Tips + Trends

Bite the Bullet: 5 Speedy Tokyo Side Trips

Thanks to its blazing-fast network of Shinkansen trains, getting around Japan is a snap even for business travelers short on time. Though Tokyo has more than enough diversions for visitors all by itself, these stress-free day trips showcase other sides of this vibrant country.

From world-class art to stunning natural scenery, these spots more than merit extending your stay by an extra day or two. Some are close enough for you to pop over after your morning meeting and still make it back in time for dinner.

Hit the Beach on the Izu Peninsula

A breezy, hourlong train ride is all it takes to whisk business travelers from Tokyo Station to the seaside town of Atami on the Izu Peninsula.

Local urbanites love the area for Atami Sun Beach, a honey-hued crescent of sand easily accessible from downtown; Kinomiya Shrine, a serene space centered around a two-millennia-old camphor tree; and the quirky Atami Trick Art Museum, which features hyper-realistic 3-D optical illusions painted by masterful artists.

Die-hard surfers can venture just a bit farther down the coastline to Kisami Ohama Beach to catch some killer waves.

Soak in the Soothing Waters of Kusatsu Onsen

tokyo side trips
Ease your weary muscles and unwind in hot springs. (Photo: Getty Images)

After an international flight and several days of PowerPoint presentations, a traditional Japanese onsen is the ideal antidote to office-induced stress. According to local lore, the mineral-rich waters of these natural hot springs can cure any ailment except a broken heart.

Before entering the Kusatsu Onsen, visitors should make sure to observe the proper etiquette, which involves donning your birthday suit in the privacy of the gender-separate bathing areas. Note that tattoos are taboo in most public baths, and visitors with long, flowing locks should pin their hair up neatly before taking the plunge.

Explore the Trippy Anata No Warehouse in Kawasaki

If the candy-colored streets of Harajuku aren’t already surreal enough, consider ditching the big city and making a beeline for this thoroughly bizarre slice of Hong Kong in nearby Kawasaki.

Anata No Warehouse, or “Your Warehouse,” mimics the gritty decay of a crime-riddled alley in Kowloon with astonishing attention to detail. Think “Ghost in the Shell” and other stylishly dystopian sci-fi classics. Though you’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled onto a slightly spooky film set, you’re really just in one of the world’s most unusual video-game arcades.

Stroll the Historic Streets of Kawagoe

tokyo side trips
Escape the bustle of Tokyo for the relative quiet of Kawagoe. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s all but impossible not be charmed by this atmospheric hamlet located a mere 30 minutes from the capital by train. While the country’s modern metropolises dazzle with their glittering skyscrapers and Blade Runner–esque billboards, Kawagoe offers a sleepier sort of allure.

Sometimes nicknamed “Little Edo,” the town offers evocative architecture in the form of traditional kura-zukuri-style houses popular in the 1600s. Be sure to pick up a bag of sweets from Kashiya Yokocho, a street lined with candy shops.

See Spectacular Sculptures at the Hakone Open-Air Museum

tokyo side trips
Embrace the arts at the Hakone Open-Air Museum. (Photo: Getty Images)

A direct one-hour bullet train connection isn’t the only thing that makes Hakone an enticing weekend trip. There’s plenty to see in this picturesque city, including the Hakone Shrine, a sacred Shinto space near the shores of Lake Ashi, but the Hakone Open-Air Museum is especially popular with families. Founded in 1969, this outdoor sculpture garden features dozens of works set against a backdrop of volcanic mountains.