The pink wave of cherry blossom has passed through Tokyo for another year. The sunshine that came with it will still be crackling on Tokyo’s high-rises for months to come, and the capital is about to get hot and sticky for summer. Escape the heat with this selection of easy road trips.
Kilometres from Tokyo: 359
North from Tokyo is cooler Tohoku. The region’s main city, Sendai, is only a few hours from Tokyo by car, and it’s also an easy two-hour trip on the bullet train. Sendai is an ideal base for discovering some of Japan’s best (but lesser visited) sites. An hour’s drive west, towards Yamagata, you can hike up the mountains to the Yamadera temple (1), a favourite spot of the wandering haiku poet Basho. Or head east to Matsushima Bay (2), dotted with tiny pine-clad islets and ranked as one of Japan’s top three scenic spots. If you’re in Sendai over 6-8 August, check out Tanabata Matsuri – a festival that features traditional dance events as well as the region’s biggest fireworks display. en.tohokukanko.jp
Kilometres from Tokyo: 82
To the southwest of Tokyo is Hakone, a classic overnight trip. It’s also easy to reach via the sweetly named Romance Car express train from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. In the Hoshino Resorts Kai Hakone (3), Keyaki-so and Gora Kadan (4) resorts, you have some of the finest ryokans in the region: ideal places to unwind with hot-spring baths, exquisite multi-course kaiseki cuisine and rooms laid out with tatami matting and paper screen doors. And there’s nature – lots of it – with the steaming vents and bubbling pools of the Owakudani (5) valley and the picturesque Lake Ashi (6), both of which share Mount Fuji as a backdrop. hakone.or.jp
Kilometres from Tokyo: 182
Just beyond Hakone is Shizuoka prefecture. Around 40 per cent of Japan’s tea is produced here, including fine versions of sencha (7), the classic light green tea, and the high-end, almost savoury gyokuro. In places like Green-pia, in the Makinohara (8) production area, you can even pick the leaves between late April and early October. It’s sweaty work in the sun, but the experience is worth it. shizuoka-guide.com