10 Fun, Tasty & Cultural Experiences for your Tokyo Itinerary
by Samantha Cubbison | TRAVEL
Whether you are traveling to Tokyo for the first or the hundredth time, there is always something fascinating to discover. Here at Japan Objects we have put together this essential list for 10 must-try cultural things to do in Tokyo to introduce you to the best workshops and hands-on activities in this amazing metropolis. There is something for everyone, so whether you’re looking to hit the streets in stunning kimono, experience authentic Japanese cuisine or if you’ve got an intense passion for origami: we’ve got you covered!
1. Tokyo Food Tour
The Best of Japan Gourmet Tour takes you across the country in 90 minutes flat. At the Nihonbashi Information Center, historical culture and modern flair come together in a variety of special day tours and activities. An assortment of rare and tasty treats can be enjoyed at your leisure from eight local artisan shops. For only ¥1,000 ($9), you can fill your stomach without having to pinch your wallet. It is the perfect way to familiarize yourself with a variety of traditional Japanese food without straying too far from the center of Tokyo.
2. Tokyo Kimono Rental
What better way to spend the day exploring Tokyo than in a kimono? In Asakusa, Yae Kimono Rentals provides elegant styles and expert fittings in English. You can make a reservation via their website, there are options for groups, children and Furisode (long-sleeved elegant kimono). Upon your arrival, you will be able to pick the kimono of your choice with guidance from the friendly and informative staff. After being fitted and accessorized, it’s up to you where you want to strut your stuff. So heighten your sightseeing experience by donning a stylish kimono. It’s bound to bring you closer to the traditions and culture that make Tokyo so special.
If Kyoto is next on your list, and you’re looking to buy your own Kimono, check out the 5 Best Places to Buy Kimono in Kyoto!
3. Samurai Martial Arts Class
Are you ready to be transported to the samurai era without having to leave modern-day Tokyo? Located right next to Tokyo Tower, the Musashi Samurai Experience is a two-hour Kenjutsu crash course in all things swordsmanship. Utilizing practices that are over 420 years old, you will learn how to wear a hakama (traditional trousers), achieve a peaceful mind through meditation and master basic kenjutsu (Japanese sword arts). At ¥18,000 ($160) per person, this unforgettable Tokyo cultural experience is an excellent introduction to the martial arts, and with a commemorative photo-op at the end, how could you resist?
4. Origami Lessons
Origami is a great choice if you are looking to experience arts and crafts classes in Tokyo. Origami Kaikan operates as a store and workshop. They hold an impressive gallery of origami works, and a space where you can see origami paper being made by the professionals. There are beginner and more advanced classes available, ranging from ¥1,000 to ¥2,000 ($9-18). Whether you’re an origami fanatic, or just an interested beginner, it is easy to spend hours both learning and observing the artform.
5. Tokyo Geisha Experience
At Ichimatsu, your geisha dreams can become a reality. Founded in 1956, the Tokyo establishment mimics classic Japanese architecture. The staff prides themselves in serving delicious, traditional foods to accompany the masterful Geisha entertainment. There are English-speaking Geisha available to accommodate foreigners as well. After you’ve had your fill of food and dancing, the local neighborhood of Asakusa is yours to conquer. Prices vary depending on group size, so it is best to give them a call for information on reservations.
6. Japanese Cooking Class
The Tsukiji market can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned fisherman. And as the largest fish market in the world, you better like sashimi if planning a visit. ABC Cooking Travel offers a market tour and sushi making course inspired by the ingredients of the market. You will also have the opportunity to visit local shops and shrines to form a better understanding of the surrounding area. You will also be introduced to the traditional tools for preparing authentic Japanese sashimi. When the cooking class comes to an end, you can enjoy your edible creation for lunch along with your choice of plum sake, wine or a soft drink. The total cost is ¥60,000 ($530) per group for up to six people, so if you’re looking for fun things to do in Tokyo in a larger group, why not give this a try and enjoy the fresh seafood and salty sea spray with your friends and family.
7. Photography Tour
EYExplore started in 2008 as a way to capture the vast city of Tokyo in new and interesting ways through the lens of a camera. Now, there are over a dozen tours spanning three of Japan’s largest cities. The Tokyo by Night tour is a favorite among shutterbugs. Guided by local photography coaches, there is no need to be afraid of the dark. Spanning over two hours, you will have the chance to capture the bustling neon nightlife of Shinjuku and Shibuya. For ¥8,900 ($80), this photography class will teach you how to take beautiful shots of light trails and become a pro when it comes to framing and composition.
8. Washi Workshop
Washi papermaking is an age-old art form that has a devoted following to this day. Created from a number of different plant fibers, the various textures and patterns are what makes this paper so unique. You too can learn to create handmade washi at Ozu Washi. This studio has been producing and selling high-quality paper and related products for generations, and now they are sharing their expert wisdom with the public. Not only will you learn about the papermaking process through skilled demonstrations, but for only ¥500 ($4.50), you can create your own professional grade paper. For traditional art fans, this is is a great place to experience the history, process and current circulation status of washi.
Shopping for washi is a treat that you can only do in Japan, so while you’re here, take a look at these 7 Fabulous Places to Buy Washi in Tokyo!
9. Calligraphy Lesson
Wakalture was founded by licensed calligraphy teacher Wakana. She offers a broad range of classes, from origami earring crafting to udon making. A beginner calligraphy class costs ¥3,500 ($30) and covers the basics of the ancient art. During this hour-long Japanese calligraphy class, you will be able to pick a word and learn the proper brushstroke order. By the end, you will have a one of a kind piece of art to display proudly in your home. In an intimate studio surrounded by words, if you happen to have writer's block, this is the place to go.
10. Jewelry Making
The Naoi family, founders of Atelier Shinji Ginza, have been crafting creatively unique jewelry since 1972. In one of the more unusual things to do in Tokyo, head over to the Atelier for a chance to make your own silver jewelry. Using the Lost Wax method, where molten metal is poured into wax molds, any leap of the imagination is possible. The One-Day Experience Class is located in the basement of the store. After a guided mold-making, workshop employees will cast and finish your piece with the choice of either a Brittania silver ring or pendant. The class costs ¥30,000 (about US$270), with additional fees for materials other than silver.
You don’t need to look far to find unparalleled Tokyo experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. To fully immerse yourself in the city and its rich history of tradition with a modern twist, pick any one of these distinct activities or workshops. No matter what your hobbies and interests may be, it’s easy to learn something new and have fun doing it.