Japan’s iconic Mt Fuji is a must-see for visitors to the Tokyo area, and at 3,776 metres above sea level, it is Japan’s tallest mountain peak. The mountain is located in the Fuji Five Lakes region, which offers plenty of activities such as scenic hiking trails and water sports on the lakes. Even if you don’t intend to climb the mountain, a visit to 400-year-old Fuji Sengen-jinja (shrine) is highly recommended as it’s only a 15-minute walk from Fujisan Station. Japan Tours offers tours of the region from Tokyo; otherwise, Fuji-Yoshida and Kawaguchi-ko are the two main towns providing access, if a self-guided adventure is more your style.
Around two hours north of Tokyo on the Tōbu Nikkō line, lies the ancient forest and town of Nikkō, whose 103 religious structures form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the Tōshō-gu shrine, halls commissioned by the Tokugawa family who ruled Edo Japan until the Meiji Restoration leave visitors in awe. If the area is not overcrowded, allow yourself to properly absorb the history of feudal Japan among the towering cedars and ancient shrines. Other attractions include the Shin-kyō Bridge and the Kanman-ga-Fuchi Abyss, a wooded path protected by jizō statues.
Located in Gunma Prefecture, Kusatsu is Japan’s favourite onsen (hot spring) town. The draw is its strongly-scented emerald waters, which are rich in sulphuric acid, the same compound that gives cooked eggs their unique odour. The hot water spring in the centre of town, Yubatake, is also one of its most popular attractions and is lit up at night. Other than enjoying a good soak, visitors can visit Mount Shirane for hiking in the fall or skiing in the winter.
While it’s not exactly around the corner, it’s still possible to visit Kamakura in just one day thanks to Japan’s excellent rail system. The city is famous for its extremely high concentration of Zen, Buddhist and Shinto temples, thanks to its rich history and former title as the nation’s capital. Kamakura has its own mini rail system to take visitors to all the different temples and down to the sea, so getting around is a breeze. Besides the required visit to the Daibutsu or Giant Buddha, you won’t want to miss seeing Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū for its sprawling grounds, and Jomyo-ji for its distinct wa-garden and traditional teahouse.
Located less than an hour away from Tokyo lies Mount Takao where visitors can enjoy a nature hike on one of the many trails that ascend the mountain or take a cable car that carries passengers part of the way up. Once there, you will also find the ancient Yakuo-in, a Buddhist temple established in 744 and is one of Takao-san’s must-sees.