Did you know that there are so many hidden tourist attractions near Tokyo that only locals know?
While popular tourist attractions in Tokyo or entire Japan are great, those places are usually packed with tourists from around the world and it can be sometimes a little bit difficult to spend relaxing time there.
In the secret tourist spots that I’m going to show you here, you can spend relaxing time without tons of tourists, and they are near Tokyo!
If you want to go somewhere that nobody knows, I’m sure you will love the hidden tourist attractions near Tokyo! Why don’t you make them your next travel destination once the COVID-19 pandemic ends? 🙂
Tourist attractions in Tokyo Prefecture
Tokyo is a big prefecture. It’s known for the biggest city of Japan, but there is also expansive nature in the prefecture. Enjoy the great sightseeing spots and nature in Tokyo!
Jindaiji Temple – 深大寺
Jindaiji Temple is one of the most historical Buddhist temples of Japan and it’s located in Chofu (調布), the west of Tokyo. It only takes 20-30 minutes or so by train from Shinjuku, the center of Tokyo. Surrounded by woods, the entire site looks like a Ghibli film. There are many local people, but it’s worth a visit to see the beautiful place. This is one of my favorite places in Tokyo.
The area is known for good soba (Japanese noodles). If you visit the temple, secure enough time and have the local soba at one of the restaurants there. There are also festive events once every few months at the temple, so check their schedule before you go. There is a botanical garden next to the temple too.
Read more about Jindaiji Temple (separate post on this blog)
Akigawa River – 秋川
Another favorite place of mine in Tokyo is Akigawa River. Just in an hour and a half from the center of Tokyo, you will see beautiful and expansive nature surrounding you. There is a barbecue spot by the river near Musashi-Itsukaishi (武蔵五日市) station, and having a barbecue right beside the river is indescribably great.
To have a barbecue, you have to borrow grilling gear and buy charcoals at the entrance (to the left facing the river). Keep in mind that it’s prohibited to bring your own grilling gear and/or charcoals. See more details on the official site in Japanese.
After a barbecue, take a walk by the river and go upwards. In 10-15 minutes, nobody is there anymore and all you hear is birds chirping and sound of a stream.
Imagine the bliss of spending a calm afternoon by the beautiful river without any people at all… If you love nature, this is a must visit.
Mt. Mitake – 御嶽山
Mt. Mitake is one of the popular mountains in Tokyo. Although it’s growing popular these days, I don’t think many foreign tourists know this place. It’s near the borders with Saitama and Yamanashi Prefectures, but it’s still Tokyo and it takes 1.5 hours from Shinjuku.
The mountain is popular for serious mountain climbers, but there are several courses and everyone can enjoy hiking, trekking or mountain climbing depending on your skills and preferences.
There is a small town on top of the mountain as well. It’s not exactly a town, but there are many shrines with a monastery guest house that used to accommodate pilgrims ages ago. Today they are open to everyone, so you can stay at one of the guest houses if you like. My vocabulary is limited to describe this, but it’s really so nice to stay overnight on top of the mountain…
Tourist attractions in other prefectures near Tokyo
If you have a day or two for excursion, there are a lot more great tourist attractions outside of Tokyo Prefecture. I would recommend that you stay at the destination, but it’s not impossible to come back to Tokyo from each of the places (except Shima Onsen) within the same day.
Shosenkyo – 昇仙峡 (Yamanashi Prefecture)
Yamanashi Prefecture is known for Mt. Fuji, vineyards, local noodles etc., but mountains are must visit. Among all mountains, Shosenkyo is one of the best to see red leaves in autumn.
What makes Shosenkyo different from other mountains is a town on top of the mountain. Not only is the view so beautiful, there are many souvenir shops, museums and restaurants on the way.
My favorite place is an outdoor cafe (see the above photo) just in the middle of the path. Having lunch under the red leaves is just fantastic.
Once you are on top of the mountain, the view is spectacular.
To get to Shosenkyo, take a train from Tokyo station or Shinjuku, get off at Kofu, then take a bus to the mountain. The train takes about 3 hours and the bus takes about an hour or so. You can go back to Tokyo in the evening if you don’t have enough time, but staying overnight in Kofu city is highly recommended.
Katsunuma Budo-no-Oka – 勝沼ぶどうの丘 (Yamanashi Prefecture)
Another recommended place in Yamanashi is Katsunuma Budo-no-Oka (also spelled “Budou no Oka”) which literally means “Grape Hill” in the town of Katsunuma. It’s a big sightseeing spot by itself and has different facilities from souvenir shop, restaurants, winery, hotel to public bath.
One of the restaurants has a super nice view and lets you have a barbecue. An ideal plan on the hill would be visiting the winery, have a barbecue for lunch and then take a bath. The bath has a great view too.
If you are super lucky and able to book a room, staying on the hill is perfect. The hotel is always fully booked for months in advance and it’s extremely difficult to stay on the hill. There are no other accommodations near the hill, so go to Isawa or Kofu if no room is available. It takes 20-30 minutes by train.
Budo-no-Oka is nearer than Shosenkyo. If you want to go there, get off at “Katsunuma Budo Kyo” (勝沼ぶどう郷) 30 minutes before you get to Kofu. The hill is 15-20 minutes from the station by walk. Maybe you can spend 2-3 days in Yamanashi Prefecture and go to both Shosenkyo and Budo-no-Oka, this is what I usually do.
Jogashima Island – 城ヶ島 (Kanagawa Prefecture)
Jogashima is a small island at the top of Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa Prefecture. Kanagawa Prefecture is next to Tokyo where Japan’s 4th biggest city Yokohama is, but the sea of Jogashima is clear enough to make you wonder that it’s really next to Tokyo.
From Tokyo area, Shinjuku for example, it takes 1.5 hours to get to the nearest train station from Jogashima. From the nearest station to Jogashima, it takes 20-30 minutes by car. If you love cycling, riding on it all the way to the island is superb. It’s only 4 miles and takes less than an hour.
There is a fish market near the island it’s fun just to look around.
If you want to see the crystal clear water, go to the island in winter when there is less plankton. If you want to swim, go there in summer.
Read more about Jogashima (separate post on this blog)
Lake Sagami – 相模湖 (Kanagawa Prefecture)
Lake Sagami is a popular lake just across the border from Tokyo. As it’s close from Tokyo, many people visit there for fishing, kayaking or just sightseeing. If you want to visit the lake in winter, there is a special event called “Sagami-Ko Illumillion.”
Illumillion is operated by an amusement park, and everything in the whole park is decorated with beautiful illuminations throughout winter. As it only takes an hour or so to get to Lake Sagami from Shinjuku, it’s worth a visit. There is only a limited number of accommodations around the lake, so book a hotel somewhere else. Hachioji would be the most convenient.
From Shinjuku, it takes an hour by Keio Line train. From Sagami-Ko station (“ko” means lake), there are busses to the amusement park in winter which takes 15-20 minutes to the park. The illumination event is very popular for locals and there is usually a long line at the bus stop.
Kawazu Sakura – 河津桜 (Shizuoka Prefecture)
This is a bit far from Tokyo, but Kawazu in Shizuoka Prefecture is famous for a native cherry blossom species called “Kawazu Sakura,” and in early spring they start blooming all at once by a river. Normally cherry blossoms bloom around the middle or the end of March through early April, but Kawazu Sakura is an early flowering species and they usually start blooming in mid to late February.
It takes about three hours from Shinjuku, but you should pay a visit if you come to Japan during this period. You can only see the cherry blossoms in early spring, but if you visit there in summer, there is the sea nearby and you can enjoy swimming.
Nagatoro – 長瀞 (Saitama Prefecture)
Nagatoro is a very old town in the mountains of Saitama Prefecture. It takes 3 hours and a half by local trains from Tokyo (Shinjuku), but only takes 2 hours by express train. The town is located near the border with Gumma Prefecture, and there is a big river, Arakawa, in that area.
There are so many activities to do in Nagatoro. So far I have only done rafting and mountain bile downhill, but you can also do stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking.
You can make a day trip to Nagatoro, but it is recommended that you stay there for a night or two. If you stay overnight, make sure to book Nagatoro-So (長瀞荘). It’s a guesthouse near the river, and it’s the only place in Nagatoro that offers barbecue by the river. You will bring the grilling gear to wherever you like by the river, sit on a rock and grill the meat. Nothing is better than having a barbecue hearing the sound of a stream in the sunset… Such a luxury.
Shima Onsen – 四万温泉 (Gumma Prefecture)
The last hidden spot I recommend is Shima Onsen in Gumma Prefecture. This is a bit far away from Tokyo and a day trip from Tokyo would be difficult, so make sure to book a hotel in advance.
As the name “onsen” (hot spring) shows, there are lots of onsen in Shima Onsen. My recommendation is a hotel with a private onsen in your room.
This hotel is named Yumoto Shima Kan (湯元四萬館), and the room in the photo was 42,000 JPY ($400) for a couple with breakfast and dinner.
Once you are in Shima Onsen, Make sure to go to Momotaro no Taki (Mootaro’s Waterfall) and Oku-Shima Lake. The water in this area is amazingly blue probably because of lime in the soil, and the contrast of the blue water and green trees (or white snow on them) is a must see.
There is also a hotel called “Sekizenkan” (積善館), one of the models for the Ghibli film “Spirited Away.” If you are a Ghibli fan, make sure to visit the hotel even if you won’t stay there.
The best way to go to Shima Onsen is a highway bus. The bus departs from Tokyo station and it takes 4 hours to Shima Onsen.
So these are my secret places that I visit once in a while. The more difficult it is to get there, the less people there are. The 10 places I introduced here have far less people than other popular places.
If you want to go to special places in Japan, these places won’t disappoint you!