Following on from Part 1 of my Tokyo guide, Part 2 covers more of the places to visit whilst you are in Tokyo.
6. Kamakura and Enoshima
This little town is outside on the south west outskirts of Tokyo, around an hour and a half travel by train, and is an absolute gem to visit. I could quite happily spend a week here and still be amazed by it.
The easiest way to reach Kamakura is by taking the Odakyu train from Shinjuku – if you purchase the Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass, you have unlimited usage of the Enoden Electric train between Enoshima and Kamakura, as well as a return journey from Kamakura to Shinjuku. This works out cheaper than purchasing individual tickets for each leg of your journey.
Within Kamakura, there are so many places to visit and I suggest taking a look at the Japan Guide on Kamakura in order to see where attractions are. But, I would suggest the following three places to visit;
- The Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha) – located in a small temple west of Kamakura station, the statue is massive and for around 20 yen, you can even get to go inside it! The background of the mountainous forest behind the statue provides a great photo opportunity and taking a slow walk back through the gardens back to the entrance completes the tour.
- Hokokuji Temple – located on the opposite side to the Kamakura Daibutsu, east of Kamakura station, the temple has one of the most magical bamboo gardens, but it is long walk from the station. I spent a fair few hours walking around the temple gardens, and for an additional fee, you can even had tea in the tea house. If you are walking to the temple, you can stop off at the few cafes along the way for some nice snacks.
- Enoshima Shrine – from the Kamakura station, take the Enoden Electric tram to the beach at Enoshima station, and then walk along the long promenade to the island. Once you are on the island, there are numerous food restaurants selling delicious food. I should say that there is a bit of a trek up to Enoshima Shrine, but once at the top, the views are outstanding.
If you disembark at Kamakurakoko-mae station, and head to the crossing in front of the sea on the left of the station, you can wait for the next train to come along (every 10 mins or so) and capture a nice photo of the train with the sea in the background.
Unbeknown to me, when I visited here, there were a fair few people hanging around this area – especially when I visited at sunset. It wasn’t until speaking to the station guard when I was returning home that the area is very popular due to an anime series called “Slam Dunk”, which featured that particular crossing frequently. So if you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people in a particular area, chances are the location is popular due to an anime series…
7. Odaiba Island and Rainbow Bridge
At first I thought this was a natural island in the bay of Tokyo, but actually it’s man made originating from the Edo period!
There are two ways you can get to Odaiba Island (three if you add in taxi, but they can be expensive);
- Yurikamone Line (the Driverless train) from Shimbashi station – as the name suggests, the train is driverless meaning you can sit at the very front or rear of the train. If you sit at the rear, with a slow shutter speed (and steady hands), you can get some motion blurred cool photos. Even better, if you go during golden hour or at night, you can get some nice night style photos.
- Walking along Rainbow bridge – if you’re adventurous and want to walk along the 800 metre long bridge, you can do so as the bridge has pedestrian walkways. But, bear in mind these are closed from 9pm onwards each evening during summer (or until 6 pm during winter) and even during emergency disasters such as tsunami’s, earthquakes and high winds. If you have rented a bike, you can push it along the bridge with the exception that you must not ride it whilst on the bridge.
Once on the island, there is a lot to see, such as the National Science Museum and Palette Town which hosts numerous entertainment complexes, both can be reached by disembarking at the Odaiba Kaihinkoen station or the Daiba station on the Yurikamone line.
I would say that the Ferris wheel in Palette town is great to see at night, and if you want to the Rainbow bridge at night as well, head over to Fuji TV area where you can walk down to the shore.
Thee are numerous food areas to eat at and remain open late into the night, so you don’t have to worry about missing food. Also, the last train to Shimbashi isn’t until around 11 pm, but best check before so you don’t get stranded.
8. Harajuku and Meiji Shrine
The main street in Harajuku that everyone visits is Takeshita street, which is home to clothing shops of every style imaginable. However, Takeshita street is just one part of Harajuku. I strongly recommend walking along the backstreets of this area as there are more unique, individual shops and some really nice cafes and food restaurants that are away from the crowded streets.
Across the road from Takeshita street is Yoyogi park which houses the Meiji shrine. Entry is free to the shrine and the walk into the park to get to the shrine is one to not be rushed, as there are stone lanterns lining the path. Given that size of Yoyogi park, you can easily spend a day here walking around it. If you visit the Meiji shrine on a weekend, you will most likely have a chance to see a traditional Japanese wedding which is an experience in itself.
If you walk around the perimeter of Yoyogi park, you come across train crossings through streets that aren’t usually seen in Europe, and offer a great photo opportunity of local life in Tokyo.
9. Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree
These two places are great to get an aerial view of Tokyo; however, you can also go visit Roppongi Hills for a similar view and entry fee. Tokyo Skytree, located in Asakusa, is a fairly new structure and requires an entry pass which is scheduled at a specific time, as only a certain number of people at one time can go up to the viewing deck. An entry pass comes in two versions;
- Same day – where you queue up to buy a ticket, on some days the queues can be quite lengthy.
- Fast Skytree – these are only available to international visitors, and a passport is required to purchase one. As the names suggests, you skip the queues and get access to both the viewing deck and the galleria for one price.
Getting to the Skytree is easy as the Asakusa Metro line stops at the Skytree – if you use the Tokyo Metro app in my travel tips article, you won’t get lost getting there! Around the base of the Skytree are plenty shops and restaurants to visit; more information can be found on the Tokyo Skytree website which is written in English.
Tokyo Tower is located near Zojoji Temple and is the oldest structure of the two towers. There is only one observatory deck at Tokyo Tower, but plenty of shopping areas below it. The closest station to the Tower is a 5 min walk away from Akabanebashi station on the Oedo line; alternatively you could always take the Tokyo Bus from Tokyo Station for just over 200 Yen. Further information about the Tokyo Tower is available in English.
10. Hakone and Fuji-san
Hakone is an area near Mt. Fuji (aka: Fuji-san) and Lake Ashinoko. The area is also known for Hakone Shrine, where there is a tori gate at the waters edge of the lake. Hakone is south west of Tokyo and can be reached either by using Odakyu Railway, JR Shinkansen or the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus. When I visited Hakone, I used the Odakyu Railway because using the JR Shinkansen would only get me as far as Odawara and I would have to pay extra for either buses or local trains to get to Hakone.
Using the Odakyu Railway, I purchased the Hakone Free Pass, which offered a round trip from Shinjuku station to Hakone, as well as unlimited use of all buses, cablecars, boats and trains within Hakone itself, all for around 5,000 Yen (which does work out cheaper than individually buying tickets of each mode of transport). You can buy the pass at Shinjuku station either on the day, or before. The pass comes as a 2-day pass or 3-day pass, so if you wanted, you can stay overnight at one of the local inns within Hakone.
In order to get to Lake Ashinoko, once you’ve taken the Odakyu train to Odawara, you are transferred to bus to get to Hakone Yumoto, where you then take the Hakone Tozan train up the hill to Gora. You can ave a break at Gora for food before taking the cablecar over Owakudani sulphur fields (you are given a wet cloth to cover your mouth due to the high levels of sulphur gas escaping the mining field – its the smell of rotting eggs!) to Togendai. It is here that you are at Lake Ashinoko and can enjoy a bike ride around the lake or take one of the sightseeing boats to Hakone Shrine.
I took the sightseeing boat to moto-Hakone just before sunset in order to get a view of Fuji-san. Ideally, if I had spent the night at Hakone, I would have gotten up at sunrise in order to see Fuji-san be illuminated by the sun (given that the sun sets behind Fuji-san). Nonetheless, I was fortunate with clear weather and managed to get that one good photo. The reason I choose moto-Hakone was that it was near the bus stop for the last bus back to Hakone Yumoto to get the train back to Tokyo, the last bus from there is around 8 pm (don’t quote me on that time though).
Seeing Fuji-san at Lake Ashinoko isn’t just the sole attraction, there are numerous other places to visit such as Gora Park, Odawara Castle and more. You can alternatively visit the Five Lakes which are closer to Fuji-san and offer some exceptional views, however, I chose Hakone for personal preferences. Nico has a more detailed article about seeing Fuji-san on her website if you want read more.
That completes Part 2 of the guide, which should give you plenty of ideas of where to visit, regardless of how long you are in Tokyo for. Be sure to check out my article on tips for planning your travel to Japan as well to help you make the most of your trip in Japan!