There’s no better way to see a city than with someone who knows it well. I’m in Japan experiencing that very thing, and it’s been a treat. After an exciting cultural taxi tour of Tokyo the other day, I’m now heading off on a historical one. I can’t wait to discover the history of this city.
I’m in Japan as a guest of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has sponsored my trip and planned two taxi tours of Tokyo for my time here. The first tour proved that sightseeing by taxi is both comfortable and convenient, not to mention enjoyable. I’m looking forward to the second one even more now.
Today’s taxi tour of Tokyo is called Historical Edo-Tokyo. It involves exploring the culture and food of the Edo period, which lasted from 1603 to 1868. My driver, Yoshi (a different Yoshi from the previous tour), picks me up at my hotel and takes me to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. As we go, he tells me about what we’ll see during the day and gives me some background about each place.
The East Gardens are located next to the Imperial Palace and were once home to Edo Castle. They span 52 acres and feature mixed woodland, Japanese gardens, Imperial Household facilities, the remains of Edo Castle, and other historical sites.
Once there, we walk through the gates and into the green space. It’s tranquil and beautiful, with ponds full of colorful fish and lots of trees and rock formations. We only have a short time to explore, which is unfortunate, but it’s still nice to get a glimpse.
Back in the taxi, Yoshi drives me to the newly-reopened Edo-Tokyo Museum. This vast space showcases the history and culture of the Edo Period in the city. There’s everything from a full-size replica of Nihonbashi Bridge to a shibaigoya playhouse and period streetscapes and lifestyle dioramas.
I take a tour with an English-speaking guide, learning all about the Edo Period and how the city grew and changed during its run.
After the museum, it’s a short walk to lunch. I eat at a tempura restaurant in the Ryogoku Edo Noren, a complex that replicates a high-roofed, Edo-style street. There are a number of traditional restaurants here that offer everything from sushi to monjayaki, tempura, and Chanko-Nabe dining. They all showcase foods eaten by sumo wrestlers and feature fresh ingredients direct from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market.
After lunch, Yoshi drives me to Yanesen. A cultural experience center in the area allows visitors to experience the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, calligraphy, kimono-wearing, wadaiko drums, ikebana flower arranging, and Japanese cuisine by reservation. It offers a way to connect with traditional Japanese culture through English-language interpretation.
I experience a tea ceremony, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It takes place in a private room lit by a candle (which is how the ceremony is done in winter), and the experience of watching my host prepare the tea is both mesmerizing and relaxing. Every movement is calculated and precise, and the ceremony is rich in tradition and symbolism.
As Yoshi drives me back to my hotel afterwards, I feel like I’ve had a great opportunity to discover Edo culture and history on my two tours. They’ve added a lot to my knowledge and appreciation for the city and taught me so much in the process.
Given I’ve been to Tokyo three times in the last two years, I can only imagine life will bring me back again soon. When it does, I hope to discover even more.
If you want to learn how you can take a taxi tour of Tokyo yourself, visit the website here: http://www.taxi-tokyo.or.jp/english/kanko_taxi/.
This post is sponsored by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Tokyo sightseeing taxi tours are only available in English.
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