might catch sight of plenty of bonsai in the gardens of private residences too.
Explore the compound of the much-celebrated Kencho-ji Temple
The very first Zen temple in Kamakura, this landmark was founded in 1253, and sees guests coming face to face with the temple bell (Bonsho) which has been designated a national treasure, before passing through an impressive Sanmon gate. The grounds and garden are stunning, and there are many traditions to view and experience, such as guided meditation or Zazen sessions held multiple times a year.
Exploration and adventure around Tokyo's suburbs
In some cities, the suburbs melt away into obscurity, drowned out by the buzz of downtown. Not in Tokyo. In the city's far reaches, you'll find a wealth of activities not available in the bustling city center. You can try your hand at blacksmithing at Sanjo Blacksmith Dojo. Take a deep dive into sake brewing with an overnight visit to KURABITO STAY. Or hop on a bike and take in the sites along the famous Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road.
Scenic Cycling on the Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road
One of the best ways to explore Japan is by bicycle. Sure, the intricate network of Tokyo's train systems and the eye-watering high speeds of the bullet train are impressive. But if you really want to take in the scenery, discover hidden delights, and really get to know the country, then hop on a bicycle and hit the cycling tracks. Recently, the nation has experienced a cycling renaissance, thanks largely to the government's National Cycle Route Scheme. It's a program showcasing world-class cycling routes, offering visitors the opportunity to discover natural and cultural delights. The Tsukuba-Kasumigaura Ring-Ring Road is one of only three recognized courses under the National Cycle Route Scheme and the most accessible from Tokyo.
Become a Sake Brewer at KURABITO STAY
Located in an over 300-year old brewery and nestled in the sake-making region of Saku, KURABITO STAY is an immersive lodging experience where guests take on the roles of sake brewers. The refurbished accommodation is the former living quarters of past brewers and features a simple, yet modern wooden interior that is reminiscent of the woodwork in the sake brewing facilities where guests can experience the simulated life of a brewer.
The facility offers two-day or three-day brewer experiences throughout the year. During your stay, learn about sake's cultural significance and the depth of its flavor as you participate in real sake brewing processes that yield actual products, not imitations. Outside the brewer experience, you can stroll through the surrounding area's streets, visit temples and shrines, enjoy local delicacies paired with sake, and have fun with your fellow brewers. At the end of your stay, you will receive a certificate from the facility to prove you participated in the experience program.
Forge a Blade at Sanjo Blacksmith Dojo
Sanjo Blacksmith Dojo opened in 2005 as an experience facility aimed at introducing people to and promoting blacksmith techniques. The dojo offers three permanent courses—knife sharpening, Japanese nail making, and letter opener-making—as well as one-off courses throughout the year.
Although the courses are held only in Japanese, the teachers' easy-to-follow demonstrations, kindness, and patience, make the lessons perfect for beginners in any language. Depending on the course, you can learn how to heat, polish, cut, and shave iron, as well as shape it with a hammer. After your hard work, you will be left with a unique souvenir imbued with memories of your experience. Reservations are not required for up to three people. Conditions vary for group reservations with four or more people so please check the website.
Ride the rails and see astonishing sights on the JR Tadami Line
This scenic railway line stretches 135km from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station in Fukushima Prefecture to Koide Station in Niigata Prefecture. Before boarding, however, a trip to Kitakata to savour its historic ramen is a must for food lovers. Appetites appeased, passengers can enjoy a comfortable train journey sweeping through dense forests and farmland and gliding across rivers.
Take to the mountains with the Nikko Yamabushi Bike Tour
Yamabushi can be translated as "monks of the Shugendo", or monks who venture to the mountains to partake in a special kind of worship and mindfulness. Visitors to Tochigi prefecture can take part in a special bike tour that sees participants doing a seven-day cycle through the historic area, passing along snaking paths through picturesque mountains, taking part in unique ceremonies linked to these practices and learning about the way of life.
Bright lights, bustling markets and outstanding restaurants draw tourists to Tokyo from all over the world. Yet, many are unaware of the opportunity for unforgettable experiences that exist in the areas surrounding the city. Discover ancient Japanese customs, stunning natural sites and curious traditions in Greater Tokyo.