Various unique traditional cultures underpin today’s Japan and these cultures have lured many visitors from abroad. Some of them you may have heard of but maybe you don’t know much about, so why not try your hand at whatever cultural experience that has taken your fancy? Who knows, it might turn into your favorite pastime.
Here are some of the spots in Tokyo which offer hands-on classes:
1．Bonsai [Shunkaen BONSAI Museum]
Bonsai is unique in that it expresses the universe with a mere small plant pot. The instructor is Mr. Kobayashi, a leading figure of bonsai who has proliferated the art across the globe. Kobayashi-sensei has many apprentices around the world. Why not visit the museum and immerse yourself in the profound world of bonsai?
Shunkaen BONSAI Museum: English site
Take Keisei Bus 76 from Koiwa Station [JR Sobu Line] or Mizue Station [Toei Subway Shinjuku Line] to Keiyoguchi Bus Stop. The museum is in a walking distance from the bus stop.
2．The Ninja Apprentice [The Musashi Ninja Clan]
Do you want to become a ninja as seen on ‘Naruto’? Obviously you can’t become a full-fledged ninja in a day, but you can have a ninja experience for a day! Here you will learn what it takes to become a ninja and about its weapons.
The Musashi Clan Ninja Warriors: English site
4 minute walk from Tabata Station [JR Yamanote Line]
3．Maiko and Geiko [COCOMO]
There is a photo studio just near Senso-ji in Asakusa where you can wear a make up, dress up, and have your pictures taken as a Japanese maiko or a geisha. This will surely be a memorable experience.
COCOMO: English site
2 minute walk from Asakusa Station [Tokyo Metro Ginza Line/Tobu Isezaki Line]
4．Shodo (calligraphy) [Udoyoshi]
Japanese calligraphy shodo is written using a brush soaked in black ink. Almost all Japanese people have been taught shodo in elementary school. Udoyoshi offers a one-day trial lesson for overseas visitors. You will acquire the technique and skill of beautiful handwriting in no time. At Udoyoshi you can not only learn how to write kanji, the characters derived from Chinese, but also hiragana, one of the phonetic alphabets unique to the Japanese language.
Wayoh Udoyoshi: English site
8 minute walk from Okachimachi Station [JR Yamanote Line]
3 minute walk from Yushima Station [Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line]
5．Cut Your Own Edo Kiriko Glass [Sumida Edo Kiriko Kan]
Edo Kiriko was a glass cutting method brought in by nanbanjin [a historical derogatory term for westerners, mainly of Portuguese and Dutch origins] during the Edo era. You can engrave unique traditional patterns on a glass of your choice. In addition, there are a number of beautiful Edo Kiriko glasses on display which can be purchased.
Sumida Edo Kiriko Kan
6 minute walk from Kinshicho Station [JR Line/Tokyo Metro]
6．Zen Meditation – Zazen and Shakyo [Rinsenji Zen Temple]
If you want to give zazen a go in a genuine Buddhist style, this temple is the place to visit. You can also experience shakyo, a form of meditation by transcribing sutras. Either way you can let go of intrusive thoughts and feel the inner peace.
Rinsenji Zen Temple, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo: English site
2 minute walk from Myogadani Station [Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line]
*If you want to know more about where you can try Zen Meditation around Tokyo, check this article:
7．Soba Making [Edo Tokyo Soba no kai]
Soba is Japanese buckwheat noodle. If you like soba then why not make your own, just like handmade pasta? This venue offers a hands-on one-day class. The artisan will help you a step-by-step so even novice cooks will find themselves making tasty noodles from scratch.
Edo Tokyo Soba no kai
If you want to make a reservation, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 minute walk from Keisei Tateishi Station [Keisei Oshiage Line]
8．Wadaiko Experience [TAIKO-LAB Aoyama]
You may have heard the drumming sessions of the traditional Japanese drums wadaiko – you can’t miss them at local festivals in Japan. Here you get the chance to perform your own wadaiko session to feel the vibrant percussion. We guarantee your mind and body will feel refreshed by the end of it, thanks to the energetic resonance.
4 minute walk from Exits 1 and 3, Gaiemmae Station [Tokyo Metro Ginza Line] or 7 minute walk from Omote-sando Station [Tokyo Metro Hanzomon/Ginza/Chiyoda Lines]
9．Edo Sarasa Dyeing Experience [Some-no-Sato Futaba-en]
During the Edo era, many types of kimono patterns were created by using paper patterns, kata, for dyeing textiles. At Futaba-en you can create a centerpiece with beautiful classic kimono patterns using the traditional dyeing method. If you are mesmerized by the beauty of Japanese kimono and dyed textiles, this is definitely something for you to try.
Some-no-Sato Futaba-en: English site
4 minute walk from Nakai Station [Seibu Shinjuku Line] or 4 minute walk from Exit A2, Nakai Station [Toei Oedo Line]
10．Handmade Food Samples [Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya]Duy Nguyen/Flickr
Food samples are commonly displayed as menu samples at restaurants and they are becoming increasingly popular among overseas visitors. You would be amazed how these food samples are skilfully produced with great attention to detail. Here not only you can make your own food sample but you can also buy some for souvenirs.
Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya: English site
5 minutes walk from Exit A2, Asakusa Station [Tsukuba Express- Note this station is different from Asakusa Stations of Tobu Line and Tokyo Metro]
12 minutes walk from Tawaracho Station [Tokyo Metro Ginza Line]
15 minutes walk from Exit 1, Iriya Station [Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line]
Did any of the above appeal to you? Why not give these hands-on classes a try for a better understanding of Japanese culture? Tangible or not, you will take home a valuable memento at the end of the day.