For me, the best day trips from Tokyo have to really show me a different side of travel in Japan. And that’s what these suggestions do. From the cheeky monkeys at Jigokudani Yaenkoen, to the sulphur-smoked black eggs at Hakone to even climbing the beauty of Fuji herself… for all these adventures you can be out and back into the city by nightfall.
Buckle up and enjoy!
With enough energy and stretching the concept of a day trip to the limit, you can make it out and up to Fuji and back again if you want.
You don’t need to be a “mountain climber” but you do need to be fit, have sensible shoes and be travelling at the right time of year. Most people make this an overnight climb but you can make a day trip of it (when the route will be much quieter and you can take in the views.)
Steam shoots out of the earth with the sound of furious bubbling. Here, only a few hours from Tokyo, this fierce, smoking whirlpool is…well, unexpected.
It also smells disgusting.
Hakone Park first sprung up as series of volcanic eruptions around 3000 years ago.
Today, it consists of triangular hills and deep blue lakes, wrapped in scarves of clouds.
On the proverbial clear day, Hakone provides dazzling views of Mt Fuji, yet I had already gathered that today wasn’t going to be one of those days.
We took a cable car from Sōunzan, plunging into a grey vat of cloud before reaching the half-way point at Ōwakudani.
By the look of the signposts, well-maintained paths and regular troops of tourists, I had low hopes of finding anything spectacular.
Luckily, travel has the habit of proving me wrong – and this time it did it with fountains of smoke.
These hissing pits reach deep into the mountainside and leap high into the air. Their sulphuric properties turn eggshells black – and fill the air with a putrid, rotting stench. Still, if both appetite and wallet remain undeterred, you’ll find plenty of savvy locals selling black eggs by the bagful. Even Hello Kitty does her bit to help the black egg trade.
Perhaps to my relief, given all the noxious fumes floating around, black eggs taste exactly the same as the dull-coloured variety. Still, a smoking sulphur jet does overshadow a saucepan on the stove…
Related: What to do in Tokyo for Five Days
Japan has no shortage of onsen, natural hot springs where people dip in and out of skin-scalding pools in order to soak, scrub and just relax and say ahhhhh. It’s a tradition that has become a widespread ritual, with both five star hotels and backpacker hostels offering indoor versions of a stingingly hot bath.
Yet in Jigokudani Yaenkoen, macaque monkeys got there first.
In a steep, leafy corner of the Joshin-Etsu Kogen National Park, around 200 monkeys prance, preen and groom before dipping into the steaming onsen themselves.
Some are sage and relaxed, clearly used to the process…
For others, frightened about diving into the deep end, they look (if you’ll forgive me) a little wet around the ears…
There are those who clearly command authority…
Those who hide from the spotlight…
And those who just want to have fun…
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