Tokyo: it would seem because of its size and cultural flow, that you would require many extra days to begin to have an idea of what this city is about. It is also true that the metropolitan area of Tokyo is one of the biggest ones in the world and that each neighborhood, district and temple has a spirit of its own.
Although it is true that your first visit to the almost endless city of Tokyo can be extremely exciting, some travelers also enjoy getting to know close-by cities, rural settings, unusual activities, or simple treks in nature to appreciate the different environs unique to Japan. For this reason this article is dedicated to those people who will perhaps remain longer than a week in the city and who have filled their first days with all the museums and destinations they had already planned for; those who have ended up without too many ideas to continue enjoying their stay in Oriental lands.
Famous Mount Fuji is a completely national symbol of Japan, which has become much more than a simple geographical object. Almost 3.800 meters high, this is the highest peak in the country and was declared a Humanity Heritage element in 2013 because of its undeniable beauty and the importance it has in Japanese culture. Around two hours are needed to travel from the Tokyo station of Shinjuku to reach its skirts. Aside from this, around this great volcano and its peak that remain snow covered almost year round, there are 5 lakes that are very famous in the region. There it is possible to obtain different types of views of the Japanese titan. If you are among the most adventuresome and are in good shape, between July and September you can follow the trail to reach its summit. This would turn the trip into a two day excursion, as the ascent is started at dawn.
UNESCO recognized Nikko is good for those who wish to get to know a more traditional Japan, not as speedy and crowded as in the capital. Located around two hours away from the downtown area of Tokyo, it is technically within the entrance of Nikko National Park. This “village” is over 1.200 years old and is one of the many places that has been declared a National Heritage site for Humanity by UNESCO. A good example is the Toshogu Temple which is built around a mausoleum built in the honor of one of the founders of the Shogunate (something like a dynasty) which ruled Japan during the Edo era (seventeenth to nineteenth centuries). Get your camera ready for this visit, as the wood carvings make this temple a great opportunity to test your abilities. Two places where one can say that the city of Nikko has been blessed with natural beauty are Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Falls. The latter was chosen as one of the 10 most beautiful falls in the country.
At a shorter distance from Tokyo we have the city of Kamakura, known as the Kyoto of East Japan because of its great amount of historic sites and temples (for example the Hasedera Temple, the Engakuji Temple and the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Temple). Yet nothing can compare with its main attraction: The Great Buddha of the Kotoku-in Temple (Daibutsu in Japanese). This is a bronze statue of Buddha in the lotus position that dates back to the eighteenth century and measures 13 meters high and weighs around 93 tons (impressive!). The surroundings are lovely and you will receive your dose of nature for the day as well.
Leaving nature to one side for the moment and historic events, an interesting visit also found close to Tokyo (30 minutes away) is the city of Yokohama. This was one of the first cities to open out to foreign trade along with the city of Kobe, and therefore it has an architecture that is fused with some of the ancient residential areas. There is a lot one can do in this city so I advise you to set out early and come back on the last train. But I can recommend without hesitation the area of Minato Mirai (with its seafront, shopping mall and fortune wheel) and the Chinatown (the biggest one in the country). Two very interesting places are the Ramen Museum (noodle soup with very elaborate flavors, a national dish that has its own version in each city you visit) and the Kirin Beer Museum (one of the most famous beer brands in the country).
With these additional destinations to your visit to Tokyo, you will surely enjoy your trip a little more and will add experiences that people normally don´t include because they forgot to prepare their trip properly. Good luck!