The gorgeous ancient town of Nikko is located 150km north of Tokyo. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with intricate temples and shrines, set against a backdrop of breathtaking mountains, lakes and waterfalls. While the area provides picture-perfect scenes all year round, it is especially stunning in autumn, when the leaves of its luscious forests turn to warm shades of gold. October is, therefore, the optimum month to visit Nikko, but it gets busy at weekends.
Said to be one of the three finest bridges in Japan, the Shinkyo Bridge can be found at the entrance to Nikko’s shrines and temples. Nestled further into the woods, Toshogu Shrine (above) is one of the most lavishly decorated shrines you’ll ever see. The buildings are decorated with gold leaves and demonstrate phenomenal craftsmanship. It is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years.
Kanmangafuchi Abyss is another must-visit site, formed by an eruption of nearby Mount Nantai. The gorge is surrounded by a beautiful riverside walking trail, lined with over 70 stone statues of Jizo, a bodhisattva who cares for the deceased. Each statue looks out on to the river, and it is said that each time you count them, the numbers change. Come here on a quiet evening for a romantic stroll, but head back before the sun sets – there are no street lights.
Lake Chuzenji is the famous scenic lake in the mountains, accessed by a local bus. A walk around it is absolute bliss, and there are decks and seating for the perfect picnic. The area is also home to Nikko’s most famous waterfall, Kegon (above). At 100m tall, it is ranked as one of Japan’s three most beautiful waterfalls.
How to get there: Nikko is accessible from Tokyo by Tobu Railway and Japan Railways (JR). The journey takes between two and three hours depending on the train you select, as they include a mix of local, express and limited express trains.
The second largest city in Japan, Yokohama is located south of Tokyo. It has one of the world’s largest Chinatowns and the seaside port area, Minato Mirari (below) is a popular date spot.
Minato Mirai has many large high-rises such as Japan’s tallest building until 2014, the Landmark Tower, but it is along the promenade where couples love to go for a stroll. The Cosmo World amusement park is also found along this pretty waterfront, packed with arcade games and a giant Ferris wheel for that sunset kiss.
Yokohama is also home to a number of fantastic museums, including the unique Cup Noodles Museum (above). It follows the history of instant noodles via interactive exhibits, and visitors can even design their own cup noodles to take home. Meanwhile, the Yokohama Museum of Art displays works from contemporary artists including representations of Yokohama itself.
In central Yokohama you will discover Japan’s largest Chinatown; a maze of colourful, narrow streets and mouth-watering Chinese cuisine from sweet pastries to dim sum. The entrances to Chinatown are marked by four colourful gates, which make for lovely photo spots.
How to get there: Yokohama station can be reached via the Tokyu Toyoko Line from Shibuya Station. The journey takes between 30 minutes to an hour depending on connections and train service (buy a ticket for a limited express or express train if possible).
SEE ALSO: 10 of the cutest dessert cafes in Tokyo
Why do people visit Chiba? The answer is simple: Tokyo Disney Resort. Located 25km south-east of the centre of Tokyo, it is without a doubt the most popular day trip for visitors to the capital.
Tokyo Disney Resort is home to two parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Tokyo Disneyland has seven themed lands and is the classic Disney experience, where popular rides include Big Thunder Mountain and Pooh’s Hunny Hut. Tokyo DisneySea is revolves around the myths and stories of the sea. The more ‘grown-up’ of the two, it also has seven themed areas, with rides including the Tower of Terror (above) and Indiana Jones Adventure.
For entertainment beyond Disney, check out Ikspiari (above). It is a shopping, dining and entertainment complex adjacent to the resorts. There is a 16-screen cinema showing new and classic films (perfect for putting your feet up after a long day at the parks), and restaurants include Tsukiji Tamasushi, which serves Edomae-style sushi with fish shipped straight from Tsukiji Market.
How to get there: Tokyo Disneyland Resort can be reached in under an hour via the JR Keiyo and JR Musashino lines. Alight at Maihama Station where the parks are situated.