Japan offers a wealth of adventure.
With countrysides lush with majestic landscapes and cities filled with urban excitement, Japan truly has something for everyone. Staple attractions, such as Tokyo Skytree and Senso-ji Temple, tend to make the itineraries of most first-time visitors. While these locations are must-sees, Japan’s less touristy spots are equally as important and offer unique opportunities to further deepen your knowledge of this rich country. Wander down a new alleyway, try a regional delicacy, or admire intriguing architecture. From Tokyo to Yamanashi, journey with us down the road less traveled and discover new perspectives of Japan.
Tsukishima Monja Street
If you are looking for an authentic taste of Tokyo, look no further than Tsukishima Monja Street. This shopping street is lined with over 80 monjayaki restaurants and is a cherished spot among locals and tourists alike.
Monjayaki (monja for short) is a batter-based dish mixed with an assortment of ingredients, such as cabbage, squid, pieces of fried tempura batter, red pickled ginger, sakura shrimp, octopus, cheese, and meat. When you enter a monja restaurant, you will notice every table is equipped with its own flat top grill. Part of the experience is cooking the dish yourself! With this in mind, it can be handy to research how to cook monjayaki before you go.
After the waiter brings the ingredients to your table, add them to the grill in the correct order, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor. While monja is less well known among foreigners compared to okonomiyaki, it is a delicious side of Tokyo you will not want to miss!
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street, located between JR Ueno Station and Okachimachi Station, began after World War II and today, is a bustling shopping spot renowned for its discounts and lively atmosphere. The atmospheric street still retains its retro vibe and sells an assortment of clothes, bags, makeup, seafood, candy, and more. The excited shouts of shop owners and hurried steps of bargain-hunting locals create a thrilling, yet down-to-earth atmosphere that reveals an authentic side of the city. As you weave through the busy shoppers, lose yourself in the colorful environment and discover a lesser known side of Tokyo’s shopping scene.
Tsumugi (Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple Cafe)
With design elements from India and other South Asian countries, Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple is an architectural staple in Chuo City’s townscape and is characterized by its rounded roof, yokai carvings, stained glass window, and massive pipe organ.
Aside from its architectural gems, the temple grounds are also home to a cafe–Tsumugi! The sleek wooden interior features floor to ceiling windows and offers wonderful views of the temple as you enjoy your sweet or savory treat. You can even opt to sit outside! Try one of the shop’s many kakigori (shaved ice) options, or choose a cake set, parfait, or traditional Japanese sweets for a tasty dessert. The cafe also offers a variety of tea, as well as savory options, such as Buddha bowls, Japanese meal sets, and pasta. Be sure not to overlook this unassuming cafe. With its delicious menu options, convenient location, and lovely temple views, Tsumugi is truly a feast for the eyes and stomach!
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens and Tokyo Dome City
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, located in Bunkyo City, is the oldest existing daimyo (feudal lord) garden in Tokyo—completed during the Edo period—and serves as a natural haven amid city life. No matter the season, the garden’s miniature landscapes, ponds, bridges, and traditionally-designed structures evoke a sense of tranquility. As you wander the grounds, listen to the melody of the wind and admire fragmented scenes of nature on the rippling water.
In contrast to this peaceful oasis, the adjacent Tokyo Dome City is a high energy facility home to sports venues, concerts, amusement park rides, bowling, shopping, a spa, restaurants, and so much more. With seemingly endless activities, the complex is an exciting place for people of all ages! In combination, these two destinations perfectly illustrate where tradition and modernity meet in Tokyo.
Takao-san Yakuo-in Yuki-ji
Mount Takao, located on the outskirts of Tokyo city, serves as a breath of fresh air for many Tokyoites. The nearly 600-meter tall mountain features a number of hiking trails, as well as an onsen, museum, and monkey park. The most popular path—called trail number 1—leads you to an observation deck on the mountain’s summit where you can enjoy panoramas of Tokyo’s naturescape, as well as Mount Fuji on clear days.
One of Mount Takao’s most popular destinations is Takao-san Yakuo-in Yuki-ji, an eighth century Buddhist temple devoted to mythical bird-like creatures called tengu. Given that the mountain itself is considered sacred, many climbers stop by this temple to pray to the tengu for good fortune. The temple’s collection of natural toned and vermillion buildings nestled in the mountain’s lush nature create a truly peaceful environment.
For an even more immersive experience, participate in the temple’s Buddhist practices and try fire-walking, waterfall meditation, and eating shojin-ryori cuisine. This locally loved nature spot, situated only about one and a half hours from central Tokyo, is an excellent place to recharge among nature.
Fuji View Hotel
Imagine waking up with the distinguished form of Mount Fuji by your bedside. As the name implies, Fuji View Hotel, located in the resort town of Fujikawaguchiko, makes this dream a reality. With its coveted position on Lake Kawaguchi, this hotel offers unobstructed views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding naturescape.
In addition, the facility offers a variety of amenities to ensure that your stay embodies the same peaceful reverence as Mount Fuji. Walk along the lakeside in the hotel’s 100,0000-square meter garden, enjoy sports such as golf and tennis, unwind in a hot spring, and refuel with cuisines ranging from French to Japanese. Take advantage of Fuji View Hotel’s close proximity to Mount Fuji, and bask in its iconic presence at your leisure.
Koshu Yume Kouji
While visiting a shopping center may not be the first option on many people’s itineraries, Koshu Yume Kouji in Kofu City is an atmospheric complex that goes beyond the usual shopping experience. The shopping area is a recreation of Kofu’s castletown during the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa period and features a number of traditional buildings that transport you to Japan’s past.
One of Koshu Yume Kouji’s symbols is its clock tower, which displays the time in Kofu City from the Edo to the Meiji period. Enjoy a pleasant stroll through the complex’s picturesque storefronts and peruse modern and nostalgic wares related to Yamanashi and beyond, such as accessories, prints, traditional Japanese paper products, delicious wine, and more.
Foodwise, the street also offers a variety of options, including Italian cuisine, Yamanashi cuisine, ramen, burgers, and yakitori, to name a few. Given its visual intrigue, unique stores, and close proximity to Kofu Station, Koshu Yume Kouji is a spot you will not want to miss.
Herb Garden Travel Diary (Katsunuma Garden)
Immerse yourself in a world of floral beauty at Herb Garden Travel Diary in Koshu City. This immaculately landscaped garden features over 200 varieties of herbs and seasonal flowers and shines no matter the season. Stroll through tulips and roses in spring, cosmos in autumn, sunflowers in summer, and jovial illuminations in winter. With its homegrown herbs, the facility crafts aromatic bath salts, essential oils, and cosmetics that you can purchase online or at its shop onsite.
You can even join workshops and create your own candles and soaps imbued with the gentle fragrances of the garden. Be sure to also visit the facility’s flower shop, cafe, and footbath for an all encompassing experience.
Overall, Herb Garden Travel Diary’s attention to detail, natural products, and workshops make it a lovely spot for aspiring gardeners.
98wines, situated in Koshu City, is a perfect place to take a break from sightseeing and relax with a locally crafted wine. Established recently in 2019, this winery is built on the concept of connecting people through wine and aims to be a hub where people from all over the world can meet, collaborate, and enjoy the refined beverage.
Located at an altitude of 650 meters, the winery offers expansive views of Mount Fuji and the Kofu Basin and features an open floor plan with massive windows that connect guests to the encircling scenery. The natural-toned, yet modern facility perfectly matches the natural beauty of the area and creates a refreshing atmosphere that is guaranteed to put your mind at ease.
Treat yourself to a wine tasting and sample the facility’s home-brewed red, white, and rose wines. You can also pair the luxurious flavors with a sweet treat of the day! While not a typical tourist destination, 98wines’ meticulously crafted atmosphere wonderfully embodies the essence of Yamanashi’s nature, making it a naturally immersive experience. Please note that the winery is only open on the weekends.
Located in Fujikawa-cho, Yamanashi, Oboshi Park is a pleasant spot renowned for its springtime views. From the end of March to early April, the park’s over 2,000 cherry trees blossom, transforming the landscape into a pastel wonderland. Take a leisure stroll under the dainty petals and enjoy views of the trees against the distant townscape and mountains. As the park is located on a hill, you can even catch glimpses of Mount Fuji between the trees.
When the blossoms are at their peak the area holds a Cherry Blossom Festival where local vendors come together and sell popular street foods. Grab some friends, set up your picnic blanket under the trees, and enjoy the lively atmosphere of the celebration. Once the sun sets, the town illuminates the cherry blossoms, creating a mystical sight of pink against the night sky. Please note that due to Covid restrictions, Fujikawa did not illuminate the cherry blossoms in 2022. Check the official website for up-to-date information.
As the cherry blossom season is deeply intertwined with Japanese culture, be sure to stop by this spot for an authentic experience of this special time of year.
Travel from Tokyo to Yamanashi
Thanks to the prefectures’ close proximity to each other, access from central Tokyo to Yamanashi is relatively easy and generally only takes between 1.5 to 2.5hours! The fastest way to reach Yamanashi is via a limited express train on the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station. Most routes on this line require little to no transfers.
- Koshu: Shinjuku to Enzan Station - 1 hr and 30 mins
- Kofu: Shinjuku to Kofu Station - 1 hr and 40 mins
- Minami-Alps: Shinjuku to Kofu Station, and then take a bus to Minami-Alps - 2 hrs and 20 mins
- Fujikawa: Shinjuku to Kofu Station, and then take a bus to Aoyagi - 2 hrs and 40 mins
- Kawaguchiko: Shinjuku to Otsuki Station, and then take a local train on the Fujikyuko Line to Kawaguchiko Station - 2 hrs and 10 mins