This is the second blog post of Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi. I have blogged about a full blog post earlier about the super advantages of opting for a chartered taxi tour in Tokyo.
On my second last day of Tokyo trip this December, I have gone on yet another half-day mini tour in Tokyo with Tokyo Sightseeing taxi again, and this time I went for a modified version of Model Course 6: Japan Culture, Art and Artisanship. You can view all the model courses on this website!
I have been to Tokyo countless of time, mostly for yummy eats, trendy fashion shopping, and all the fancy new places and theme parks. Recently I have taken an interest into exploring the more traditional side of Japan. I am starting to appreciate Japanese Gardens, traditional craft and I’ve even started picking up Wadaiko.
You don’t need to go to Kyoto for a taste of culturally rich Japan. Asakusa is the historical capital of Tokyo and it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in all things traditionally Japan.
Here’s my itinerary!
Sightseeing course Course: Japan Culture, Art and Artisanship.
10:00 Meet driver
10:30 Shunka-En Bonsai Museum
12:00 Asakusa Sensoji Temple
12:30 Lunch: Tsukiji Sushi Sen Asakusa Kaminarimon
13:30 Asakusa Jidaiya
15:00: End of tour
My private chauffeur/guide of the day is a different gentlemen from another taxi company. He drives a swanky 7-seater and he welcomed me with warm greetings in perfect English, a sign with my name on it, and his little contact card written in English.
My personal chauffeur+guide on that day, Mitani Yukihito san. He told me to call him Yuki. ^^
During sightseeing tour, some guests prefer to be on their own especially during shopping and meal time while the driver standby and wait at an appropriate parking area, so it is important that you exchange contact with your driver so that you can communicate with each others smoothly.
This is perfect!
It was a little drive to our first destination, and before we reached the spot I have already heard so much travel tips from him. He’s a ultra friendly and chatty gentlemen, I felt really really at ease with him as if catching up with an old friend I’ve known for a long time!
To be honest I’ve never taken an interest in bonsai until 2017 when I visited Tobu World Square and witness everything super miniature including cherry blossom trees!
The museum is located in Edogawa district, slightly far out from Tokyo city center, and a little tricky to access by public transport since you will have to get on a train and bus before walking there. So a chartered taxi ride would be perfect!
To understand this expression of Japanese culture and nature deeper, we have arrived an Shunka-En Bonsai Museum, a bonsai garden and museum founded by Bonsai Master Kunio Kobayashi. The entrance fee is 800 yen inclusive of a guided tour.
The bonsai garden features a wide variety of bonsai including really famous ones, we were told that some of these miniatures are worth hundreds of thousand dollars!
An overview of the garden.
There’s also a koi pond. If the weather wasn’t exceptionally chilly, I would have spent more time here just relax in this serene atmosphere.
Can you tell what this is?
It’s mini persimmon!! I really didn’t know that even fruit trees and be miniature! (Come to think of it, isn’t there mini apples?) Now I find bonsai really interesting and would really like to learn more about it. There are really still so much culture I have yet to explore and discover in Japan.
Miniature maple tree.
In the building (museum), you will find many “Tokonoma”, a space where Bonsai are displayed for artistic appreciation. Bonsai enthusiasts can spend a long time just staring at the art of bonsai and immerse themselves in traditional Japanese living.
This is a display at the reception area.
And this, my friend, is the most valuable bonsai in the entire premise. Take a guess how much it costs?
This bonsai apparently is worth 1 million US dollars!!
My favorite is this piece displayed along the corridor, long, skinny branches with tiny little red fruits.
Look at the details, isn’t this the cutest thing!!
You can also sign up for Bonsai Experience for a fee if you wish to learn more about this beautiful living art.
Asakusa Sensoji Temple
Asakusa is probably one of the most famous tourist spots in Tokyo, and while it is easily accessible by trains, you will still have to beat the tourist crowd. With an experienced driver and guide, he can show you just the perfect route to navigate Asakusa area to best experience Edo culture.
We parked our taxi in a nearby parking lot, and Yuki came with me to give me a guided tour at Sensoji!
It’s also perfect for first time travellers in Tokyo as your guide can teach you the proper way to pray at the temple and give you a little historical background of the temples and shrines.
You will never be a clueless tourist newbie anymore!!
Photo taken by Yuki!
Yuki is also super attentive T__T. While I was trying to cover myself with the “divine smoke” as it is said to bring good luck, blessings and healing effects, Yuki brought me an incense to burn at the incense burner!
Just after a couple of hours I feel like he’s my super knowledgeable travel buddy. I asked him why he speaks such good English, he told me that he has traveled for decades all around the world when he was younger, but returned to Japan and have been an experienced driver for over 20 years! The years just doesn’t add up as he looks too young to have that much experience haha.
Yuki explaining the story behind a statue in Sensoji. I think Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi is probably also perfect for solo travellers. I enjoy traveling alone especially in Japan, but sometimes it is just so much fun to have someone to talk too and share your excitements with!
A little bit of shopping in Asakusa.
Lunch – Tsukiji Sushi Sen
And then I took a small lunch break and enjoy super affordable sushi near Kaminarimon. This whole set – 10 pieces of sushi PLUS maki PLUS miso soup PLUS chawan mushi, was only 1,500 yen!!
The next activity in line was rickshaw ride.
I’m sure you have seen one of these when you visit Asakusa or other historical areas in Japan. I’ve always wanted to try it because all the oniisan are super ikemen and macho HAHAHA.
Also, did you know that the word “Rickshaw” actually comes from the Japanese word 人力車 – Jinrikisha (literally human-strength car”!) and that rickshaw is invented in Japan?
Ikemen oniisan covering double blanket for me and my companion Mika. Yasashii!!! ^^
Jinrikisha is also legit vehicle!! He was running on car lanes!
There are several courses you can pick depending on your interest. I picked the cultural old town route with lots of historic stores, performing theatres and the first ever arcade in Japan!! Your runner will be able to guide you through the 30-minute course in English.
Wow check out this fancy Asakusa Donki!
He also takes photos for us in front of Hanayashiki, the oldest amusement park in the whole Japan since 1853!!! The roller coaster ride is also said to be very thrilly just because of how old it is haha.
By the way this is Mika, in case you are wondering, she was the one who helped me take all the behind-the-scene photos!
Jidaiya has the longest history of running rickshaws in Asakusa! They also offer many other authentic traditional Japanese experience such as calligraphy, tea ceremony and of course kimono experience. Check out their website for more!
End of tour
Rickshaw was my last activity of the day and I contacted my driver to pick me up at the end of the tour. He was waiting at a nearby car park and guess what?
It was such a chilly day, in fact it was probably the coldest day I’ve experienced in Tokyo, and Yuki got me a hot cup of matcha from Asakusa T______T.
And that’s not all!! He even gave me a little postcard as souvenir. Such a gentlemen. Yuki is really one of the best drivers I’ve ever met! It makes my journey even more unforgettable.
It was time and Yuki dropped me back to my destination.
This course is a 5-7 hours course that ranges around 25,000 yen t0 35,000 yen. If you split the cost with 5 other friends, you are only paying about 4~5000 yen each person! To me that’s super worth it.
How to book Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi
As mentioned in my previous blog post, here are actually many taxi companies providing this service. So you will choose from a list of companies below:
Reservation is needed for the service and there are different ways to make a reservation depending on the taxi companies. You can either call in, write an email or use their application forms.
You can go to Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi’s website for more info!