We’ll start your private Tokyo tour in the neighbourhood of Ningyocho, a district known for its old traditions and, as you’ll discover right away, tasty treats. That’s because the smell of cinnamon will lead us to our first stop, a shop that specialises in Japanese sweets. Established in the Meiji Era (1897), this shop stays true to its original vibe — something that is quite uncommon these days in modern, fast-paced Tokyo!
Next up, we’ll stop at an incense store that dates back to 1705, where we’ll learn about Kōdō, the art of appreciating incense and the traditional Japanese incense ceremony. Along the way, we’ll also visit a little gift shop that carries various traditional Japanese items, from calligraphy tools to decorative wares.
Hungry? Good! We’ll stop at a snack shop from the Showa Era that carries treats popular in the early 20th century, including candies, caramels, Ramune soda, fish jerky, and bean paste snacks, to name a few. Then, we’ll visit two shops specialising in a specific traditional snack: senbei, or rice crackers. We’ll try sweet kawara senbei (made from flour, not actually rice), as well as salty rice crackers, a favourite in many Japanese households.
We’ll then cross the street to a shamisen shop, and learn a bit about this traditional Japanese musical string instrument. From there, we’ll head to a local tenugui shop, where they sell woven hand towels depicting Japanese scenes.
Your private Tokyo tour will next lead you to one of the eight temples in Ningyocho. We’ll visit a shrine where virtue, longevity, learning, and wealth are worshipped. You can offer a prayer here, and wash a coin to ensure a prosperous life.
Once we’ve exhausted Ningyocho, we’ll visit another nearby neighbourhood, Nihonbashi. The district of Nihonbashi was a hub for merchants during the Edo period. Today, it is predominantly a financial district that houses trading firms, and even the Tokyo Stock Exchange. And although Nihonbashi is very much a modern neighbourhood, it features many traditional Japanese shops hidden in its alleyways and even within its department stores.
We’ll visit a seaweed shop, as well as an old-fashioned stationery shop that was established in 1946. You’ll get to browse through the display of calligraphy brushes, inks, traditional paints, handmade greeting cards, and little dolls.
We’ll also check out a toothpick shop (yes, toothpicks) that has been in business since 1704 and that gives something extra special to buyers — each toothpick is wrapped in a piece of paper with a poem, and is produced by hand. We’ll also stop at a katsuobushi shop that can be traced back more than 200 years. Katsuobushi is the fish shavings used to make fish broth, the very essence of Japanese cooking. Lastly, we’ll check out the shop that makes golden leaves measuring 0.0001 mm, and that have been traditionally used for decorating ceramics, furnishings, and even food.
Our Tokyo tour will finish at the Nihonbashi information centre, where we will get to taste a few more traditional Japanese sweets before saying sayōnara.
Please note that this itinerary is subject to change. As most of the shops we visit are small, family-owned businesses, they sometimes unexpectedly close or alter their hours for the day. In such a case, we'll visit other nearby shops or attractions that still keep with the theme and essence of the tour.
(If you’d prefer to travel as part of a regular group experience, please book our Cultural Curiosities group tour.)
This tour is priced for a minimum group size of two travellers. A solo traveller may still book this private experience but will be charged the base rate for two travellers.
Tour photos by Ben McNamara
Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide, food samplings (Japanese snacks, tea).
Exclusions: Additional food and drink, souvenirs and items of a personal nature, tips and gratuities for the guide.
Dress standard: The tour includes a brief visit to a small shrine. Modest dress is highly recommended — shoulders covered, and pants or a skirt that covers the knees.
Confirmation of booking: If you have your voucher, your booking is confirmed. We'll see you at the start point.
Get in touch if you have any concerns or require more information via the email address or phone number (business hours only) on your voucher.
Additional Information: Some food allergies can be accommodated, but please check beforehand with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While this tour is not physically exerting, it is a walking tour, and you will be on your feet and walking for all of the three hours.
Closure of sites: This tour includes visits to independent, family-run businesses, which may sometimes unexpectedly close or alter their hours for the day. In such a case, we'll visit other nearby shops or attractions that still keep with the theme and essence of the tour.
Child Policy: This is a child-friendly tour. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 inclusively are permitted on this tour at the rate listed above. Please select ‘child’ above when booking. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour free of charge. Please inform us at the time of booking if you’ll be bringing a child under the age of 6. You can do so in the special request box on the checkout page.