ASAKUSA AND OLD TOKYO

In a time when Shinjuku and Shibuya were nothing to speak of, Asakusa and nearby areas were already bustling and prosperous.

From ¥5,300/person (~US$47)
Private Tour 4 Hours (approx.) 1+ People

Tour Introduction

Despite some first-glance similarities, the west and east sides of central Tokyo are very different animals. The west side, which includes big name neighborhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya, is actually much newer than its cousins on the east side, including Ueno and Asakusa, and even around the Tokyo Station area. On our Tokyo private tour to the east side of the city, you’ll definitely be steeped in more history than in the west, and you’ll also notice that the whole feel of the city is different. Once upon a time, places we visit such as Shinbashi, Asakusa, and Ueno, were among the most important centers of activity, all on or near to the Sumida River, which we ride up on a scenic boat ride. If you’re looking for classic Tokyo with settings and stories that are solidly pre-war, this is your tour.

Historic Landmarks

Tokyo’s modern side may get the most attention, but we are silly purists at heart, which is why we absolutely love taking people to the older parts of the city.

Professional Guide

Real English, real skills, and great personalities. Our guides have the knowledge and expertise to provide you with interesting, fun, and memorable tours.

Fully Narrated Tour

Our tours never leave you to wonder about on your own. Your guide stays with you the whole time, unless, for example, you want a bit of time to roam a garden or have lunch on your own.

Easy Access

This tour starts just outside a rail or subway station, making meeting up an anxiety-free experience.

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Tour Overview

Before Tokyo Station, there was Shinbashi. Japan was essentially closed off to foreigners during the Edo period (1603-1868), and during that time Tokyo grew stronger and stronger, soon becoming the undisputed center of power and fortune in the country. Once the doors were flung open around 1868, western influence and technology quickly set about changing the face of the city. Today, Shinbashi is an important and historical business district but it also has a shining place in history as the Tokyo terminus of the rail line that, in 1872, linked Tokyo to Yokohama. Then over the coming decades eventually linked the major population centers of Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe all on one train line. We start our tour here at “SL Plaza” just outside the modern day Shinbashi Station. A big steam engine locomotive is on display, and makes for a perfect backdrop to begin learning about the Tokyo years between 1868 and World War II. As time passes change often comes. When the land is as valuable as it is in central Tokyo, you can be extra sure of that! Tokyo Station long ago replaced the role of Shinbashi Station, and the original Shimbashi Station and adjoining railyard, while partially preserved, has been consumed by sparkling office buildings, hotels, and residences in the Shiodome and adjacent complexes. We’ll walk through this area a bit, recounting the change, before we get to the lovely riverside oasis of a Japanese garden known as Hamarikyu. Once the family garden of the Tokugawa Shogun (for a time, arguably the most powerful man in the country), it is noteworthy as having the only saltwater pond of any garden in the city. The waters ebb and flow directly off the Sumida River on which it lies. Beyond this pond many other lovely sights and pleasant strolling areas grace these grounds. A lovely tea house also resides in the middle of one of the ponds. It may be possible to stop here if you’re interested. When we’re done here, we’ll get on one of the typical low slung sightseeing boats that ply the Sumida River and head for Asakusa.

Any Tokyo private tour with an eye towards history absolutely must visit Asakusa

We’re not going to let an opportunity to show you Senso-ji slip by. With your knowledgeable guide at your side, you will learn about the history of this very early Buddhist Temple in Japan, and why it differs in appearance from most temples in Kyoto, or most anywhere else in Japan for that matter. Asakusa today is much more than just Senso-ji and the shopping street that leads up to it. This was also the case a hundred years ago, when Asia’s first subway started operation between Asakusa and Ueno, which is our next stop. The fact that the first subway was built here goes to show you just how central, busy, and valuable the area was once. That is not to say the area has fallen on hard times. But rather to point out that the Asakusa/Ueno area was once what Shinjuku and Shibuya are to the metropolis today. Hard to imagine, but true. Ueno/Okachimachi for true marketplace grit This area has, for generations, been where street vendors and shops of all stripes sold their wares and their foods. It is probably just as busy an area now as it was back then and once you get a look at the scene, you’ll know why. This is no highly manicured, corporate dominated shopping district. Not at all. Being a private tour we also have an option to work in a visit to the Tokyo National Museum. Their repository is unrivaled across virtually all the arts, and if you are up for it, we are super keen to dive deeper into art and the orbiting culture of the various periods with you.

The river and the world that expanded from it

By default, our Tokyo private tour of the east side of the city shows you unheralded history of the city in rail, buildings, garden, river, religion, and commerce. All of these spots are along or not far from the river, indicative of a past era when the river meant something along the lines of what the Yamanote (loop) Line means to the hordes of train riders that use it each day today. All of that said, if you let us know some specific interests you might have, we are happy to modify suitably. We also are happy to create an experience longer than the 4-hour course presented here. Please see below for more details.

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Itinerary

History starts here, where the first train service started. We’ll check out a nice view from up high nearby as well. About 45 minutes.

A garden that’s hundreds of years old, but seems just as relevant today. Some pretty special things to see and talk about here as well. About 30 minutes.

A refreshingly slow way to take in the sights as befits a Tokyo private tour, and a nice way to transition to Asakusa. This is also a perfect opportunity to talk about the significance of the river, and what went on along its banks then – and what goes on now. About 45 minutes.

Probably the most important Buddhist temple in the city, with thousands of people visiting daily. The area around it was once a center of shopping and entertainment, and it’s still busy and noteworthy despite being surpassed by the likes of Shinjuku and Shibuya generations ago. Around 45 minutes.

High on soul and merchant liveliness, this is an area that has roared into the present from an illustrious past. Also the home of Tokyo National Museum, if you are interested in working that into the schedule. Around 45 minutes.

Historic and Cultural Landmarks

Tokyo’s modern side may get the most attention, but we are silly purists at heart, which is why we absolutely love taking people to the older parts of the city. Despite the war devastation, this part of Tokyo still has a narrative that speaks to an earlier time. Shimbashi, Hamarikyu, and Senso-ji all have their own superlatives, and even that’s before we get into the neighborhoods.

Easy Access

Meeting in front of the giant steam locomotive at Shimbashi Station makes for a fitting start to our day.

Know Before You Go

There are a couple of things we’d like you to take note of before joining us.

  • Please come wearing comfortable shoes. We do a fair bit of walking. For those who wish to avoid too much walking, please let us know and we will make our best attempt to suitably modify the itinerary.
  • We’ll be outdoors most of the time, so do keep the weather in mind

Inclusions:

  • All guide costs
  • All standard costs while on tour (admissions, river cruise, local train rides)

Exclusions:

  • Admission to Tokyo National Museum (should you choose to go)
  • Any expenses resulting from your customizing of the tour
  • Food and drinks

Options:

  • Pickup can be arranged by request. This means we will gather you about 30 minutes before tour start (we’ll confirm the timing based on your location). Fees below do not include your transportation cost, but we can tell you exactly how much that will be once we know your location. Prices below are for the entire group.
    • Within central Tokyo (along or within the Yamanote (loop) Line: 5,000 yen
    • Odaiba: 7,000 yen
    • Other areas: Please inquire.
  • Extensions are available at 4,000 yen/hr. Please discuss how you would like to use extra time with us in advance.

Our Tour Guides

We've got around a dozen guides at your service. Here we showcase a few of our most active ones.

Kevin

We think it's important that everyone who works for Pinpoint Traveler is an active guide too, even the owner. Kevin's been in Japan thirteen years, but spent the first ten in the corporate world. Now he shares his love for Japan outside the confines of the office.

Shoji

Born in Japan, but moved to Canada when he was still quite young, Shoji is back and ready to share is passion for Japan with you. His main dominion is Osaka and on down to Koya-san and Wakayama, but he's such a popular guy that we often send him even further afield by request.

Mardi

Mardi's our Kyoto guide-in-chief, and her love for the city is infectious. She's got an uncanny ability for giving people just the right amount of information while still ensuring the tour stays light and fun. Be it temples and shrines, gardens, or nightlife, Mardi's your gal.

Dan

Dan is a Spaniard, so of course his Spanish is native level, but his English is fantastic as well. He's got a warm personality and consistently makes our guests feel like they've made a new friend within minutes of meeting him. He also knows Osaka and Kyoto like no one's business!

Levy

With nearly twenty years in Osaka, Levy's got this place WIRED. He's a major samurai and history aficionado, and in addition to knowing all the top sights like a true pro, he knows Osaka's nightlife better than (dare we say it!) the vast majority of Japanese who call Osaka home. Levy's originally from Israel, and runs tours in Hebrew too.

Suzie

Suzie is Japan born and raised, and we can't recommend her enough for tours in Tokyo and Yokohama. Our prior guests frequently say nicer things about Suzie than any of our own mothers have said about us! The consummate pro, she's not just got all the info, but also an uncanny knack for knowing what to show our guests.

Not profiled here are guides who speak Spanish (Kyoto, in addition to Dan in Osaka), French (Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo), and German (Kyoto and Tokyo).

Pickup Point

Meet us in front of the old steam locomotive.

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