On arrival in Tokyo, you will be welcomed by a Selective Asia representative, who will accompany you to your hotel via Tokyo’s excellent public transport system.
Tokyo is one of the most captivating cities in the world, and Japan’s commercial and political capital. Now a vast, energising urban sprawl, the city has seen revolutionary changes over the last few centuries - the shogun’s castle has transformed into the Emperor’s Palace, the samurai dwellings have exploded upwards into gleaming skyscrapers, and millions have poured in from all over the country, animating the capital with their unique culture and character.
The city’s multitude of attractions range from the swirling nightlife of Shinjuku to millennia-old temples, and excellent museums like Miraikan; then there are the simple pleasures, like the gaudy lights at night, a superb diversity of cuisine, cherry-blossom boat rides, and an abundance of seductive shopping experiences. There’s a lot to take in, for sure, but our advice is not to fight it - instead, feast your eyes, sniff the air and plunge in - Tokyo will saturate your senses.
Overnight in Tokyo
After breakfast and having met your guide, set off for a walking tour through Tokyo’s historic Shitamachi area.
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and escort you by subway to Tawaramachi Station in Asakusa, a historic ward within Tokyo’s traditional Shitamachi (‘low city’). Asakusa grew up during the Edo period (1603 - 1868) to meet the entertainment demands of neighbouring merchants and artisans. It’s the city’s oldest Geisha district, and also home to Senso-ji (‘Asakusa Kannon’) Temple, which - at nearly 1,400 years old - is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist site. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs, and are good fun to wander through.
First stop will be Taikokan, the Drum Museum, a compact but entertaining place where you can have a go on a variety of traditional percussion instruments, and admire the collection of beautifully crafted drums on display. Continue with a stroll down to Kappabashi-dori (Kitchenware Street) to visit some specialist stores. This might sound mundane, but it’s an astonishing street - instead of printed menus, many Japanese restaurants display a window full of life-size replicas of each dish on offer, and the faux food is on sale here, along with all manner of cooking and dining implements; it’s the perfect spot to find quirky or useful souvenirs.
Head down the Asakusa district’s back streets, which are lined with traditional shops selling kimono, Japanese sweets, and crafts, and take in stunning views of the Tokyo Sky Tree, Japan’s tallest structure at 634 meters high. Next, drop in to the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Craft Museum to glimpse authentic examples of the traditional crafts of the Shitamachi artisans during the Edo Period (1603 - 1868).
The morning will conclude with a visit to Senso-ji, the oldest temple in Tokyo. Not content with its multitude of historical and cultural spots, Asakusa is also famous for tempura, so you will stop at one of the area’s local restaurants for lunch.
After your tempura lunch, a quick taxi ride will take you to Ueno, the wealthiest district in Japan during the Edo period, home to the city’s best known park, and the location for your afternoon walk.
First stop is the Jomyoin Temple, which is home to 84,000 Jizo (Bodhisattva) statues, and the nearby Kan-eji Temple, which served as an important Buddhist temple during the Edo period. From here, you will enter Ueno Park, home to some of Tokyo’s most famous museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the Museum of Art and Science, the Metropolitan Art Museum, and the Western Art Museum. Your walk through Ueno Park will end at the Shitamachi Museum, where you can find out about daily life in Tokyo during the early 20th century.
Your final destination for the day is the Ameyoko-cho Market. A formal black market after World War II, it is now one of Japan’s few remaining outdoor markets, and sells clothes, fish, and spices, amongst other things. What better way to end the day than with a cold beer or a hot green tea and some local snacks (the yakitori grilled chicken is a local favourite) in one of the many small restaurants tucked under the train tracks that span the market. The first round is on us!
The tour ends at Ueno Station.
Overnight in Tokyo
Your day is at leisure until the evening, when you’ll meet your guide for a food tour.
At 5pm, meet your guide at a local train station and set off into the hubbub of central Tokyo to experience the capital’s vibrant culinary scene. Over the course of the evening, you will visit a variety of venues, from tiny pubs to street side stalls, each distinctive in their atmosphere and food offerings.
Begin your stroll through the maze of streets, passing carts selling exotic snacks and diners perched on small metal stools, stopping en-route to sample some of the barbequed meats and sweet desserts on offer.
Your guide will lead you to an izakaya. These small, Japanese-style pubs are popular places for friends and colleagues to gather after work for a beer and some snacks - in a similar vein to tapas, the food on offer is designed to be shared. In true local style, your guide will order up a few traditional izakaya favourites such as fried chicken wings or cold edamame for you to taste, accompanied by a cold local beer. While you eat and soak up the atmosphere, your guide will offer an insight into Japan’s culinary culture.
After your izakaya experience, you will visit another four or five different eateries, each with a distinctive style, rubbing shoulders with Tokyoites. These venues do not take reservations, so the exact routing may change, but your guide will ensure there is plenty to eat!
After around three hours, having sampled a variety of Japanese cuisine - and with your appetite fully satisfied - return to your hotel.
Overnight in Tokyo