Japan is known for its timeless traditions and protectionism. Because Japan has long been isolated from the rest of the modern world, much of its authentic culture still remains. In Tokyo, you will notice that in different neighborhoods, residents dress traditionally and observe old traditions. But you can also taste that authentic culture by doing certain activities during your week in Tokyo.
Here are some activities that will allow you to fully experience Japanese culture during your week in Tokyo.
1) Samurai Training at Sensoji Temple
Sensoji Temple is one of the most famous temples in Japan. With its beautiful red color and large crowds, you will feel like you are in old Tokyo. In the center of the temple is a market. Here you will find many stalls selling simple souvenirs, real samurai swords (which, unfortunately, you cannot take home), and traditional foods such as black soft-serve ice cream and curry rolls.
Not surprisingly, samurai workshops are available at Sensoji Temple. This workshop must be booked before your trip, but it is well worth it. For example, you can wear a samurai kimono and take a lesson in acting and killing techniques. At the end, there’s even a chance to “kill” the teacher and have your picture taken.
Afterward, do not leave this temple immediately. If you follow all the buildings and people, you will see that the prayers visitors make here begin as soon as they enter and continue throughout the plaza until the end of the temple. Finally, people throw coins into the well with their wishes, clap twice, and finally actually enter the temple. Prophecies can also be purchased here. Prophecies about love, work, or general happiness.
2) Shibuya Crossing
This large pedestrian crossing is fun to see from one of the taller buildings, but walking across it is a delightful experience. Crossing takes longer than expected, and the crowds don’t stop even after the zebra crossing, often making for a very crowded walk through one of the surrounding shopping districts. There are many well-known stores and restaurants in the area. Eating out with a large group is difficult as most restaurants only have about five tables.
We recommend the restaurant Genki Sushi. Here, you choose your favorite dish on an iPad, which is immediately brought to you by train. Also, ask the promoter of the restaurant outside what traditional dishes they have. For example, try something like fried beef cheeks or a big pot full of meat cooked by you!
3) Japanese Tea Ceremony
You can enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at many hotels. It is best to book in advance for this as well. You get a sticky rice-like snack and a large bowl of Japanese green tea. This tea is made with matcha, so it is not the familiar green pickwick tea you drink at home. Green tea leaves are dried, roasted, and preserved to make the tea.
4) Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower, which looks like a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, can be viewed from the Sky Lounge at Stellar Garden in a fun (and chic) way. Walking through this overpriced hotel in your holiday attire to get to the lounge may seem silly, but you won’t mind stopping by and ordering a cocktail while admiring the view.
5) Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
This botanical garden is almost entirely planted with Japanese plants. Currently, 4,000 species are grown here, and elementary school students are also allowed to tend the small rice paddies here. Be sure to check the website to see which plants are in bloom at what time of year.
Have you ever been to Tokyo? Share your experience with us in the comments below!