Cultural Activities

Download a PDF of our Optional Cultural Activities

Fushimi Inari Shrine Walking Tour and Sake Brewery and Museum Tour

Tour the kilometers-long tunnels of vermillion torii gates winding through the quiet woods and past many smaller shrines. You will also learn more about the traditional sake brewing process. And best of all, there is a tasting station at the end of the tour.

You will meet the licensed, English-speaking guide at the Kyoto train station (we will provide detailed maps in both Japanese and English where to meet) who will escort you to the nearby city of Fushimi (transportation to Fushimi and return is included). Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine was established in the 8th century, and is dedicated to Inari, the Goddess of Cereal (Rice). This shrine serves as the headquarters of the more than 30,000 Inari shrines located throughout Japan. Spread out over the expansive hillside location are more than 10,000 vermillion-colored torii gates, donated by thankful followers and the local sake breweries. These torii gates form kilometers-long tunnels of vermillion winding through the quiet woods and past many smaller shrines. The city of Fushimi, famous for the quality of its water, is the second-largest producer of sake in Japan. After traveling to the sake brewery by local train, the tour will begin at a 100 year-old sake brewery. Here you will learn about the process of sake making the traditional way. Next, you will tour a museum where many of the different tools used to brew sake are on display. The tour of the museum will end at a sake tasting station where you can sample the locally made sakes. The tour ends after the guide escorts you by train back to the Kyoto train station.

Duration: 4 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Everyday (9:00-13:00 and 13:00-17:00)
Price
(per person)
1 person – $200
2 or more people – $100

Half-Day or Full-Day Guided Tour

See the sights of Kyoto with a licensed, English-speaking guide for a half day or full day.

The licensed, English-speaking guide will meet you at the JR Kyoto station. Create your own itinerary or ask us for suggestions.

Contact us for details.

Duration: 4 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Any time
Price
(per group)
Half-day (4 hours) – $225
Full-day (8 hours) – $350

Japanese Cooking Class

Learn Japanese cooking at the English-speaking instructor’s home

You will travel on your own (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) to the instructor’s home where you will begin your hands-on initiation into the light, healthy and always delicious world of Japanese cooking. Your instructor will help you prepare a complete meal while explaining about the ingredients and techniques being used. And, best of all, you will get to eat your results! After the class, you will travel to the destination of your choice (not included).

Duration: 3-1/2 hours
Group Size: 1 to 5 people
Availability: Anytime (based on availability)
Price
(per person)
1 person –$175
2 or more people – $90
There may be an extra surcharge from some ingredients used in the class.

Kyoto Special Night

An exceptional evening out in Kyoto.

You will travel on your own to the Gion Corner (transportation not included – will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) where you will be met by one of our assistants. The Gion Corner stages a variety program, while a bit touristy, is an excellent introduction to many ancient Japanese cultural arts. You’ll see short demonstrations of a Tea Ceremony, Ikebana (flower arranging), Koto (Japanese harp) music, Gagaku (ancient imperial court music and dance), Kyogen (Noh comic play), Kyomai (Kyoto style dance) performed by Maiko and Bunraku (puppetry). Immediately after the show, we will walk to a nearby restaurant through the famous Gion Geisha district where there is a chance you may see one of the Geisha on their way between parties. At the restaurant you will enjoy an all-you-can-eat Shabu-Shabu dinner. Shabu-shabu is a popular Japanese meat dish consisting of thinly-sliced beef and pork (about 1mm thick) and vegetables dipped in boiling water and eaten with a variety of sauces. After dinner, you will travel on your own (not included) to your destination.

Includes:
English-speaking assistant
Admission fees to the Gion Corner
All-you-can-eat Shabu-Shabu dinner

Duration: 3 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Any day beginning at 16:30
Price
(per person)
1 person – $175
2 or more people – $135

Maiko Night

Enjoy a private dinner party with a Maiko and a walking tour of two Geisha districts in Kyoto to learn about the mysterious world of the Geishas.

You will travel on your own to a local restaurant (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) where you will be met by one of our licensed English-speaking guides. It is here where you will begin this special evening. After starting your Kaisiki-style dinner of tempura, shabu-shabu and sashimi, a Maiko (a Maiko is a Geisha in training) will join you in your private dining room for about 40 minutes. The Maiko will answer any of your questions, perform a short dance and pose for pictures with you. After completing dinner, we will take a walking tour of the Pontocho and Gion Geisha districts. After sunset, these areas take on a completely different atmosphere. Here you will see where the Geisha and Maiko work and live. And there is a good chance we will see one of them on their way between parties. The tour ends in the Gion Geisha District. You can either return to your hotel or other destination (Transportation not included.), go shopping in the nearby department stores or specialty shops or you can explore the narrow alleys of the Gion on your own.

Includes:
Licensed, English-speaking guide
Kaiseki-style dinner in a private dining room
Meet a Maiko session in the dining room
Walking tour of the Pontocho and Gion Geisha Districts

Duration: 3-1/4 hours
Group Size: 2 to 16 people
Availability: Anyday after 17:00 (with at least 3 days notice)
Price
(per two people)
2 people – $250
Contact us for details and prices for more than two people.

Meet-a-Maiko Session and Gion Walking Tour

Meet a Maiko with a Maiko and a walking tour of the Gion Geisha district to learn about the mysterious world of the Geishas.

You will travel on your own to the Gion Corner (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) where you will be met by one of our licensed English-speaking guides. The guide will escort you to a nearby, small, intimate tea house in the Gion Geisha district where you will meet a Maiko (a Maiko is a Geisha in training). The Maiko will serve you tea and sweets, answer any of your questions, perform a short dance and pose for pictures with you. After the session, we will take a walking tour of the Gion Geisha district. Here you will see where the Geisha and Maiko work and live. And there is a good chance we will see one of them on their way between parties. You can either return to your hotel or other destination (Transportation not included.), go shopping in the nearby department stores or specialty shops or you can explore the narrow alleys of the Gion on your own.

Includes:
Licensed, English-speaking Guide
Taxi from your hotel to the Meet a Maiko session
Meet a Maiko Session
Walking tour of the Gion Geisha District

Duration: 2 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Saturdays and Sundays at 15:00 and 16:00
Price
(per person)
1 person – $160
2 or more people – $100

Tea Ceremony

Participate in a tea ceremony in an authentic tea room

You will travel on your own to the tea house (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) where you will be met by the English-speaking tea master. The stylized and regimented Japanese tea ceremony has been performed the same way for over 400 years. Once considered standard training for Samurais, today the tea ceremony is enjoyed by the modern Japanese as a means of relaxation. The English-speaking tea master will explain the history and the concepts behind the tea ceremony. You will also be given an opportunity to make tea yourself. After the tea ceremony, you will travel to the destination of your choice (not included).

Duration: 3/4 hours
Group Size: 1 to 8 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per person)
1-8 people – $35 {¥3000)

Zen Meditation

Learn the relaxation techniques of Zen meditation at a Zen Buddhist temple.

You will travel on your own to a small, local Zen Buddhist temple (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) where the English-speaking head monk will discuss the benefits of meditation with you, and instruct you on the relaxation techniques needed for Zen meditation, with special emphasis on breathing techniques. You will have two opportunities to practice the techniques. After the lesson, the monk will serve tea and sweets, and give you a tour of the temple which includes important historical artifacts and screen paintings registered by the Japanese government as well a small, dry-landscape garden. After the session, you will travel to your destination (not included) on your own.

Duration: 1-1/2 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Any day (9:00-10:30, 10:40-12:10, 13:30-15:00)
Price
(per person)
1 person – $45
2 or more people – $35

Half-Day Hiroshima

Tour the Peace Park and Museum

A licensed, English-speaking guide will meet you at the JR Hiroshima station and escort you by taxi to the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum. This museum, documenting the events and decisions leading up to the dropping of the bomb as well as documenting the effects of the bomb, conveys the message of “Never again.” After the guide takes you through the museum, they will then lead you through the Memorial Peace Park located directly behind the museum. Here you will see peace monuments known throughout the world including the Children’s Monument dedicated to Sadako, the Peace Bell, Ground Zero and the thought-provoking A-Bomb Dome. The guide will then take you by taxi back to the train station.

Duration: 4 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
$260 for group plus $11 for transportation and admission fees

Miyajima Island and Hiroshima Combined Tour

Combine the Hiroshima and Miyajima Island tours (includes Hiroshima-yaki lunch)

Duration: 9 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
$350 for group, $11 per person for transportation if they have rail passes, $25 if they don’t

Half-Day Miyajima

Tour Miyajima Island, one of the three most scenic places in Japan

Recognized as one of the three most scenic spots in Japan, Miyajima is a peaceful and enjoyable side trip from Hirshioma. The `”Floating Torii” in front of the 800 year-old Itsukushima Shrine can be found on just about every travel brochure for Japan. The licensed, English-speaking guide will meet you at the JR Hiroshima train station and escort you by train and ferry to the island. Here, the guide will show you around the island including the Itsukushima Shrine and take you up the ropeway to near the top of Mt. Misen where you might be able to see some of the wild monkeys that live in the surrounding forest. The guide will then escort you back to the JR Hiroshima train station.

Duration: 4 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
$275 for group, $15 additional per person if they don’t have rail pass

Miyajima Island and Hiroshima Combined Tour

Combine the Hiroshima and Miyajima Island tours (includes Hiroshima-yaki lunch)

Duration: 9 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
$350 for group, $11 per person for transportation if they have rail passes, $25 if they don’t

Half-Day or Full-Day Guided Tour

See the sights of Osaka with a licensed, English-speaking guide for a half day or full day.

The licensed, English-speaking guide will meet you at the JR Osaka station. Create your own itinerary or ask us for suggestions. Contact us for details.

Duration: 4 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per group)
Half-day (4 hours) – $225
Full-day (8 hours) – $350

Osaka Walking Tour

Enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of South Osaka.

While there are not a lot of sightseeing options in Osaka, the best way to experience Osaka is to simply explore the city on foot. And the best time to enjoy Osaka is at night when the South Osaka area of the Dotombori and Namba Districts come into its own. At this time the numerous large, neon signs and the hawkers and pachinko parlors of the area combine to create an audio-visual overload. The tour will include Doguyasuji, a street in the Namba District lined with restaurant supply stores (including stores selling the plastic food models you see everywhere in Japan). In the Dotombori District, you will visit the Hozenji Temple and Yokocho, an area that retains an old-time atmosphere and where so many locals come to pour water over the temple’s statues, they are now covered in moss. In contrast, you will also visit the Ebisubashi Bridge next to the Dotombori Street. With its towering neon signs, a visit to the Ebisubashi Bridge is like stepping into the movie “Bladerunner”. The tour will begin with a dinner at a local okonomiyaki restaurant. Takoyaki from a street-side vendor is also included.

Duration: 3 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per person)
1 person – $85
2 or more people = $60

Samurai Sword Fighting

Learn Samurai Sword techniques

You will travel on your own to the studio (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own). Learn Samurai sword fighting techniques, using wooden swords, from Japanese period movie actors. When the session is finished, you will be dressed in Hakama (formal men’s traditional clothing) or Kimonos. After the class, you will travel to the destination of your choice (not included).

Duration: 1-1/2 hours
Group Size: 1 to 8 people
Availability: Every Wednesday and Thursday nights at 18:00 and 19:30
Price
(per person)
1 person – $90
2 or more people – $75

Akihabara “Otaku” Walking Tour

Walking tour of Akihabara to uncover the “Akiba” style.

Due to the many large electronics stores, for a long time Akihabara has been known as “Electric Town”. But recently, the Akihabara area has become a popular gathering site for “Otaku” (Japanese slang meaning freak, geek or nerd), and has become known as the center of manga, anime and cosplay (costume play) pop sub-cultures. Meet the guide at the JR Akihabara station. We will send you a detailed map in both Japanese and English with the meeting point marked. The walking tour, led by a licensed, English-speaking Japanese guide will visit the following:

  • Akihabara orientation
  • Yodobashi Camera – The largest electronics store at Akihabara
  • Radio Kaikan – Manga and Anime collectibles
  • Tsukumo Robot Kingdom – Specializes in everything related to robots
  • Canned Oden Vending Machines – Also sells canned udon, soba and ramen
  • Kachapon Kaikan – Over 300 machines selling toys in plastic capsules. Very popular in Japan!
  • Tokyo Anime Center – Anime collectibles
  • Animate – Anime collectibles

The walking tour will end after the guide takes you to one of the popular “Maid Cafes” for a relaxing drink and/or snack (not included) and helps you order.

Duration: 3 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per person)
1 person – $180
2 or more people – $90

Dress up in Kimono

Enjoy wearing a beautiful kimono.

Duration: 1 hours
Group Size: 1 to 8 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per person)
1 person – $60
2 or more people – $50

Half-Day or Full-Day Guided Tour

See the sights of Tokyo with a licensed, English-speaking guide for a half day or full day.

Duration: 4 hours
Group Size: 1 to 16 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per group)
Half-day (4 hours) – $225
Full-day (8 hours) – $350

Ikebana

Learn how this disciplined art form brings together nature and humanity.

You will travel on your own to the traditional Japanese-style room located in a modern building near Tokyo train station (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) where you will be met by the English-speaking staff. Here, the Ikebana instructor will introduce you to “Ka-do” (Way of the Flower) in which nature and humanity are brought together using a minimalistic approach. Unlike western flower arrangements, ikebana relies less on multicolored flowers, but instead emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis towards shape, line and form. Though ikebana is a creative expression, it has certain rules governing its form. After the course, you will travel to the destination of your choice (not included).

Duration: 1 hours
Group Size: 1 to 8 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per person)
1 person – $150
2 or more people – $75

Sumo Stable Visit

Observe the 1,000 year old traditions of Sumo from up-close.

A licensed, English-speaking Japanese guide will meet you at the Ryogaku train station at a pre-defined time and place, and will escort you to a Sumo stable (transportation not included). Here you will be able to attend a morning practice session to get an up-close view. Only in person do you get an idea of how big the wrestlers really are, and with how much force they slam into each other with. You will observe the many traditions practiced for over 1,000 years.

Duration: 2 hours
Group Size: 1 to 8 people
Availability: Not available during before and after Sumo tournaments and during Sumo tournaments. Please contact us with your intended dates.
Price
(per person)
1 person – $135
2 or more people – $75

Tea Ceremony

Participate in a tea ceremony in an authentic tea room.

You will travel on your own to the authentic tea room located in a modern building near Tokyo train station (transportation not included – we will provide detailed maps and addresses in both Japanese and English which you can give to a taxi driver, as well as detailed directions and public transportation suggestions if you would prefer to go there on your own) where you will be met by the English-speaking tea master. The stylized and regimented Japanese tea ceremony has been performed the same way for over 400 years. Once considered standard training for Samurais, today the tea ceremony is enjoyed by the modern Japanese as a means of relaxation. The English-speaking tea master will explain the history and the concepts behind the tea ceremony. You will also be given an opportunity to make tea yourself. After the tea ceremony, you will travel to the destination of your choice (not included).

Duration: 1 hours
Group Size: 1 to 8 people
Availability: Anytime
Price
(per person)
1 person – $80
2 or more people – $40