Tokyo is one of the most visited cities in the world with over 12 million tourists each year. Yet there’s still a lot of hidden gems many people never get to see. Here are Culture Trip’s top seven recommendations for guided tours to help you maximise your trip to Tokyo.
Backstreets and Tokyo Subculture: Historic to Electronic
Tokyo is a city that embraces subcultures and the spiritual in equal measure. This tour of contrastsstarts with a trip to the serene Meiji Jingu shrine, shrouded by evergreen broadleaf trees. It’s just a stone’s throw away from the legendary Harajuku, home to many of Tokyo’s weird and wonderful subcultures. Its famous Takeshita street is a feast for the senses, full of technicoloured clothing shops and dessert stalls. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of groups of young people dressed head to toe in kawaii fashion. From here, it’s on to electronic city Akihabara: home to everything otaku and tech. Find great bargains at electronic shops and discover the latest manga in the seven-storey-high otaku emporiums.
Shibuya might be best known for the prodigiously busy Scramble Crossing, but behind those giant TV screens is a rich traditional food scene waiting to fill you up. It is, in fact, a local hotspot for Japanese-style meat skewers. On this walking food tour, you’ll try Kobe beef skewers, Osaka takoyaki, Hiroshima okonomiyaki, Japanese desserts and more, before finishing up at Shibuya’s underground food market. Bring your eating pants. Meet at Shibuya train station.
Even if you turn your nose up at the mention of seafood, you can’t miss Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji fish market. Its secrets can be hard to penetrate for tourists – and that’s where this friendly and informative tour comes in. You’ll start at the Tsukiji Honganji-Temple, then you’ll be guided through the market to sample bonito, sushi, sake and fresh tuna as you go. The tour ends with a generous meal at a homely sushi restaurant.
Matcha lattes and Sakura Kit Kats are great, but have you ever wanted to taste Tokyo’s rarer traditional delicacies? Old-world sweets, ramune soda and senbei (rice crackers) are waiting for you in Tokyo’s Ningyocho and Nihonbashi neighbourhoods. This tour will have you exploring local businesses and meeting the proprietors in this timeless corner of Tokyo. This is a great tour for foodies and people looking for one-of-a-kind, handmade souvenirs. Besides food, there are beautiful shops displaying traditional Japanese craftsmanship. Meet at the mechanical clock tower near McDonald’s in Ningyocho.
Asakusa’s Senso-ji temple is one of Japan’s most popular destinations, but it has secrets it won’t give up to just anyone. In this guided Senjo-ji tour, you will be taken throughout its complex, including the five-storey pagoda and traditional Japanese garden, learning about Senso-ji’s fascinating history. Other tours of Asakusa tend to be on the touristy side, but this one draws on local knowledge to give you a profound understanding of this ancient Buddhist temple. Meet your guide at Nitenmon Gate (the main gate of the temple complex).
Historic Yanaka is a trip off-the-beaten-path that travellers to Tokyo never regret taking. Stroll through this elegant neighbourhood with this relaxed walking tour, paying your respects at shrines and temples that have been around since the Edo period. Get your cameras out for the gorgeous traditional Japanese wooden architecture. A highlight is the tranquil Nezu Shrine, built in 1706. Meet at the north gate of JP Nippori station.
Is there a rare Japanese delicacy you want to try? An attraction that would benefit from the words of a knowledgeable local? Or maybe you’re short on time and want to visit the sites on the top of your list? Fumikita-san is an experienced local guide who will put together an itinerary based on your needs. Make room for dinner, as he will invite you to eat like a local at some of the city’s most authentic restaurants. Pick-up is at your hotel.