1. Mount Takao (Tokyo)
Mount Takao can be found in Hachioji, a city on the western outskirts of Tokyo Prefecture. Mount Takao has a few hiking routes heading up to the peak, all of which are relatively easy to walk and suitable for families. There is also a cable car available as an alternative, saving you time and energy. Access to Mount Takao is easy from central Tokyo. From Shinjuku, take the Keio or JR Chuo Line to Takaosanguchi Station, about an hour-long journey. You can stroll through a beautiful forest in the middle of your hike, before accessing a stunning view of central Tokyo! It's also a good spot for seasonal plum blossoms, sakura and red autumn leaves!
2. Hakone (Kanagawa)
Hakone is best-known as a hot spring getaway, but it also offers a wide variety of natural sights! First, how about a small hike along Hakone Kyukaido, previously part of the Tokaido route, a road set up by Tokugawa Shogunate linking Tokyo to Kyoto. Nowadays, it's the perfect path to enjoy a forest hike (thought you might even encounter a shy snake along the way). Next is Owakudani (大涌谷, "great boiling valley"), a volcanic valley where you can see geothermal smoke coming out from the ground. The popular kuro tamago (black eggs) there are a must-try speciality, as eggs are boiled in the steamy, sulfuric water, causing the shells to turn black. Finally, Lake Ashi offers a greenery-filled walk along the lake plus a stunning view of Mount Fuji! From Shinjuku, try the Odakyu Romance Car for an especially scenic journey that takes 85 minutes to reach Hakone-Yumoto Station.
3. Boso Peninsula (Chiba)
Besides Disney and Narita Airport, the Boso Peninsula is another worthwhile reason to head to Chiba Prefecture. Among the natural pleasures to be found there, Tateyama and Shirahama offer strawberry picking and flowers (Tateyama Family Park and Shirahama Flowerpark respectively) all year long, Kamokawa Seaworld is a haven for aquatic animal lovers, and Kujukurihama is the place to go for a peaceful walk along the beautiful Pacific coastline. As Boso is relatively rural and spread out, trains are not so frequent, so it's better to drive. But the train journey is definitely a good option for those wanting a slower view of the natural scenery. From Tokyo Station, take the Keio Line Rapid Tokyushio or Sazanami trains. You'll arrive at the peninsula within two hours.
4. Hitachi Seaside Park (Ibaraki)
In the Ibaraki Prefecture town of Hitachi (where the electronic giant, Hitachi, was founded), there's a park with different kinds of flowers all year round, changing colors with the season. In spring at Hitachi Seaside Park, there are tulips, narcissus, nemophilas and sakura. Summer brings roses, lavender and sunflowers. In autumn, you find cosmos, bassia scoparia and daisies. Finally in winter you'll see ice tulips, red leaves and plum blossoms! No matter when you visit, the park will be filled with different colors of seasonal flowers waiting for you! From Shinagawa Station, take the Joban Line to Katsuda Station, then seek out the bus that will bring you straight to the park. It should take less than two hours to get there.