There’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s great about Japan’s capital, but sometimes it’s nice to get away. Thankfully that’s easily done. Tokyo’s marvellous transport system renders a number of classic destinations vulnerable to our weekend-away whims. But can we afford them?
Here we look at the budgets you’ll need to get to, get around, stay in, and come back from, three regional belters! (Accommodation prices are per room/bed per night unless, stated otherwise).
Karuizawa (Nagano Pref.)
The default getaway for Tokyo’s elite, Karuizawa sits pretty in Nagano’s forested foothills. Whilst monied visitors hide away in spiffy second-homes, the great unwashed are free to enjoy Karuizawa’s pleasant climate and bonkers mix of nature, kitsch wedding chapels, bohemia, and large-scale shopping.
Get there (and back)
Hokuriku Shinkansen (from Tokyo Station) - 5,910 yen (11,820 yen return) - 1 hour 15 mins.
Highway Bus (from Ikebukuro Station) - 2,600 yen - 2 hours 30 mins.
The Mampei Hotel is for high rollers (this is the place where John Lennon would hide out with Yoko Ono). Rooms from 21,000 yen per person per night (inc. dinner and breakfast).
APA Hotel is a stone’s throw from Karuizawa Station. Rooms from 10,000 yen.
Bell’s Cabin Cafe & Guesthouse (Naka-Karuizawa Station). Dorm beds from 3,300 yen.
Rent a car from 7,000 yen a day with Budget (near Karuizawa Station).
It would be rude to go to Karuizawa without renting a bicycle. Rates for a cheap ‘mamachari’, 500 yen per day (your hotel may offer them for free).
Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is a big outlet operation. If you’re on a tight budget, steer well clear of the south exit of Karuizawa Station.
The main pleasure of Karuizawa is to take things at your own pace. Potter around, put in some gentle miles on a bicycle, and duck into one of the town’s many bakeries for a coffee and snack.
The High Roller - 40,000 yen + (plenty more if shopping at the outlet mall)
The Spendthrift - 9,000-10,000 yen (dorm bed, return bus, bicycle rental)
Atami (Shizuoka Pref.)
Hot-spring mecca and dirty weekend hot spot, Atami’s ocean views and fresh seafood are popular at any time of year.
Get there (and back)
Tōkaidō Shinkansen (Kodama, from Tokyo Station) - 3,990 yen (7,980 yen return) - 45 mins.
JR Tōkaidō Line (from Tokyo Station) - 1,940 yen (3,880 yen return)- ~ 100 mins.
40,000 yen + per person per night at Atami Fufu (inc. dinner and breakfast).
A simple minshuku (guesthouse/B&B), from around 5,000 yen.
K’s House Ito Onsen has a setup down the road in Ito, with futons in a mixed dorm from 2,950 yen.
Most people come to Atami to soak in hot springs (onsen), gorge on food at their resort, and spend a lot of time in bed. If you want to get out and do some sightseeing, the Yu-Yu Bus covers the main attractions. Day pass - 700 yen. Single - 250 yen.
Come to Atami for ocean views and onsen (which will be the theme of nearly all accommodation options), rather than hectic sightseeing.
The High Roller: ~ 50,000 yen +
The Spendthrift: ~ 7,000 yen (go, stay, and do nothing, that you have to pay for anyway)
Hakone (Kanagawa Pref.)
Perhaps the Tokyoite’s most popular getaway. Hakone offers an impressive package; Mt. Fuji views, arts and culture, boat trips, and an annual marathon relay of Spartan proportions.
Get there (and back)
Tōkaidō/Sanyo Shinkansen (Kodama, from Tokyo Station change to Hakone Tozan Railway at Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto Station) - 3,850 yen (7,700 yen return) - about 1 hour.
Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar” (from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto) - 2,080 yen (4,160 yen return) - 1 hour 30-40 mins.
JR Tōkaidō Line (from Tokyo Station, changing at Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto) - 1,800 yen (3,600 yen return) - about 100 mins.
Highway buses (from Shinjuku Station) - 2,000 yen (4,000 yen return) - about 2 hours (depending on traffic).
Hakone’s storied Fujiya Hotel is tourist attraction in it’s own right. Basic, room only plans start from around 9,000 yen per person per night. A night in the junior suite with dinner and breakfast starts from 51,516 yen!
Simple rooms in a minshuku (guesthouse/B&B), 6,000 yen +.
Hakone Tent (guesthouse) is a two-minute walk from Gora Station. Dorm beds start from 3,500 yen.
Hakone’s large area is connected by a network of trains, cable-cars, ropeways and buses. Few people come here just to hang around their hotel.
To cover a lot of ground, consider the Hakone Freepass from Odakyu. The pass covers a return fare from Shinjuku Station using the Odakyu Line (there’s a surcharge for express trains), and a whole bunch of transport services within a designated area in Hakone. 5,140 yen for two days.
Contrast this with buying tickets separately for a classic ‘Hakone loop’ starting and finishing at Hakone-Yumoto (taking in Gora, Souzan, Togendai, and Moto-Hakone). A combination of trains, ropeways, boats and buses will complete this for 4,160 yen.
For many, moving around on Hakone’s various transport options whilst taking in some stellar scenery offers plenty of entertainment.
Save time and budget for the excellent Hakone Open-Air Museum, near Gora Station. Entrance for adults is 1,600 yen. Hakone Freepass holders will get a discount.
The High Roller: 65,000 yen +
The Spendthrift: ~ 9,000 yen (using the Hakone Freepass but not actually entering any sights which require a fee).
Of course, we haven’t mentioned food here. Most mid-range + options will include dinner and breakfast in the price. At all of these destinations, high-end hotels/resorts will offer the best dining options. Those on tight budgets might get by with bakeries, convenience stores, and fast food joints. Oh, and then there's some place called Nikko!