Traditionally, Japan can be divided into nine regions, subsequently each region consists of several prefectures. The regions are based on their geographical and historical background but do not function as administrative, independent regions. Each region has its own dialect, customs, and unique traditional culture and different regions can offer striking contrast in everything. For example people from Osaka (Kansai) more direct than Tokyoites (Kanto), but also the cuisine and tradition can be very different.
The Kanto region is the largest plain in the country and also the most urban and densely populated. In fact, Japan’s two most populated metropolises, Tokyo and Yokohama, are located in this region. The political and economical centre of Japan is located on the east side of the main island of Honshu. Kanto is home to some of Japan famous highlights such as Tokyo and Hakone. In this article, we will briefly introduce the seven prefectures that together form Kanto, and some of the most visited spots in each prefecture.
Tokyo – 東京都
Tokyo is officially called Tokyo Metropolis and it is, unsurprisingly, the most populated prefecture of Japan. Tokyo is the political and economic center of the country, and also the emperor’s residence since the Meiji revolution in 1868. Within Tokyo there is Central Tokyo in the east and Western Tokyo (or Tama area). Most international tourist visit Central Tokyo that is subdivided into 23 special wards. Each of the wards are made up of districts and each have their own must-visit places.
Watch the large crowds of people crossing the street in Shibuya, try to spot Mount Fuji from Tokyo Skytree or Tokyo Tower, discover Japan’s food culture in Tsukiji Market or visit the famous Sensoji Shrine in Asakusa. For the anime/kawaii culture walk around in Harajuku or Akihabara and for a great night out visit Shinjuku’s Golden Gai. There is simply too much to discover in Tokyo! Have a look at our blog below that goes into more detail.
Gunma – 群馬県
Gunma Prefecture is located northwest of the Kanto Region. Its capital is Maebashi, which is about 1h45m by train from Tokyo. Gunma is probably best known for Kusatsu Onsen, which is one of the most famous hot spring resorts in Japan because of its’ high quality water with the health benefits and easy access from Tokyo. Another famous onsen resort in Gunma is Ikaho Onsen which is known for stone stairs in the middle of the town.
In addition to onsen, the prefecture offers beautiful nature such as Mount Shirane where you can enjoy winter sports, hiking, and stunning natural scenery, and Fukiware Falls, which is especially popular for visitors when the leaves change their colours in autumn.
Tochigi – 栃木県
This landlocked prefecture is located north part of the Kanto region. Two of the most visited spots in Kanto, Nikko and Kegon Falls, are found in Tochigi. Nikko is the UNESCO World Heritage Site and best known for Nikko Toshogu Shrine. The nearby Kegon Falls is ranked as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan. From Tokyo, Nikko (and Kegon Falls) can be reached in about 2 hours, making it a great day trip.
In addition, Tochigi offers popular spots for nature lovers such as Mount Chausu and Nasu Ropeway, Kinugawa River Cruise, and seasonal weeping wisterias in Ashikaga Flower Park. Visit the cultural theme park Edo Wonderland and you will feel as if you time-traveled to Edo Period (1603-1868).
Ibaraki – 茨城県
Ibaraki is situated northeast of the Kanto region along the Pacific coast. The capital of Ibaraki is Mito, located 1h20m by train from Tokyo. Mito is famous for natto, a traditional Japanese breakfast dish made from fermented soybeans that is usually eaten with soy sauce and white rice. In Mito, you can find Hitachi Seaside Park, a large park with a wide variety of seasonal flowers and greenery all year round, and Kairakuen, a beautiful garden, especially popular in plum blossom season.
Ibaraki Prefecture also features Mount Tsukuba, a popular hiking spot with an elevation of 877 meters, Oarai Isosaki Shrine, famous for its’ torii gate that stands at the shore of the ocean, and Fukuroda Falls, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan.
Saitama – 埼玉県
Saitama is located just north west of Tokyo. The prefecture’s southern part, including its namesake capital, is adjacent to Tokyo and primarily a residential city for people who work in Tokyo. For this reason south Saitama is more densely populated than north part and often referred to as Greater Tokyo. It takes only 30 minutes from Ikebukuro station to Omiya station, the major train hub in the prefecture and the Kanto Region. The capital is a densely populated residential city, but the province offers numbers of historical and natural sites which attract the tourists.
Kawagoe, known as little Edo for its nostalgic atmosphere from Edo period, with the famous Toki no Kane (The Bell of Time) as the landmark of the city, is a popular daytrip form Tokyo. Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine has been historically worshipped for marital happiness, happy relationships, and matchmaking, and still today it is a very popular place especially for singles who wish to find a good partner.
If you like to spend time in nature, you can enjoy river boat cruise and water activities on the Arakawa River in Nagatoro located in the mountains of western Saitama Prefecture. In winter, the icicles of Misotsuchi in Chichibu City can be enjoyed. Other most visited spots in Saitama Prefecture include Matsuri-no-yu that is a hot spring facility in front of Seibu-Chichibu Station, Chichibu Shrine, and Chichibu Meisen Museum.
Chiba – 千葉県
Chiba Prefecture is located east of Tokyo, and most international tourists will visit here because of Narita International Airport that is located here. Its capital Chiba is a major residential city. From Tokyo station to Chiba station, it takes about 40 minutes by JR Express train. A large part of the prefecture is made up of the Boso Peninsula which offers popular tourist destinations that are very popular with people from throughout the Kanto region.
The province offers several family-friendly spots such as Kujukuri Beach, a sandy beach which stretches about 60 kilometers long and occupies much of the northeast coast of the Boso Peninsula along the Pacific Ocean. Kamogawa Sea World, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea are popular attraction parks in Japan and Mother Farm is another ‘theme park’ where you can learn all about the farm life.
Other popular places located in Chiba Prefecture are Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, one of the best-known and important temples in Kanto Region, Yoro Valley, Sawara, Cape Inubosaki, and Akebonoyama Agricultural Park.
Kanagawa – 神奈川県
Kanagawa Prefecture is the sixth prefecture of the Kanto region and located just south of Tokyo. Its capital is Yokohama, the second most populated city in Japan after Tokyo. You can get to Yokohama from Shibuya in about 30 minutes! Sightseeing spots in Yokohama include Minato Mirai 21, one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world, a large traditional Japanese garden called Sankeien Garden, and Zoorasia.
For more nature and culture visit Kamakura, the old Shogunate capital of Japan. There are many shrines and temples in Kamakura including Kotokuin Temple with the famous Great Buddha statue, Hokokuji Temple with its beautiful bamboo garden, and Hase Temple, famous for its garden with seasonal flowers all year round. From Tokyo, you can arrive at Kamakura within an hour.
Hakone is another popular spot for visitors where you can arrive in about one hour from Tokyo. Hakone is a popular onsen town featuring an active volcanic valley called Owakudani. Popular activities include the Hakone Ropeway which offers beautiful scenic views of Mount Fuji and other surrounding mountains, a sightseeing cruise on the Lake Ashinoko, a visit to the historic Hakone Shrine, and much more.
Other famous cities in Kanagawa Prefecture are Odawara and Yokosuka. Odawara is a major transportation hub and best known for the Odawara Castle. Yokosuka is a port city which hosts a large naval base for both the Japanese and American fleets. With just 10 minute ferry ride from Yokosuka, you will find Sarushima, the only inhabited natural island in Tokyo Bay where you can enjoy barbeque on the beach and explore remains of former military facilities.
Take a (virtual) guided tour!
Hopefully you found this overview of the Kanto region useful and do you feel ready to explore the region! To make the best out of your experience, we recommend you take a guided tour to one or more of the destination that we have mentioned above. Or maybe you have another place that you’d like to discover. In any case we would be delighted to show you around!
If you can’t come to Japan right now but you would like to learn about the great country with a local guide, we offer online tours and workshops that you can join at home too!
Kanto Region is the most populated region in Japan and the gateway to the country for most visitors from abroad. The region offers many popular site seeing spots that are well connected by public transportation from Tokyo. If you stay in Tokyo, why don’t you visit some (or all) of the prefectures in Kanto region to experience and explore Japanese culture, tradition and nature?
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