What’s the next best thing to travelling? Travelling virtually, of course! When you’re unable to travel for any reason but still want your fix, why not try one of the virtual tours and online experiences from Arigato Japan to learn more about Japanese life, food, and customs?
While virtual tours have sprung up due to recent circumstances, they’re not going to be going away any time soon. Not only are they especially relevant in 2020, virtual tours are a brilliant tool to help you plan your trip, and give you ideas about things that you might not have thought of doing initially (when you’re finally able to hop on a plane again). I don’t see this as a temporary fix, rather a new way to travel for the foreseeable future.
Read on to find out about the virtual tours and online experiences you can take with Arigato Japan Food Tours.
This post contains compensated links. I took part in the virtual experiences in exchange for a review. Please see our disclaimer for more information.
Virtual tours of Japan and Japanese experiences with Arigato Japan
It’s no secret that I – and the rest of my family – are big fans of Japan. We visited at the tail end of 2018 and took an almost 3 week long trip through Japan, visiting Tokyo, Shibu Onsen, Takayama, Kyoto and several other places along the way.
It was an epic trip, where we all learned so much about Japan’s past and present. Japan was already my favourite country, but it’s now top of the list for my husband and two kids as well. It won’t be long before we return!
While we were staying in Tokyo we took a food tour with Arigato Japan, eating (and drinking) our way around the wonderful district of Asakusa. You can read more about what we got up to here. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Japan, so when I heard that Arigato Japan were putting on virtual experiences, I was really keen to give them a go.
What sort of virtual tours and online experiences are available with Arigato Japan?
Currently there are three online experiences with Arigato Japan. I tried out two of the tours and they were both very different. There is also a cocktail making experience that I haven’t tried, but details of what to expect can be found on Arigato Japan’s website.
All of the virtual experiences are in small groups, hosted via Zoom (we’re all Zoom experts now, aren’t we?) and they take place at various times so you’re bound to find a time that suits you.
Because the groups are small it’s easy to ask questions and to get involved in the tour. The experiences are accompanied with facts galore and plenty of helpful visuals, including maps and information on prices (where appropriate).
This information is sent to you after the tour so you don’t need to worry about taking notes; just sit back and enjoy the experience!
Virtual tour of Tokyo’s famous districts Shibuya and Shinjuku
A fantastic tour hosted by Alexandro, this tour takes in two of Tokyo’s most famous neighbourhoods, both of which are definitely worth putting on your itinerary. Found in central Tokyo, Shibuya and Shinjuku are both full of well-known spots – like the Shibuya Scramble crossing and Shinjuku’s Godzilla – but there are a whole host of lesser known things to discover. I’ve been to both areas and I found out about several new things to add to my list for when I go back.
What to see and do in Shinjuku and Shibuya
Alexandro was a really friendly host, and put everyone in the group at ease. We started in Shibuya at the famous scramble and looked around the local area, using the crossing as a reference, so everywhere covered in the tour will be easy to find for real. Bring your wallet – the shopping is great!
We then hopped on the metro and took the quick journey to Shinjuku; this was used as an opportunity to ask questions and talk about Japan in general (a clever idea which meant that you weren’t overloaded with information).
The Shinjuku part of the tour was based around Kabukicho, the biggest and safest red light district in Asia. When we took our small kids to Shinjuku we found it very safe and not particularly seedy. Older kids might ask a question or two though. It’s a really great area with lots to see, including some quieter spots like the local park which is one of the biggest and best in Tokyo.
What I particularly liked about the sightseeing part of the tour was the old photographs of Tokyo through the 20th Century – you can really appreciate the astonishing changes in this city!
What to eat in Shinjuku and Shibuya
We found out about Shinjuku’s izakaya – the tiny Japanese pubs found down little alleyways – where you can get all sorts of delicious Japanese snacks and drinks, like yakitori (you’ll be a yakitori expert after this tour!). As I travel with my family, I was pleased to hear that izakaya can now be child friendly, so my family and I will be checking one out for real when we go back.
As a brief aside, if you want to find out more about izakaya then I’d recommend watching Midnight Diner on Netflix. Each episode is a personal story themed around a different Japanese dish, so you get to find out tons about Japanese meals and culture too!
One of the really useful things about this tour was that Alexandro included timings and prices on travelling around the area. He also gave us plenty of tips, like when the best time is to be at the Metropolitan Government Buildings for sunset. I also know that when I go back to Tokyo I’ll be trying my hardest to book the Godzilla themed room at Hotel Gracery. My son would love it…
Online Green Tea experience
Hosted by Lauren, the online green tea experience was very different to the tour around Shibuya and Shinjuku. Not least because this experience gives you the chance to do something practical; you get to brew your own tea.
For this experience you’ll need green tea (any kind) and something to brew it with!
All you ever wanted to know about green tea
I really didn’t know much about green tea before I took this experience, except that it’s popular in Japan. Host Lauren was so knowledgeable though that I felt I could ask her absolutely anything and she’d know the answer, and I definitely learned a huge amount.
I hadn’t really thought about the different kinds of green tea available, but Lauren explained about the differences and why green tea is different to black tea. We also learned how the tea is harvested, when is best to pick it, and where the best spots are to grow it.
There was also plenty of information about green tea’s health benefits and use in the Japanese lifestyle. As someone who runs on caffeine, finding a healthier way of getting my fix was very welcome!
Brewing my own cup of matcha
A green tea experience was the perfect excuse to break out the tea set that had been languishing in my cupboard, so I decided to brew some matcha. It doesn’t matter which sort of green tea you’d like to make on this experience; from watching Lauren brew tea I’d say that brewing sencha (green tea leaves) is probably a lot easier than matcha! If you have green tea teabags you can use them too.
Lauren gave us very clear directions on how to brew green tea leaves in a pot, so you have a lovely clear tea with not even a hint of bitterness. Without her instructions, I’d definitely have brewed mine for too long!
My matcha came out OK, but it takes a fair bit of elbow grease and careful measuring of matcha and water. I probably need a bit more practise to get it right, but that’s down to my own limitations rather than a lack of direction from Lauren!
What I really liked about this experience was it gave me ideas of more things to see in Japan. I’d now be interested in visiting a matcha producer or a tea plantation; both things that I wouldn’t have thought of doing before. Of course, Lauren recommended places to buy green tea from, and where to get the best stuff in Kyoto.
Would I recommend Arigato Japan’s virtual tours?
I was pretty sure that I’d enjoy the virtual experiences with Arigato Japan as I’d had such a great time on their Asakusa tour, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Both Alexandro and Lauren were super friendly, put the groups at ease quickly, and were very knowledgeable. I really enjoyed both experiences and I especially liked the fact that they were so different. Small and friendly groups mean that it’s not an intimidating experience, even if you’re introverted (like me!). I’d recommend an online experience if you want to get a travel fix, or if you’re looking for more information about Japan before you visit.
As I mentioned earlier, Arigato Japan haven’t developed virtual tours just for the uncertain times that we’re currently living in; they fully intend to keep them running for the foreseeable future. Other advantages of the online experiences are that you also get to meet like-minded travellers, and get insights and tips from a local guide who you can then meet with in Japan.
I think it’s a great idea to take a virtual tour before you visit Japan. On the green tea tour I learnt that there are some activities I’d now like to do in Japan that I wouldn’t have thought of doing if I was planning my trip by myself. And I’ve got some new ideas about things to see and food to try for when I go back to Shibuya and Shinjuku. I can’t wait to get back!
Arigato Japan virtual tours are highly recommended! You can book your virtual tours of Japan on Arigato Japan’s website.
What do you think about virtual tours and online experiences? Is it something you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments!
Main image credit: Arigato Japan