“There’s something for everyone” is a phrase used with abandon. But if it applies to one city more than any other, that place is definitely Tokyo. Whether you’re into sumo wrestling, samurai performances or slicing fish, there really is an experience for everyone – here are nine of the quirkiest.
For anyone who grew up with Japanese movies, video games or history, samurai are figures of endless fascination, often shrouded in mystery. “Secrets of the Samurai” is a traditional stage workshop that will allow you to walk in the shoes of these legendary warriors and discover the world they inhabited. This Ginza-based dojo runs samurai kembu classes, which see participants learn to fight with a katana (traditional sword), dance with Japanese fans and recite poetry like a bushi. Bowing and walking lessons let you embody the spirit fully while you wear the full costume. Besides your memories, you get to leave with pictures and a completion certificate.
Try out the national sport of Japan for yourself at this sumo demonstration. You’ll not only learn about the history of sumo wrestling, but you’ll also learn some key moves and have a go at wrestling with a professional. After working up an appetite in the ring, participants will be treated to a chanko nabe, the traditional hotpot lunch enjoyed by sumo wrestlers. Sit down to a delicious meal and learn about its history before taking a photo with former professional sumo wrestlers. By the time you leave, it’ll be quite obvious why sumo is a national obsession.
For anime and video-game fans all over the world, Tokyo’s electric town is a spiritual home – giant anime billboards, themed cafés and stores bursting with memorabilia make for a contagiously exciting atmosphere. This 2.5-hour sightseeing tour allows you to explore the neighbourhood with a guide dressed in a maid costume that you’ll see everywhere in this district. After learning about otaku culture, and exploring the city’s anime culture, you’ll finish with lunch, a drink and a chat with your guide at one of the local cosplay cafés.
This digital art museum on the island of Odaiba is an absolute must-see. Housed in the unremarkable Mori Building is one of the most awesome artistic experiences in Tokyo. Conceived by teamLab Borderless, this immersive light installation allows you to wander through scenes that look like they’ve been pulled straight out of a painting or video game. The spaces and colours react to your presence and touch, making for some amazing photos. They even offer sakura-themed rooms during cherry-blossom season. With this experience, you’ll also get a transfer so that you don’t even have to navigate the busy Tokyo subway.
Due to high living costs and tiny apartments, most people in Tokyo don’t have the space to look after pets. The solution? Animal cafés. One of the most famous of these is the Harajuku Owl Café where you can get up close and personal with those fearsome yet beautiful birds. You can try holding the bird with the help of a trained expert, or you can take a selfie before relaxing in the garden with your free drink while watching these incredible creatures go about their day from a distance.
This tour will give travellers the chance to really embody the spirit of Japanese culture. You’ll be dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono and get your photo taken in some gorgeous temples, shrines and gardens. To add to the experience, you’ll be filmed in your kimono and have the video to keep for your memories or Instagram account.
Few visitors know about Tokyo’s two tram lines operating in the northern and eastern parts of the city. The journey offers a chance to enjoy views of the city and access places you might not otherwise visit. On this tour, you’ll drop by lesser-known spots like Chochin’s workshop, where you’ll make Japanese lanterns and decorate them with calligraphy. At the second stop, a Hina Doll workshop, you’ll create a card case with luxury Nishijin-ori brocade, a traditional silk fabric used for doll dresses.
If you’re looking to take home a perfect souvenir of your time in Japan, then why not create your own? This experience is an ideal way to embrace local folk arts. You’ll learn traditional Japanese weaving methods and use them to make items such as coasters, placemats and centrepieces. This relaxing, almost meditative experience will leave you with new skills and a deeper appreciation of Japanese design.
Japanese food is all about quality and precision; it’s a cuisine that can take decades to perfect – if it can be mastered at all. This fish-cutting class is dedicated to the art of sashimi and cutting the fish correctly to obtain a good flavour. You will learn how to cut fish like a pro and enjoy a full sashimi meal of your own making. Working with a professional Japanese chef, you’ll also learn about which fish is in season and when and why certain fish are chosen for sashimi.