Japan

Best side trips from Tokyo for taking time out from the Big City

With so many wonderful destinations in Japan, plan some time away from the busy city life and experience a different taste of Japan.

The world’s most populous metropolis has plenty to keep you entertained, from the bright lights and bustling streets of Shibuya to the ancient temples and craft shops of Asakusa. But if you’re looking for a change of pace, head to some of these unique destinations in Japan.

Jump on the efficient Shinkansen bullet train and head to the water for modern beachfront or harbourside hotels with epic views, or head inland to stay amidst lush forests at mountainside retreats. When you venture off the beaten track for a side trip from Tokyo, you’ll discover the secrets and surprises of the smaller towns surrounding the big city.

A side trip from Tokyo to Japan's second largest city

Designated a historic building by Yokohama City, Hotel New Grand Yokohama is one of the oldest Western hotels in Japan. First opened in 1927, it has hosted famous names from Babe Ruth to Charlie Chaplin. From its seat next to Yamashita Park and the waterside business district of Minato Mirai, it makes for a fascinating mix of modern and traditional spaces.

The magic begins when you step into the lobby of the original building, with soaring columns, ornate ceilings and luminous chandeliers that seem straight out of an old-world film set. You’ll find your room in the new annex tower block, where waffle-knit robes and fine linens await to set an urban spa vibe. All rooms have harbour views, but if you stay in the Upper Tower you can take in the lights from Yokahama Port too, not to mention dip into to the self-service executive lounge for a cheeky midday drink.

When you dine at the hotel’s Le Normandie restaurant, designed to reflect the interior of the SS Normandie, you’ll be treated to more breathtaking views alongside classic French fare like foie gras confit with cold vegetable barigoule. Alternatively, you can transport yourself to Italy with a caprese salad made with milky mozzarella. After your dinner, sip on a pint at on-site British bar Sea Guardian II, or opt for a whimsical scone and drink set at the hotel’s own La Terrasse.

Less than 30 minutes from Tokyo by train, Yokohama is known for its food and beer culture. Not to be missed is the Ramen Museum, devoted to Japan’s ubiquitous noodle, or you can head to Kirin Beer Village for a hops-infused brewery tour. If you’re not much of a drinker, stroll an easy four minutes to the NYK Maritime Museum, where you can explore the elegant interiors and decks of an ocean liner built in 1930.

Hotel New Grand

Top rated
Yokohama, 19 km to Fujisawa Station
8.7 Excellent (1909 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.1 / 10
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A waterfront side trip from Tokyo in Yokohama

With waterfront views, Yokohama Bay Hotel is smack in the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama. Throw open the drapes on the floor-to-ceiling windows in your chic, contemporary room, or if you’ve booked a select space, step out onto your private balcony to take in the twinkling lights of the harbour.

Stay in a Luxury King and watch the Cosmo World Ferris Wheel turn from the comfort of your bathtub, or opt for the Grand Corner Suite for a curved wall of windows showcasing panoramic views of Yokohama Bay. If you’re after even more indulgence, book a room on the top three floors and be looked after with the Bay Club’s butler service, lounge and complimentary breakfast, cocktails and afternoon tea.

The dining options at Yokohama Bay will spoil you for choice, too. At Café Tosca, you’ll find an extensive buffet of fusion dishes set before towering windows looking out to Minato Mirai. Or pop into the Parisian-style garden at Queen Alice, where the chef prepares set menus with modern plates like foie gras sautée served with local daikon. If it’s Asian flavours you’re after, try Oshima for traditional Japanese cuisine like shabu shabu (almost like a broth fondue), or Turandot for award-winning Chinese cuisine from Chef Wakiya, one of the most celebrated chefs in Japan.

And to just relax? Take a leisurely swim in the hotel’s mosaic-tiled indoor pool, or soak in the Jacuzzi before sweating out any lingering cares in the sauna. Once you’re recharged and ready explore Yokohama, you can head to the city’s highest observation deck, Landmark Tower Sky Garden, or Kanteibyo, a temple built in 1873 in Japan’s biggest Chinatown just 15 minutes away by train.

The Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu

Top rated
Yokohama, 18.9 km to Fujisawa Station
9.1 Excellent (1596 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
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A luxury side trip from Tokyo at a hot spring

In the hot spring capital of Japan, Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort And Spa is ideal for a short trip from Tokyo’s frenetic energy. Slip into a traditional yukata robe and wooden slippers and head to the granite-lined onsen (a natural hot spring bath) to let the waters melt away the stresses of the city. Book a massage at Spa Izumi, with eight treatment rooms and walk-in mist saunas and showers. You’ll want to try the Blueberry Full Body Massage, which uses extra-virgin oil extracted from blueberry seeds.

For a traditional experience, stay in a Regency Suite Tatami with futon beds, tatami flooring and low-rise seating. Or if reclining on a balcony with an evening cocktail is more your vibe, opt for a stay in a Twin Bed Mountain View Room. Don your Japanese robe and relax in your comfy, carpeted room bathed in natural light during the day. Wander to the on-site Living Room for a fireside snack, washed down with a Hakone Shichito Red Ale, and keep your eye on the 18-year limited edition Fujisanroku whiskey for an after-dinner tipple.

And speaking of dinner, the French-trained Executive Chef at Berce will be glad to serve you a set menu of classic French dishes. Or if you prefer a view, head to the elegant Dining Room and dine on Western plates like Cajun blackened Tasmanian salmon or Wagyu A4 beef tenderloin.

When you feel like seeing the sights, you can take in Hakone’s natural scenery on the mountain railway (the only one in Japan), which leaves from Hakone-Yumoto station. Closer to the hotel, Hakone Gora Park is 16 minutes by foot and is the site of a Japanese tea house, where you can experience the splendour of a traditional tea ceremony.

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Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort And Spa

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (772 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
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A side trip from Tokyo at the foot of Mt Fuji

Hotel Mars Garden Wood is just over an hour from the centre of Tokyo and is the gateway to Mount Fuji and Hakone. Explore the lava-formed Fuji Five Lakes and the mountainous Hakone region with its hot springs, dense forests and traditional shrines. As for the hotel, you’ll find it surrounded by gardens, a lake filled with koi fish and sparkling fountains – don’t miss the spectacular fountain light show at night!

For dinner, head to the hotel’s high-end Italian restaurant, Fenice, and dine on delicate dishes beautifully presented with edible flowers. At the Ginmeisui Teppan-yaki grill, you’ll watch premium cuts of meat and seafood prepared in front of you – choose from grilled Kobe or Wagyu beef, as well as spiny lobster and abalone served with garlic fried rice.

In your clean, uncluttered guest room, sink into your armchair or sumptuous queen bed and gaze through the window at the sacred volcanic peak that has inspired so many works of art. For a relaxing escape, book a room with its own open-air bath and soak in the shadow of Mt Fuji from your tub. You can indulge in the full onsen experience at the hotel’s own spacious open-air spring – called a rotenburo – surrounded by bamboo privacy screens. When your body and soul are satisfied, you can get your shopping fix at Japan’s biggest outlet mall, Gotemba Premium Outlet, just a 10-minute drive away and great for picking up spoils from your Mt Fuji day trip.

Mars Garden Wood Gotemba

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (491 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.5 / 10
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A beach break side trip from Tokyo

In the seaside city of Kamakura just south of Tokyo, stay at Prince Kamakura and you’ll have views of two of Japan’s most famous sights – Mt Fuji and Enoshima Island. You’ll feel a world away from bustling Tokyo streets as you unwind in your room’s calming shades of sand and blue, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing a seamless transition to Shichirigahama Beach in Sagami Bay. Book a room on the third or fourth floor for the best views of the two iconic natural landmarks.

On-site French restaurant Le Trianon features sea views and fresh ingredients like succulent lobster straight from Sagami Bay. Or you can try a traditional multi-course kaiseki meal at the hotel’s Japanese restaurant before retreating to Lounge Ajisai for a quiet evening drink.

As for entertainment, you can work on your golf game at the Shichirigahama Golf Driving Range, a 280-yard-long range with 132 tees just next to the hotel. In summer, the afternoons are best spent beside the outdoor 25-metre swimming pool and Jacuzzi before taking a barefoot stroll along the seashore.

To get out and explore, drive just 13 minutes to the ancient city of Kamakura to visit the awe-inspiring Kōtoku-in temple. If you’re coming in spring and you’re in luck, you’ll arrive in time to see the famous cherry blossoms in bloom in Myoutoike Park.

Hotel Prince Kamakura

Kamakura, 3.5 km to Kamakura Station
8.3 Very good (343 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.7 / 10
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A side trip from Tokyo for Disney dreamers

Just 25 kilometres east of the capital, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is a magical treat for the young or young at heart. The hotel faces Tokyo Disneyland Park, meaning you’re as close to the park as hotels get, plus you’ll be able to travel there directly by monorail. To sleep, choose a whimsical Character Room based on your favourite Disney icon. Are you a fan of the Tinker Bell Room, decorated with oversized flowers and plants? Or perhaps the Alice in Wonderland Room, influenced by the Queen of Hearts and Cheshire Cat, is more your style.

The park is sure to work up an appetite, so grab a Mickey Mouse plate and tuck in at the colourful Sherwood Garden Restaurant buffet. For something more refined, head to Canna to dine on pan-fried sea bass and braised Malabar spinach, or grilled beef rump with grilled corn mash. During the day, you can channel Mary Poppins and indulge in a traditional Victorian High Tea in the Dreamers Lounge in the hotel’s grand Atrium Lobby.

Make wishes come true at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where kids can be transformed into Disney Princesses before popping next door to Magic Memories Photo for a portrait keepsake. Stroll the grounds to the outdoor pool based on Peter Pan’s tick-tocking crocodile, or Alice’s Garden with topiary trees shaped like playing card suits. To complete your Disney experience, ask the hotel staff to arrange a bonus visit to Tokyo DisneySea.

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Tokyo Disneyland Hotel

Top rated
Tokyo, 31.9 km to Ajinomoto Stadium
9.1 Excellent (602 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.3 / 10
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A side trip from Tokyo set in an orchard

True to its name, Fruit Park Fujiya Hotel is surrounded by cherry, apple and pear trees. In the centre of Yamanashi Prefecture, it’s about an hour-and-40-minute drive from Tokyo, making it a great option if you’re looking for a side trip that lets you explore more of this wondrous country.

Sample the region’s fruity fare, like the famous peach parfait, at the hotel’s Bella Vista Café while you overlook manicured grounds dotted with blossoming trees in the spring. Make sure to save room for dinner though, as you’ll also find French cuisine at La Collina, Japanese seafood at Fuefukigawa and sizzling teppanyaki at Keyaki (all on-site). Once your appetite is satiated, continue your evening at the hotel’s very own night spot, Prim Lows – knock back a tasty cocktail to build up the confidence for your Japanese karaoke debut!

When it comes to resting your head, you’ll do it Japanese-style in a yukata robe on your very own futon bed flanked by rice-paper sliding doors and traditional tatami mats. Or you can go the Western route with twin beds, a comfortable sofa and a desk. Whichever you opt for, you’ll bask in panoramas across the Kofu Basin and Kai Mountain Range – choice rooms even look towards Mount Fuji!

Soothe your muscles in the hot spring waters of the hotel’s indoor and open-air onsens with views over the natural greenery and mountains, then try a Chinese massage at the on-site spa. Should you care to head off-site, Kasugai Golf Club is a 10-minute drive away. You’ll find fascinating museums close by too, like the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art and the Museum of Literature.

Fruit Park Fujiya Hotel

8.4 Very good (55 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.9 / 10
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