Traveling near Tokyo in December?
November 21, 2009 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Some last minute business brings my girlfriend and I to Tokyo this December, and we'll be spending a week's vacation there as well. We've been to Tokyo before, so what can a couple do out of the city (but nearby) during winter?

We'll be there from December 11th-17th. We'll probably just spend the weekend in the city, and are thinking of venturing farther afield during the remaining weekdays. Does anybody have any suggestions of good places to visit and things to do, keeping in mind the weather?

I'm not inclined to travel too far away, so somewhere about 1-2 hours train away from Tokyo would be best. We've already been to Nikko so that's out. Skiing is also out as we don't ski.

Our current ideas are:

1. Head to the Fuji Five Lakes region to look at Mt Fuji and relax in an onsen.

2. Head to the Izu Peninsula and wander around (and also relax in an onsen).

Thing is, I'm not really sure what there is to do besides relax in an onsen; will the towns be interesting to walk around and explore, will the scenery be good? A lot of the info I'm finding seems geared for summer travel.

Another issue with onsens is that most are divided by gender, and we don't really want to spend most of the trip separated like that. I know private (family) baths exist, but they're harder to find, more expensive, and usually attached to a ryokan. And they're probably not outdoors too.

Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by destrius to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
i vote for the onsen idea
bring some good books and settle in: eat divine food and soak while the snow falls
do you like winter? if so head north
there are plenty of onsen that are konyaku, and many more that have private baths but i prefer the former
what is your budget?
posted by dougiedd at 10:26 PM on November 21, 2009

that should read konyoku not konyaku
posted by dougiedd at 10:28 PM on November 21, 2009

Best answer: These are all 1-2 hours from Tokyo. You could stay centrally and come in/out all the time, or combine a couple (my rec would be Yokohama/Kamakura) and get a new place to stay:

KAMAKURA is south of Tokyo, past Yokohama. It is a former capital of
Japan, with many old temples and other buildings. It is a lot of fun to
walk around and enjoy the small streets, traditional buildings, and the
coast. Even in December people will be surfing or using kites on the

KAWAGOE is also a popular destination, northwest of the city. It is
sometimes called little edo, and many edo period structures still survive. I think there is a big festival in December... but also one of the main attractions is a street of Edo period buildings selling all classic Japanese candies and toys and crafts. Typically the visitors here are other Japanese, not foreigners!

NIKKO is a good place to stay in a ryokan. I know you say you have been there before, but Nikko is also famous for hiking/walking, is fun for wandering in, and the only time I went there I went snowshoeing! No experience necessary, great guide, cheap. Ask around at the hotels.

HAKONE has similar attractions as Nikko, and may be of greater interest because you have never been there before.

NARITA is not just an airport, it is also a really cool old town. The temple is beautiful and unusual, surrounded by a large grounds with a giant pond with huge koi goldfish. There is also a cool collection there of paintings and engravings on wood, of which most in Japan have been destroyed by fire or age. Besides that, the night life here is strange and international (this goes back to the airport thing).

For the past two years, I've been living in TSUKUBA. There is one mountain that can be hiked up and down in a day, and you can visit the Japanese NASA for tours.

YOKOHAMA should get a day or two of its own. In fact, if you combined Yokohama and Kamakura, you could be busy all week. There's Chinatown (cleaner than any one in the US!), a nice art museum, beautiful views from actual hills OR the ferris wheel which is "the" date site, and the ramen museum.
posted by whatzit at 11:53 PM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

This thread from two weeks ago has some good suggestions both in and out of the city.
posted by armage at 3:13 AM on November 22, 2009

Best answer: Also, for good winter scenery and interesting places to walk around, I absolutely recommend Hakone. I went last year on my birthday (in December) and had a great time walking around Hakone Yumoto and Gōra. I stayed in a very nice onsen ryokan that had three private rotemburo (open-air baths), as well as a private one on the veranda outside our room (which faced onto a lovely green valley). Nothing feels quite like getting into a 45º onsen when the air temperature is 2º.
posted by armage at 3:23 AM on November 22, 2009

Seconding the Kamakura recommendation. It was one of my absolute favorite day trips out of Tokyo. The temples are amazing.
posted by anonymous78 at 6:13 AM on November 22, 2009

I don't know the kanto region very well, but just wanted to add that when I lived in Kyushu last year, it wasn't too hard to find private/family baths (usually called kazokuburo), some were outdoors, and there were even a couple onsens that were exclusively family baths and had a range of prices depending on the particular private bath that you reserve. If you go to any town with a lot of onsens, ask the information center about the kazokuburos, and you might find something nice.
posted by p3t3 at 6:36 PM on November 22, 2009

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