Tea with a Geisha
Take a walk through the mysterious alleyways of Kyoto’s Gion district to an ochaya tea house. After being led into a traditional tatami-mat room, the fusuama doors slide open and you are face to painted face with a geisha. After carefully preparing the tea, the geisha will invite you to slurp it down in one to show your appreciation. There will be a translator on hand, enabling you to freely ask questions and gain a unique insight into this often-misunderstood way of life. You will then be invited to play classic Japanese games, before a traditional geisha dance is performed.
In a city the size of Tokyo, how do you find the best bowl of ramen? Ask a local of course. We’ll introduce you to a self-confessed ramen otaku (expert), who’ll help you discover the number one noodles in town on this street food safari. With the help of your guide you’ll be able to order whatever takes your fancy, while they talk you through the different cooking method and ingredients used. Sample delicious steaming bowls of noodles, drenched in rich thick broth and laden with meat, spring onions and eggs, at some of the city’s best and most down-to-earth ramen hotspots.
See a Sumo Match
Witness the pomp and ritual of Japan’s national sport by attending a sumo match. Watch as these colossal sportsmen try to psyche each other out in the ring, before the tension builds to a thunderous clash of heads. Bouts can be over in a flash, as one wrestler heaves his opponent out of the ring or thursts him to the ground, but the atmosphere is always electric. We can arrange tickets for you in either traditional masu seki or Western-style stadium seats. But with just six annual tournaments, three of which take place in Tokyo, early booking is highly recommended.
Hike Like a Samurai
Wind your way through the heart of the Japanese Alps while hiking an ancient samurai pathway between the villages of Magome and Tsumago. This stone path twists a beautifully scenic trail through dense forests, beside waterfalls and shrines and over rivers, just as it has for centuries. Friendly locals will stop to say konnichiwa and are often intrigued by your presence in this relatively untouched part of Japan. This three-hour walk finishes at the peaceful hamlet of Tsumago, the perfect place to experience the warm hospitality of a simple ryokan stay in a quintessentially Japanese village. Japan offers plenty of splendid hiking opportunities, and this is one of our favourites.
Roketsu Cloth Dyeing
Try your hand at the traditional roketsu method of cloth dyeing under the instruction of some of Kyoto’s finest artisans. Using ancient techniques, wax is applied to fabric blocking indigo dyes to form elaborate designs. After watching these master craftspeople at work in their studio, you’ll be able to create your own t-shirt, bandana or noren (Japanese curtain), either using existing stencils or your own design. Once you’ve applied the wax, you’ll stir your piece in a vat of natural indigo dye before sealing the design by iron. This unique experience offers a creative, hands-on insight into traditional Japanese arts and crafts.
Tokyo Video Games Tour
Get under the skin of Tokyo’s gaming culture with a local expert, who’ll take you on an insider’s tour of the city’s videogame stores, cafes and arcades. You’ll spend plenty of time playing a diverse range of consoles at your guide’s favourite gaming spots, from famous arcades to hidden gems. When you’ve worked up an appetite, take your pick from a Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest or Capcom themed game-café for a lunch with a difference. We can tailor the day around your particular gaming interests, so let us know if you’re on the lookout for any particular rare or retro machines.
Few places conjure such powerful imagery as Japan. No other country in the world has preserved its ancient traditions at the same time as incorporating such mind-blowing modern technology.