Escaping Tokyo: top 4 spots for a weekend getaway in Japan

photo by CC user Kentagon on wikimedia

Looking for a weekend getaway in Japan? In the high pressure environments of Japanese firms, stress can build up easily, making it important to relive it regularly. The following destinations will accomplish this handily, allowing you to achieve the proper balance between your job and your life.

1) Hakone

Located within an hour and a half from Tokyo via bullet train, Hakone’s hot springs are within easy reach for the overstressed office worker or English teacher. Set in caves or in the open air, these pools of volcanically heated water will sooth your muscles and assuage your spirit.

When you have reached the point of maximum relaxation, walk the shores of stunning Lake Ashi, a crater lake which boasts incredible views of Mount Fuji on clear days, and if you seek culture, you will find it at the Hakone Open-Air Museum, where sculptures from the likes of Picasso and Henry Moore join creations from Japanese artists in a peaceful fusion of greenery and man-made art.

2) Nagano

Famous internationally for playing host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano remains popular among the Japanese public as a place to enjoy nature, while retaining many modern amenities that can be enjoyed after an active day spent in the outdoors.

Snow sports enthusiasts can ski/board in the winter, while lovers of wildlife can observe Japanese macaques bathing in hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park, located a short half hour drive from Nagano’s centre.

3) Niseko

Those that are really into shredding some mad pow can spend every second of their weekend away from Tokyo doing just that in Niseko, located a quick flight and bus ride from Japan’s urban centre.

Known as being the snow capital of the world for the massive amounts of snow that blow in from the Sea of Japan on a near continual basis through much of the winter, you will rarely have to worry about not have massive amounts of blower to plow through on a snow trip to Niseko.

Though less busy in summer, those heading here at that time can also enjoy world class mountain biking and hiking, making it one of the best spots in the entire country to commune with nature and enjoy adrenaline sports.

4) Okinawa

Despairing the damp, dark nature of a Tokyo winter? Did you know that tropical Okinawa is barely more than two and a half hours away by air? Leave behind the gloom for a mega sized dose of Vitamin D, world class snorkeling, and air temperatures that average around 20 degrees Celsius in the middle of January.

When you tire of the beach, Shuri Castle will bring you back to the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and visiting the Churaumi Aquarium will put you in touch with the world largest holding tanks, which contain several massive whale sharks and manta rays.

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