With the Shinkansen bullet trains travelling so regularly and reaching speeds in-excess of 300 kms an hour, places as far away as Osaka or Kyoto could be considered day trips from Tokyo, if you get up early and pack in a big day. The express train to Osaka only takes under 3 hours and 20 minutes, even Hiroshima, which is nearly 900 km away, is accessible in less than 4 hours, and the Shinkansen basically travels 24 hours a day. One thing to watch though is many of the suburban trains stop before midnight so ensure you have enough time to get back to your hotel without having to resort to a long walk or expensive taxi fare. We have been caught before; one too many beers can cause a very long walk back to your hotel. This is one of the reasons that capsule hotels are located near many of the major stations; the Japanese beer can be a bit too nice and time can slip away.
We will leave the further a field trips as well as the feature destinations from Tokyo which are easily reached in under two hours to their own sections. We will also leave what we think is one of the best day trips, Yokohama, to its own section because you really need more than just one day to enjoy the best it has to offer.
There are plenty of tourist operators who can take you on an organised day trip, and this is a great way for many people. If you want to have some real adventure, and see just what you what to see, it is also very easy, cheap and fun to jump on the amazing train system and navigate your way to your destination. It is fun, cheap and very rewarding. Japan’s transport system, although complex and many times only in Japanese is very easy to navigate. You just need a map (which also shows train stations), some adventure and some common scenes to have an amazing journey. Remember to be prepared before you set off as many of the local tourist information centres, although extremely friendly and willing to help, don’t have the best language skills or information in English.