Travel Guide – Kanto

関 東 (K A N T O)

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Usually, a visit to Japan automatically is a to Kanto. Tokyo is a part of Kanto. Many places that can be reached as a day trip from Tokyo are worth a visit. Until a few years ago (2013) all international flights to/from Tokyo were going over Narita Airport. Now, thanks to Tokyo 2020 Olympics, also Haneda offers international connections.

[I’m a fan of The pic is a URL-Link to the webpage.]

Kanto is formed by the prefectures Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and the metropolis of Tokyo in the center. The border can be drawn als followed: from Hakone in the south up northwards to Kusatsu Onsen; from here northeastward to Nasu Onsen; and from here eastbound to the coast. There are 3 shinkansen lines passing thru Kanto: the Tokaido (to Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto), the Tohoku (to Sendai, Morioka, Aomori), the Yoetsu (to Nagano, Kanazawa). Every line starts in Tokyo. The is a Chuo Line in planning that will follow the old Nakasendo, more or less. Sightseeing Spots that must be visit are Kamakura and Nikko. Hakone, Yokohama and maybe Kusatsu onsen should be on the list to. Unfortunately all places are not located at the shinkansen tracks. Sum up (Rule: SHOULD is MUST if CAN):

  • MUST VISIT: Tokyo, Kamakura, Nikko, Hakone, Yokohama (at night)
  • SHOULD: Kusatsu Onsen, Narita
  • can: Kinugawa Onsen, Kawagoe, Kashima, Katori
  • skip it: Mito

東京 : Tokyo MUST VISIT, 3 Tage+

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You should calculate at least 3 days to cover 90% of Tokyos basics. From my point of view a hotel close to Ueno is a good idea, because this is close to the Shinkansen, major train lines (Yamanote, Chuo, Tokaido, …) und subway lines (to Ginza, Shinjuku, Shibuya, …) and also sightseeing spots (Ueno Park, Asakusa, Akihabara, Kanda Myoin). Of course there are other good place for a base camp, like Shiodome, that are close to the Tohoku line and Yamanote. — Tokyo needs its own travel guide (like Kyoto) and therefore is not covered in this post.

Day Trips

Yokohama, Kamakura, Hakone and Nikko are easy to access. All these place are a must visit. But don’t underestimate the travelling time und that temples and parks are closen between 4pm and 5pm. Nikko and Kamakura have enough for two days but the highlighs can be visited within a day.

 鎌倉 : Kamakura, Kanagawaken — MUST VISIT, 1 Tag+

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Kamakura was the de facto capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333. Therefore many temples and shrines can be found here. Kamakura was my frist day trip on my first Japan visit. Wow. My need really need to visit Kamakura. Kamakura offers more than you can see on one day. But, the really good stuff is doable in one single day: the temples Engakuji and Kenchoji in the North, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and the small shopping street close to the train station in the city center, and the Hasedera temple and the great Budhha in the Kotokuin in the West. Kamakura can be reached from Tokyo by using Yokusuka line. Exit at Kitakamakura. You have to change in Ofuna if you use the Shinjuku or Tokaido line. (For Anine Fans: Elfenlied is playing in Kamakura. You will recognize many places.)

日光 : Nikko, Tochigiken — MUST VISIT, 1 Tage+

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Nikko is a must visit that can be visited as a day trip from Tokyo. Like Kamakura and Kyoto this a place with a very high temple density. The temple and shrines of Nikko are approx. 1,2 mi away from the train station. The location is a „UNESCO world heritage“. A must visit are: Toshogu Schrein, Futarasan, Taiyuinbyo, Rinno-ji and the Shoyoen garden. At a longer stay put Chuzenko and the in winter the ski resort on the list. Nikko is accessable by JR and Tobu railway. With JR you have to change at Utsunomiya (Shinkansen stop). Be aware that getting the wrong train can end up in 3 hours travel time. The Tobu line is departing from Shinjuku / Ikebukuro oder Asakusa.

 鬼怒川温泉 : Kinugawa Onsen, Tochigiken — can, 1 Tag

Kinugawa Onsen looks a little bit run down, like the best times are over and gone. I have visited three of the available attractions: the boat cruise on the river, Tobu World Square and Nikko Edomura. The boat cruise is nice. World Square provides miniatures of sightseeing spots from all over the world, but the minatures are old and not in prefect shape. But they are the same scale so it is easy to compare. Nikko Edomura is a theme park that revives old Edo times. There are costumes for rent. Getting there takes 2 hours by Tobu Railway from Asakusa or Shunjuku/Ikebukuro.

箱根 : Hakone & Lake Ashi, Kanagawaken — MUST VISIT, 1 Tag+

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Hakone is a day trip from Tokyo. Use the Toei-Line from Shinjuku to Hakoneyumeto; change into the tiny Tozan Line uphill; then the cog railway and the ropeway into the vulcanic field Owakudani. Then also can hike the last part of this way. The ropeway leads further to Togendai. Here boats on Lake Ashi depart for Hakonemacchi, the old toll gate that seperates Kanto and Kanzai. From here a peace of the old Tokaido  leads to Motohakone with the Hakone shrine. Busses are going back to Hakoneyumeto. There are oven more hiking trails and Onsen, but that requires a second day. Toei offers a two day Hakone Pass. (More could be found here.)

横浜 : Yokohama, Kanagawaken
MUST VISIT (at night), can visit (at day)

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Maybe I misjudge Yokohama but at daylight it doesn’t look that fancy. At night this is different: Landmark Tower, the old ware houses in Minato Mirai and China Town illuminated nicely. The three places are connected by a promenade. My recommendation: Combine a visit to this three places with a day trip to Kamakura. Leave Kamakura before 5pm (the temples close at that time anyway) to be in Chinatown at 5:30pm. Start in Chinatown and „walk back“ to Landmark Tower. Last entrance is at 9pm. End the day at 54F with a beautiful night view of Yokohama/Tokyo. The Ramen museum is not covered by this route. It is located away at the Shinkansen station „Shin-Yokohama“.

 川越 : Kawagoe, Saitamaken — can, 1 Tag

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This place offers a street full of old warehouses. But the mood gets disturbed by the car traffic; at least the time I visited that place. At the end of the street is the Candy Alley. On the way back you can stop at Kintain and Honmaru Goten. There are two museum too. It total it was a nice daytrip but not worth to mention. I expected more. There ist a matsuri in Kawagoe once a year, that should be visited.

水戸  : Mito, Saitamaken — skip it, 1 Tag

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Mito has one of the three famous gardens, Kairakuen. To be honest: I was not impressed. Maybe, because I expected something different. The rest of this town doesn’t offer anything special. The train ride from Ueno station takes 66-77 minutes depending of the train. If you don’t want visit the garden, skip the place.

草津温泉 : Kusatsu Onsen, Gunmaken — SHOULD (in winter), 1/2 Tag

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In Kusatsu kann man Onsen genießen. Im Winter ist der Ort ein bekanntes Skiresort. Touristisch gibt das Heißwasserfeld Yubatake. Gleich daneben gibt es Yumomi-Vorführungen. Der Sainokawara Park am Ortsrand führt zum Kusatsu Onsen. Die Anreise ist extrem nervig: Shinkansen bis Takasaki oder Karuizawa. Von Karuizawa fahrt ein Bus der Seibu Kogen. Von Takasaki muss man mit einem Local erst nach Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi und von der mit einem JR Bus weiter. Mit Wartezeiten kommen schnell 3 Stunden und mehr zusammen. Ich emfehle der Ort im Winter. Eine Wanderung auf den Mt. Shirane ist dann aber wegen der Schneemassen nicht möglich. Die Busverbindung nach Yudanaka ist dann ebenfalls eingestellt.

鹿嶋 : Kashima, Ibarakiken — can, 1/2 Tag

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There are beautiful shrines in Katori and Kashima. If you practise Iaido or Kendo you might have heard of these places. You only should visit this place, if you are close by or have a personal interest. Getting there from Tokyo takes some time but is possible by train or by bus from Tokyo station. There is a local connecting Kashima and Katori.

香取 : Katori, Chibaken — can, 1 Tag

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There are beautiful shrines in Katori and Kashima. If you practise Iaido or Kendo you might have heard of these places. You only should visit this place, if you are close by or have a personal interest. Getting there from Tokyo is possible (2 hours and changing trains several times), but it makes much more sense to plan a visit, when you are in Narita. There is a local connecting Kashima and Katori.

成田 : Narita, Ibarakiken — SHOULD, 1/2 Tag

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Narita is good to visit on the day of arrival (departure) at (from) Narita airport or the day afterwards (before). In 2013  my flight back to Germany was at 9am. Therefore I travelled to Narita the day before. It is only a 15 minute train ride from Narita station to the airport. A lot of sightseeing spots (Bosa no mura, Onsen Yamato no Yu, Katori-Schrein), that travel guides say are located in Narita, are outside the city and therefore requires good planning. Busses go only infrequently. The city center itself offers enough attractions for a half day. From the train station (JR and Kansai are located next to each other) a shopping street (for last minutes souvenirs) with old houses leads to the Naritasan, a wide temple area. If you stay a whole day, you should consider a trip to Sawara.

am Shinkansenan Hauptlinienan Nebenstreckeabseits (Bus)
TOKYO ***Kamakura **Nikko ***Kusatsu Onsen *
SaitamaYokohama *Hakone *Manza Onsen *
Nasu-ShiobaraKawasakiKawagoeOze NP *
NaritaKinugawaShima Onsen
MitoBoso PeninsulaIkaho Onsen
Minakami OnsenKashimaTomioka
KatoriNazu Onsen
Izu Oshima
Shiobara Onsen

These places from the map are no sightseeing spots. There are places to change train or bus lines)

  • Odawara (Shinkansen, change for Hakone, there is a castle in Odwara)
  • Utsunomiya (Shinkansen, change for Nikko)
  • Takasaki (Shinkansen)
  • Chiba
  • Maebashi