Come for Tokyo, stay for the rest
Most people will come to Kanto for Tokyo but the region has other talents that are well worth setting aside some time to explore.
Kanto is a region on the eastern side of Japan’s main island, Honshu, and is the most urban and densely populated area in the country. The region also includes a number of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean. The largest of the Izu islands, Izu Oshima, can be reached in under 2 hours by high-speed jetfoil from Tokyo. For a seriously remote experience, it’s a 25-hour ferry ride to the subtropical Ogasawara Archipelago for breathless vistas and a spot of sunset whale watching.
At the heart of the Kanto region lies the sprawling Tokyo megalopolis, extending all the way outwards from Tokyo Bay to the surrounding mountains that make up the regional border. The prefecture’s 23 city wards are home to a handful of landmarks with each area that can easily take up a day to explore. From the traditional sights in Asakusa to the retro game centers of Akihabara or to the glamorous shopping district of Ginza, there’s always something new just around the corner. For those who’d like an escape from the noise, a trip up Mount Takao or an afternoon in Okutama might just be the trick.
Most visitors to the region will arrive via Tokyo Narita Airport which is actually located in Chiba about 60 kilometers east of the capital and where you’ll also find Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. A summer destination from those living in the neighboring prefectures, Chiba remains as an ideal destination for nature lovers. Whether it be an adventure filled hike up Mount Nokogiri where you may encounter a monkey or two, or waking up at dawn to catch the sun rays trickle through Kameiwa Cave there remains much to be discovered.
Located to the south is Kanagawa, which includes the cosmopolitan port city of Yokohama, as well as the historical coastal town of Kamakura. Hakone, with its many onsen (hot spring baths) and beautiful views of nearby Mount Fuji is a popular romantic getaway. With a variety of experiences to choose from and its seamless connectivity from central Tokyo it’s no wonder why it remains as a popular weekend day trip.
To the north, the mountains of Gunma offer a great range of outdoor activities from skiing in the winter to canyoning in the summer. One of the biggest highlights of the prefecture would be visit to the hot spring town of Kusatsu. Hailed as one of the most popular spring towns in the country the water is known for its healing properties which may just be what you need after a day spent outdoors.
The ancient shrines and temples of Nikko in neighboring Tochigi are a designated World Heritage Site. Known as the “Strawberry Kingdom” Tochigi is often visited for its many strawberry farms where visitors can pick and eat strawberries to their heart’s content. For those who are up for more sightseeing, head up toward Lake Chuzenji and visit the nearby Kegon Falls. Autumn in Nikko is world-famous for its spectacular koyo or changing colors of the leaves.
Ibaraki is famous for its fermented soy bean production (natto), being the birthplace of Aikido and so much more. The prefecture is filled with multiple parks that are spread throughout the area. Kairakuen Park is considered one of the top three gardens in the country and is most famous for its plum blossom viewing is located in the prefectural capital of Mito city. Another popular park is called Hitachi Seaside Park. Its blooms burst into a medley of vibrant colors from sky blue hues to baby pink pastels all throughout the spring and summer seasons.
Saitama is easily accessible through multiple train lines that connect it to the districts of Ikebukuro and Shinjuku in Tokyo. Popular day trips include visiting the town of Kawagoe where tourists can feel a more traditional side to Japan as they walk down the wooden warehouses that line the streets. Try the candied sweet potato and indulge in candies that most Japanese people grew up eating. Chichibu is also growing in popularity in terms of seasonal outdoor activities, from river cruises to camp sites there’s always something to do no matter the time of year.
To make traveling easier buy the JR Tokyo Wide Pass to help you budget your transportation expenses. This is a 3-day pass that covers the Kanto region.
If you buy it in Japan, it is typically ¥10,180 for an adult and ¥5,090 for children (6 to 11).