Top Ten Ways to Experience Traditional Tokyo

November 10, 2011 by

Sightseeing, Things To Do, Top Attractions, Unforgettable Experiences

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

1.    Food

Traditional Japanese food is still very much on the menu in Tokyo. We’re talking miso soup, plain rice, tofu, fish and tempura to name just a few. If you are happy to splurge, try kaiseki, a seasonal banquet or shojin cuisine, which arrived in Japan at the same time as Buddhism, 1,500 years ago.

2.    Gardens

Explore the Hamarikyu Onshi Teien coastal gardens. These gorgeous gardens are typical of the Edo period and contain a tidal pond (yes, a sea-water pond).

3.    Onsen

Taking a dip in hot water pumped from a natural spring is a wonderful way to relax and to literally immerse yourself in Japanese culture. While far from ancient, the Oedo onsen in Odaiba has an old Edo theme.

4.    Ryokan

Walking barefoot on a tatami, sleeping on a fluffy futon and soaking your bones in an ofuro (Japanese bath); you cannot have a traditional Tokyo experience without a ryokan stay.

5.    Sake & Shochu

Shochu has been distilled in Japan since the 16th century, while Sake is so ancient that its origins are unknown. You’ll find sake & shochu bars all over Tokyo.

6.    Sento

These traditional bath houses are more numerous than onsen in central Tokyo due to their popularity and the absence of hot spring water.

7.    Shrine

While the Meiji Shrine may not be Tokyo’s oldest, it is its most revered. It is also wonderful to lose yourself in the extensive gardens for a while.

8.    Tea

Gyokuro, Sencha, Bancha, Matcha: the Japanese like their tea green and lots of it. Learn or watch a Tokyo tea ceremony to truly appreciate this refined culture, which is strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism.

9.    Temples

Tokyo has so many incredible temples that it is hard to choose between them. The environs and architecture of Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, however, perfectly captures the charm of old Tokyo.

10.    Theater

The most well-known form of traditional Japanese theater is Kabuki, which is famed for its wild costumes and swordfights. Others include Noh (masked), Kyogen (comic) and Bunraku (puppet theater). If you sit through an entire Noh performance then you’ve probably done better than most locals; either that or you’re asleep.

-Emma McMahon

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