Japan is a nation home to a richly admired and endlessly fascinating culture, one that permeates every single facet of life. If you have an interest in Japanese culture or are just on the lookout for a way to pick up a few new skills and maybe make a few new friends, it’s worth considering signing up for an extracurricular educational class or two. Here are five recommended Tokyo-based activities — from weaving to acting on traditional Japanese stage — for your next Japan experience!
1. Weaving at Saori no Mori
If you’ve ever tried Japanese weaving you’ll agree that once you find your flow it’s easily one of the most relaxing, productive hobbies around. At Saori no Mori in Ikebukuro you can try your hand at ‘free style’ hand weaving to make your very own one of a kind, rustic style scarf. Open seven days a week (except on national holidays), you can pop by the Saori studio practically anytime. Upon your visit, you’ll find a friendly staff member ready to guide you through your weaving adventure. There are single day classes (which typically run for about three hours) to more intensive options. Also, no matter your age, nationality or skill set, if you’re eager to weave, Saori no Mori can get you started.
Where: Tsubaki Building 2F, 5-10-2 Nishi-ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Cost: ¥1,000 + materials
Open: Daily, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. No reservations required for groups smaller than five people.
2. Ukiyo-e Printing at Mokuhankan
Ukiyo-e woodblock printing is one of Japan’s most iconic and historic art forms, so if you’re after a truly authentic artistic cultural experience there’s a pretty high chance this is going to be atop your ‘must try’ list. If you’ve never tried it before and are nervous about signing up for something too serious, then it’s worth paying the team at Mokuhankan a visit.
Located in the tourist hub of Tokyo, Asakusa Mokuhankan regularly hosts what they call “Print Parties,” which are basically printmaking workshops without the pressure of having to create your own wood block. Once you’re done creating your own masterpieces, you can browse the store and maybe even pick up another extra print to take home! Classes are suitable for everyone over the age of 10.
Where: 1-41-8 Asakusa Taito-ku, Tokyo
Reservations: Check available dates on Mokuhankan’s website and book here.
3. Candy Bending (Amezaiku) at Ameshin
Can’t choose between signing up for a cooking class or a culture class? Then why not combine the two and try your hand at amezaiku, the stunning Japanese art of candy bending at Ame Shin. The activity consists of stretching; molding, and shaping warm rock-style candy to create beautiful lollipops that are part sculpture, part snack.
It’s believed that the art was created sometime in the 8th century as a way for talented craftsmen to show off their skills and sell candy at the same time. Held in the Ameshin headquarters in Asakusa, the classes take a little under two hours. During the lesson you’ll be taught how to make a cute rabbit — hopefully, those ears aren’t too tricky to master.
Where: 1F 1-4-3 Imado, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Reservations: To book a spot, contact Ameshin directly here.
4. Noh Theatre Acting
If you love being in the spotlight, then learning all about Noh theatre is definitely one cultural experience you should sign up for. Known as Japan’s oldest theatrical art, Noh is an iconic part of Japanese culture, a performance style that some estimate to have been around for over 1,000 years. Originally only performed by males, these days most classes are open to everyone — perhaps, something Japan’s sumo organizations can learn from.
In this Wow Japan-hosted session you get the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet, talk with, and learn from some of the country’s most talented theatre actors. Imitate their movements, learn the secret tips and tricks and it won’t be long before you’re ready to take the stage. The experience is around four hours-long, and everything you’ll need (costumes, props, scripts) will be provided.
Where: Meet at East gate of Suidobashi Station
Cost: ¥ 18,000
Reservations: To book, click here.
5. Sake Tasting
For those without much formal knowledge, the world of sake can seem equal parts exciting and scary. There seem to be endless options, so many options means trying to figure out the ‘right one’ is near impossible. This is where Ninja Food Tours Sake Tasting course comes in. The expert sake sippers will run you through sake 101, covering everything from brewing techniques, to history, labels, and how to select the perfect brew for you.
Each class is run by a sake sommelier, who will guide you through five different types of sake to help you create your own tasting chart. Class sizes typically sit around the eight-person mark but may feature a few Tokyo locals ready to give you some insider’s tips on where to go how to perfect the art of sake sipping. To join the class, students must be of Japanese drinking age, which is 20 years old. Cheers to drinking for the sake of education and cultural enlightenment.
Where: Meet at Higashi-Nakano station
Reservations: To book a spot, click here.
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