The Japanese Tea Ceremony is one of the nation’s most outstanding traditions and is based on Taoism and influenced by Zen. The tea used in the ceremony is powdered green tea. A basic tea ceremony can last only 20 minutes while a true grand-style ceremony can last up to four hours (usually at dinner time). The main equipment used in the ceremony includes white linen for wiping the tea bowl, several sizes of tea bowls, a whisk made from carved bamboo, a bamboo or wooden scoop or spoon for scooping tea from the tea caddy into the tea bowl. Each of these tools is an object of art by itself and is always handled with care, both before and after the ceremony. Japanese traditional sweets are used to balance the bitterness of the green tea. Ask your hotel reception where the nearest venue for is for a tea ceremony, alternatively try one at Hamarikyu Gardens, where the ceremony is held on a daily basis.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Address: Hamarikyu Gardens, 1-1 Hamarikyu Teien, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
- Tel: +81 (0) 3-35410200
Oedo Onsen Monogatari
This large Onsen bath theme park is an interesting place to visit in Tokyo. It was created in the Edo style with 16 baths including an outdoor bath as well as several different types of mineral water and temperatures to experience. For those who want to try something really special, check out Onsen's Turkish fish footbaths. You can just sit back and relax, dipping your feet in the bath tub and letting the fish do their work nibbling away any dead skin – Nature’s pedicure. It is quite amazing. Other facilities in the park include various types of restaurants and shops. The entry fee includes use of a yukata, bath towel and hand towel plus soap, shampoo, and conditioner are all provided by the Onsen. Everyone is welcome including kids (children under four get in for free). One important fact to note is that people with tattoos are asked to refrain from using the facilities.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 - 09:00 the next morning (cutoff time for admittance: 07:00)
- Location: Odaiba, Tokyo
- Tel: +81 (0) 3-55001126
A Tokyo river cruise is an interesting way of exploring this big city. Along the way, you will pass by both modern and the ancient Japan such as the Asahi Beer Building and Sumida Park in Asakusa. The cruise takes place on the Sumida River which in the old days was the main artery for entering and leaving Tokyo Bay. Visitors can choose from day or night cruises, depending on what they want to see. For example in the springtime, in the cherry blossom season, you can observe it not only in daytime but also by night, giving the cherry blossom a new whole look.
- Opening Hours: All year round
- Location: Along the Sumida River
Pachinko (a combination of a pinball and slot machine) is one of the nation’s obsessions and has been around for years. An out-of-town visitor might need some preparation before entering any pachinko parlor in Tokyo. Firstly, some of them are large – some venues have several floors, all devoted to this popular arcade game. And then there is the noise from the loud background music plus the pinging metallic sounds and then come the killer; the smoke from the players’ cigarettes. The combination from the above can sometimes be overwhelming.
If you want to try your luck, stop by at any pachinko centre and in case you win get a member of staff to help you cash in. Of course, gambling is illegal in Japan but when it comes to pachinko, no one seems to bother, and there are quite a few pachinko professionals around who live from it on a daily basis.
- Opening Hours: Daily, 10:00 – 23:00
- Location: Around town
Hanayashiki Vintage Amusement Park
This small vintage amusement park Hanayashiki lies in Asakusa and is another member of the ‘Old Tokyo’scene. It was first opened as a flower park in 1853 and many years later recreational facilities were installed as well as some exotic caged animals. In 1949 Hanayashiki was eventually converted into an amusement park. Nowadays Hanayashiki is popular with families with young kids mainly because of its slide. Visitors can enjoy the many rides, booths, and games such as the melody-pet panda car, the gorgeous fairy tale merry-go-round, a roller coaster (the oldest in Japan), a Japanese-style haunted house, a kids-size Ferris wheel, a shooting gallery, the ‘Bee Tower’ and the ‘Disk O’. There are many shops and dining opportunities in the area that stay open after the park closes.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 –18:00, closed on Tuesdays
- Location: Next to the Sensoji Temple grounds (a five-minute walk from Asakusa Station on the Ginza Subway Line and Tobu Isezaki Line)
Visiting Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1707. In the shape of a perfect cone, it rises to a 3,776m (12,388ft) peak. The reason why many people climb Mount Fuji (or Fuji-san as known by locals) is to see the sunrise from the summit. They usually ascend by day and stay at the top for the night. For many locals, to climb Fuji-san is an important pilgrimage. The climb is not that easy as it is quite steep and takes about eight hours to reach the summit. Though the climb is allowed only from 1 July to 31 August, the summit is frequently covered by clouds. A popular starting point is the Kawaguchi 5th station which can be reached directly by bus. Many tourists come to this stage to enjoy the view, have lunch, cruise on Lake Ashi and ride the aerial cableway at Mount Komagatake.
- Opening Hours: All year round but the climb is allowed only from 1 July to 31 August
- Location: Less than 100 miles west of Tokyo. On a clear day, particularly in the winter, Fuji-san can be seen from Tokyo.
The Tokyo Racecourse had a grand reopening in 2007 after a seven-year-long renovation. It is large with modern facilities and a capacity of more than 200,000 punters and has the world’s largest video monitor at 11 × 66 metres which displays sharp, powerful images and a wealth of information on its three high-definition screens. Other facilities include a good variety of restaurants, shops as well as family oriented attractions such as amusement rides, pony rides, playgrounds and park areas. It is interesting to note that gambling is illegal in Japan, however horse racing has been around for many decades and horse betting has been a big part of it. Nowadays betting is fully automated and the minimum bet is 100 yen.
In the same area, the Japanese Racing Museum offers pictures of past race horses, jockeys, jerseys and historical developments of horseracing in Japan.
- Opening Hours: Every weekend during the end of the summer and into the fall. There are 12 races on a racing day. Open from 10:00 - 16:30. Entry fee is about 200 yen per person.
- Location: in the city of Fuchu about 30 minutes west of Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Tel: +81 (0) 42-3145800
Anyone who loved the 1984 American movie Karate Kid and who wants to try or see the real deal should include a karate class into their Tokyo itinerary. Karate originated hundreds of years ago in Okinawa and has become a national martial art. It uses no weapons but the hands, body and feet in attacking and defending.
One more popular martial sports to try is kendo which is the art of using a bamboo sword and armour. It is known that in the old days, Samurai soldiers practiced this form of martial art to keep them fit and ready for war.
Another martial arts option is judo which is a refinement of the ancient martial art of Jujutsu. Judo was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1964 and is practiced by millions of people throughout the world today. Visitors are welcome to go to the Kodokan Judo Institute to try a Judo experience as well as to visit the museum located on the second floor of the eight-storey building. The display room features a collection of documents, photos, and objects associated with the history of Kodokan Judo. It is open on weekdays from 10:00 – 17:00 with no entry fee.
Most centres offer regular English-language classes. Some of them also allow people to observe training classes without charging any fee. Please call the following centres for class schedules.
Avid golfers used to find it rather inconvenient to go golfing in Japan as most clubs were exclusively for members, but this is not the case anymore. Since the worldwide economic difficulties many clubs have opened up to non-members including foreigners while only a few have stayed truly private. Visitors might want to make the best of this opportunity by playing golf on weekdays as the links are usually cheaper and less crowded than at weekends, sometimes at about half the price, and the deal comes with free facilities such as a hot spa. In most cases, the price already includes the caddy fee. For where to go, please see the list below.
On a rainy day when the weather is not on your side, a game of bowling might cheer up your day. It is also a great cross-generational activity in which everyone can join in. There are countless good bowling alleys in Tokyo and it’s best to check with your hotel desk for the closest one. For those who are in Minato-ku, stop by at the Tokyo Port Bowl and for visitors in Odaiba, visit Tokyo Leisure Land.