In Tokyo this autumn, for the rugby or general sightseeing? Take advantage of one or more walking tours that have been launched by local tourism associations to showcase the capital’s best sights. They have the support of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau.
From mid-September to mid-December 2019, you can experience the city on a collection of 12 unique “stroll around town” tours that are primarily aimed at international visitors. Each tour takes in at least two famous spots, covering a distance of between 1 and 4 km, over a period of 1.5–6 hours.
Themed around interests as diverse as history, culture, nature, shopping and waterways (yes, you read that right), the walking tours are run by experienced local guides, and can be arranged easily online, in English.
Here’s what’s available—note that the titles below are official, not our own. Also note that some of the tours have very limited availability, so booking well in advance is recommended.
Tour 1: Everything You Need to Know About Ginza
Starting at the historical Kabuki theater, this tour takes you through both well-known and hidden parts of the glitzy neighborhood of Ginza, taking in tiny backstreet temples, as well as haute couture fashion and in-demand dining spots. A calligraphy or kimono experience is offered at the end of the tour. More information.
Tour 2: History and Culture Walk with Lunch Near Iconic Tokyo Tower
Setting off from Shibakoen Station, this tour is centered around one of Tokyo’s most iconic landmarks—Tokyo Tower. Staying at the base of the tower, you’ll visit Zojoji Temple before ascending Tokyo’s mini mountain—Atago-san, the summit of which is home to another temple. The guide will go over the history of the area and give you an introduction to Japanese religion. Lunch is included at a nearby hotel. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on October 6th, 2019.
Tour 3: Fabric Dyeing in Bingata and Authentic Katana Experience
Get a feel for Japanese tradition on this hands-on tour that takes you to dye workshops in the Shinjuku area, where you will learn about artisanal techniques for making kimono. These are among the last of the places in Tokyo where traditional dye methods are still used.
After sharpening your senses with an interactive katana exhibition, you’ll have a chance to create your own Japanese kimono collar, using the traditional fabric dyeing techniques you’ve learned about—which are known as bingata. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on October 19th, 2019.
Tour 4: Premium Summer Yukata Dyeing in Traditional Edo Patterns
A little more in-depth than Tour 3, this one gives you the opportunity to actually create your own summer kimono, dyeing the fabric under the guidance of the artisans themselves, in their historical workshops. The finished product will be sent to your home about six weeks later, for you to wear when you like. This tour is held in the same area as Tour 3—Shinjuku. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on October 5th, 2019.
Tour 5: Yuzen and Marble Dyeing for Kimono + Japanese Ryokan Lunch
Another take on the traditional fabric dyeing tour experience, this one takes you along the Kanda and Myoshoji rivers to three different artisanal dye studios, where you will learn about various historical techniques and see completed pieces. As part of the experience, you’ll be able to dye your own fabric to keep as a souvenir. The tour ends with a traditional Japanese lunch, prepared by a professional chef, at a ryokan. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on October 2nd, 2019.
Tour 6: Ueno History and World Heritage Site Tour in Virtual Reality
Setting off from the famous Ueno Park, this tour uses VR to take participants back in time to the Battle of Ueno. After learning about the history of the area, you’ll be introduced to some of the contemporary art, world heritage and cultural assets Ueno is renowned for today. More information.
Tour 7: Shinagawa History, Izakaya, and Horse Racing Walking Tour
Meander along part of the historical Tokaido Road, one of Japan’s most important trade routes that connected Kyoto with Tokyo back in the day. You’ll visit Shinagawa Shrine and see a rare bronze statue of Buddha, as well as a huge bell and 600-year-old ginkgo tree. Also included on the itinerary is a visit to a temple dedicated to the god of cooking, and a stop-off at an old fort.
After grabbing a bite to eat and having a tipple at a local izakaya, you’ll watch the night horse races at the Oi Racecourse. You’ll have a chance to make friends with locals, too, as the tour will combine Japanese and international groups. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on November 15th, 2019.
Tour 8: Shinagawa History and Snack Tasting Walking Tour
Another option for exploring the Shinagawa area of Tokyo, this tour takes you to Shinagawa Shrine, throws in a tea ceremony, and also features stop-offs at a number of small shops that sell local speciality snacks, intended as souvenirs. These include rice crackers and award-winning cakes, which you’ll be able to sample to your heart’s content. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on November 9th, 2019.
Tour 9: Sushi Making Classes with Kimono Temple Walk in Ikegami
This tour is a chance to experience three of the most popular parts of Japanese culture, in one of Tokyo’s lesser-explored areas—Ikegami. It kicks off with a sushi-making lesson (and meal) at a restaurant that’s been around since 1963, after which you’ll get to wear a kimono and stroll to the sacred Honmonji Temple and its five-storey pagoda for some pretty perfect pictures. More information.
Tour 10: Must-do Walking Tour in Shibuya
If the tour title wasn’t enough to convince you, perhaps the knowledge that your guide is an expert who works at the Shibuya Tourist Information Center will persuade you to commit. They’ll show you the area’s traditional and hyper-modern sides, talking you through the history, favorite eating spots, and of course, the madness of Scramble Crossing. This one is great for first-time visitors to Tokyo. More information.
Tour 11: Walk where Shirasu Masako Walked, Enjoy “Satoyama of Miwa”
Get out into a quieter part of Tokyo on this special tour, and learn about the groundbreaking author Masako Shirasu, and the small town of what is now Machida—featured in many of her books. You’ll visit the house where Shirasu and her husband lived, which is now a museum. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on November 4th, 2019.
Tour 12: Kodaira “Machimeguri” (Walking) Tour
Another “off-the-beaten-track” experience, this one will see you strolling through a large park, going underground to explore the sewer system of Tokyo’s Kodaira area, and also learning about the water management systems of the city. You’ll then visit a shrine and stop off at the Kodaira Hirakushi Denchu Art Museum, which houses more than 40 of the artist’s sculpture masterpieces, as well as his collection of arts and crafts. The tour wraps up with a Japanese-style lunch served at a traditional restaurant, which features a beautiful garden. More information.
Note that this tour is only available on December 6th, 2019.