Tag Archives: traditional japan

Experience Asakusa

Information Share

“Where can I try some unique Japanese cultural experiences in Tokyo?”

We often get asked a variation of “where can I enjoy some real Japanese experiences in Tokyo?” on the Facebook Japan Travel, Friendly Discussion Group. Unfortunately, the search field and files section of Facebook Groups is still somewhat limited and the information cannot be easily found.  I’m sharing suggestions here, that I have given, in the hope that it is more easily accessible for future queries of a similar nature. These places advertise that they have English speaking staff.

This is for the Asakusa area only. If you would like to share other places for the benefit of others,  that would be greatly appreciated. 🙂  Please scroll down to the bottom of the article to see each place mapped on Google with address and other information.

Disclaimer: I have NO affiliation to any of these establishments, nor do I get anything for promoting them! All images are taken from the official websites for each shop or service.

Taiko Drums

Image taken from the official website: http://www.taiko-center.co.jp/english/class/images/tokyo/tokyo-class_03.jpg

The traditional drum in Japan is called a Taiko.  For many the sound of a taiko drum is synonmous with summer festivals.  The Taiko Lab in Asakusa offers a rare chance to experience Taiko drums without signing up for months of classes.  You need to book in advance and they will try to cater to the date and time that suits you best. The application for this is handled by the Taiko Centre (English information): http://www.taiko-center.co.jp/english/class/tokyo-class.html

Information about Taiko Labhttp://www.taiko-center.com/taiko-lab%E3%81%AE%E3%81%94%E6%A1%88%E5%86%85/ Choose the English option from the drop-down box on the right.

Kanji

Kanji is the Japanese writing using Chinese characters.  At Kanji House in Asakusa you can get your name written for you, or join a class, or even take a guided tour. The tour involves a local guide and a kanji calligraphy writing of your name to take home! They have staff and guides who speak English  and most of their clients are foreigners.

Image taken from the official website: http://kanji-house.com/assets/images/top3.png

If you want to try your hand at writing a kanji of your choice you can do a calligraphy class for 30 minutes.  They do require that you make  a reservation at least 24 hours in advance. They have full information in English on their website: http://kanji-house.com/service_price.html  and the reservation form is here: http://kanji-house.com/contact.html

Origami

The age old and majestic paper folding craft is a fun (and therapeutic) activity, offering a glimpse into the Japanese custom of precision and detail.  The afore mentioned Kanji House also offers an origami class for just 500 yen (summer 2016 price) for 30 minutes. Information available in English on their website: http://kanji-house.com/service_price.html . Reservation form: http://kanji-house.com/contact.html

Dressing up in Kimono

Dressing up in a kimono is something unique to Japanese culture. Kosode near to Asakusa subway station offer kimono rental, dressing and hair styling for both men and women. They have yukata (summer kimono) in the hot months too. They have information and a booking form in English on their website: http://paull.jp/asakusa/english/index.php

Moku Hanga Print

Moku Hanga is a technique used in ukiyo-e, a genre of art. Mokuhankan is a relatively new shop offering woodblock prints. The owner is a England born Canadian. You can experience his tutelage in an hour long workshop. You can book from a calendar on their English content website: http://mokuhankan.com/parties/index.php

Replica Food Production Workshop

Showroom of Replica Food made from wax

Replica Food are wax samples of what a restaurant’s (/shop’s) food looks like, displayed in the restaurants window. Ganso Shokuhin Sample Shop Kappabashi Showroom displays a great selection of replica food. Even better: you can book to try your hand at making your own replica food samples. Information in English on their website: http://www.ganso-sample.com/en/shop/kappabashi/

However, you need to book for the workshop by phone at 0120-17-1839.  The workshops are held at 11am, 2pm and 4pm and take between 60 and 75 minutes. It costs 2,160 yen per person (summer 2016 price).

Jidaiya

Jidaiya is a fantastic service offering a range of typical and age old Japanese experiences. Here is a list of some of them;

Rickshaw Ride

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Kago (basket palanquin) Ride

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Tea Ceremony

Paper Lantern making

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Fan Throwing Game

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Japanese Traditional Entertainment and Performances

Information for all of these can be found on their English webpage:

http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono2

 

All of the places listed above are perfect, if you want to try some real hands-on experiences during your stay in Japan.  Most of these places advise booking in advance.  Below you can see the locations of each place marked on a google map.

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Edo period Candy craft in Kawagoe

4-Candy craft (2)

Today, we went to watch the Candy Man in Kawagoe! He is a performance artist, who sculpts candy into different shapes, characters and forms, in an art form known as Amezaiku, in Japan. Above you can see a unicorn made out of candy.

Sculpting candy in art
Sculpting candy in to art, Amezaiku, candy craft artist Suzuki

The Candy Man Suzuki, one of only a few traditional candy folk artists practising regularly in Japan, performs in the Sweet Street (or Candy Alley) of Kawagoe(川越菓子屋横町)。  Kawagoe is referred to as Little Edo and this candy craft dates back to the Edo period. Suzuki uses a taffy like mixture, similar to corn syrup, which is made from rice and malt. It is called Mizuame in Japanese, which translates to “water candy”.  Suzuki shapes the candy, while it is still hot, into different animals and objects. It costs 300 yen for a sculpted candy.  Part of the pleasure of the sweet, is watching it being sculpted and formed,  and bantering with the creator as he works.  Sometimes he will take requests. You can see him at work in this video I found on Youtube:

Blowing candy
Blowing candy

One of the appeals of this type of candy street stall, is that you can make your own blowing candy for just 100 yen (less than one Euro). Suzuki prepares the hot glutinous starch syrup placing it on a straw. You blow into it to give it a ball like shape. If you fail to blow into shape before it hardens, he will fix it into a ame no tori, candy bird, for you, by snipping and shaping.  This could be why the candy was called ame no tori during the edo period.  He uses a traditional Japanese scissors for snipping and paints on food colouring for the finished effect.  Pictured below is the ame no tori, candy bird, he made for my eldest daughter.

Ame no Tori, Candy bird
Ame no Tori, Candy bird




Candy man Suzuki works from a traditional portable stall on the sweet street in Kawagoe, Saitama. However, you can also visit a candycraft workshop in Sendagi, Tokyo.  Great information in English available here: https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/contents/shopping/movie/candycrafts/INT13011202

For more about the art and an insight into an Amezaiku artist, you can read about the Internationally acclaimed Takahiro Mizuki.  There are some great photos on that webpage too. In English: http://www.amezaiku.com/eng/index2.html and In French: http://www.amezaiku.com/fr/index3.html  For more on the history, there is a fairly detailed piece on Tofugu http://www.tofugu.com/2015/01/06/amezaiku-japanese-candy-creatures-made-fire-sugar/

The candy man usually practices in Candy Street which is in Motomachi. The tourist buses will bring you close:

Access from Kawagoe Station

Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information.  Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Kawagoe Loop Bus

Koedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease.

More information here:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

Kawagoe Access by train from Tokyo and Omiya

  • 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
  • 44 minutes from Seibu Shinjuku on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
  • 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line.  You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
  • 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
  • 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
  • The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.

Access by Car

About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.