iReport: My favorite Japan destinations
In a recent CNNGo iReport assignment, we asked readers to share their photos of their favorite Japanese destinations.
Patrick Budmar, a 30-year-old Aussie from Sydney, told us what led him off the usual, well-worn tourist trail.
“I just wanted to show that there are places that can be easily and cheaply visited from Tokyo,” he said. “Not all sightseeing has to be limited to Harajuku and the Imperial Palace, though they are great places to visit as well.”
While central Tokyo has much to offer in terms of sightseeing, things only start to get more interesting once you venture outside of the well-trodden paths of the city center.
Anyone keen to experience the natural beauty that Japan has to offer will realize that inner Tokyo has very little in this regard, but you don’t need to travel far to come into contact with a different side of the country.
The town of Nikko is located in nearby Tochigi Prefecture and is renowned for its national park and authentic hot springs.
Lavish shrines such as Toshugu also dot the landscape, as well as the mausoleum of the 16th-century shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Anyone who is into winter sports, such as snowboarding and skiing, can visit the Gala Yuzawa resort in nearby Niigata Prefecture.
As soon as you step off the Shinkansen, you will immediately find yourself inside the resort, where you can rent gear and get ready before taking the lift up to one of the most accessible slopes in Japan.
Hiking does not have to be limited to the steep hills within Tokyo, as some of the more scenic trails in Japan can be found within a reasonable train trip from the city.
Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture is home to numerous hiking trails throughout its dense vegetation, with many shrines and temples along the way.
Once you have finished admiring the Giant Buddha statue, you can stop by the nearby beach in Yuigahama for some R and R.
If you’re looking for a more challenging and scenic hike, Mount Takao in Hachioji, just west of Tokyo, delivers both in spades.
Even if you decide to ride the handy ropeway part of the way up, you will still be faced with numerous staircases and tight paths, but the impressive view from the top will be worth it.
More on CNNGo: Nikko -- Japanese history in the great outdoors
Tokyo's neighboring city of Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture is different enough to warrant numerous visits to soak up all that it has to offer.
The Chinatown area is popular among visitors for its unique buildings and charming atmosphere, but the real attraction is the tasty and authentic Chinese food that can be bought on the street or in one of the many restaurants.
Once your curiosity is satisfied, the trendy Motomachi area is located a short walk away, where charming Western-style shops line a cobbled road.
Landmark Tower and the Red Brick Warehouse are the mainstays of the Minato Mirai district in Yokohama, but anyone looking for a place to relax and take in the harbor view can make a detour to Yamashita Park.
Travelers wanting a more panoramic view can take a trip up the Yokohama Marine Tower, but most will want to get on board the permanently docked Hikawa Maru ocean liner for a glimpse into Japan’s maritime past.
All of these great destinations can be easily accessed using local train lines. Gala Yuzawa is the only exception, as it is served by a dedicated Shinkansen station.
More on CNNGo: Best Yokohama dim sum
These photos were submitted to CNNGo by iReporter Patrick Budmar as part of an iReport assignment asking readers to share their favorite Japanese destinations. Interested in submitting your own stories, photos and videos? Visit our iReport page.