Japanese Aesthetics Tour with a Designer
- Architecture and design: Trace the development of Japanese architecture over the past century on a walk through the city's most aesthetically vibrant districts, including magnificent Omotesando, a leafy avenue that's home to top luxury brands.
- Personal style: See how the Japanese aesthetic permeates not just the structures lining the streets, but the people walking them, who go to great pains to visibly identify themselves as members of unique Tokyo subcultures tied to interests, values, and social roles.
- More than a guide: Even by GoBe standards, your tour leader is special. Known officially as "docents" (from the Latin for teacher), these Ph.D. and M.A.-level experts are the difference between visiting Tokyo and understanding it.
- Flexibility: With group size limited to six, this three-hour tour can range from leisurely to fast-paced, with sights and locations that reflect individual tastes and preferences.
About This Tokyo Tour
This tour not only helps you get your bearings in the world's most populous city. It imparts a deeper understanding of the design sense that infuses every aspect of Japanese culture, from Shinto shrines to consumer meccas, from stunning art museums to people who make an art of expressing their individuality without saying a word.
We begin at Meiji Jingu, a shrine built in 1920 to honor the deified spirits of the late Emperor Meiji and his wife. As an example of more traditional Japanese design, it's the ideal starting point for our walk – and for an enlightening discussion of how the national aesthetic has evolved over the past century, thanks to the interplay of ancient values with Western influence and consumer culture.
We then depart this tranquil oasis for nearby Harajuku and Omotesando, two areas that represent modern Tokyo at its most energetic. We'll pay close attention to both the architectural landscape and what you might call the social-scape: how people make very clear statements about themselves through clothing, hair, and accessories. We'll see dazzling museums and Tokyo's version of Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue, where Prada, Dior, and Hugo Boss reside in lavish shops that reflect their own design principles.
Depending on time and the interests of the group, we can conclude our walk at one of a number of aesthetic icons: the Kengo Kuma's Nezu museum, the 21_21 Design Sight, the National Art Center, or even Roppongi Hills. This commercial, cultural, and residential center epitomizes the curious clash of East and West, ancient and contemporary, that defines modern Tokyo.
Please make your way to the JR Harajuku Station, Tokyo. Meet your guide just to the left side of the front entrance to the GAP flagship store in Harajuku. You'll find the entrance just across the street from the Omotesando exit of JR Harajuku Station.
As in many cities, keep your wallet or purse secured and leave the bling behind. In need of retail therapy after your tour? Your guide can advise you where to go in search of that "must have" souvenir to take home. Be sure to have some local currency and a backpack for all your great buys.
Plan to walk for approximately 2 miles at a gentle pace. If your mobility is limited, this tour may be too challenging for you. This itinerary is not suitable for wheelchairs.
Walking Tour, Cultural, Scenic
Public transportation may be used from time to time. Have local currency available for tickets. Your tour may involve walking only.
Ph.D. or MA-level scholar guide
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Travelers must be 13 years of age and older to participate.
Walks are held rain or shine with some variations to accommodate the weather. If you are running late for your meeting with our guide, we ask that you call to alert us so that we can relay the message to the guide.
You cannot participate in this tour if you have not sent your passport number and name beforehand. Context walks can be cancelled up to 48 hours prior to the walk with an 85% refund. Within 48 hours all reservations are final and cannot be refunded. Walks are held rain or shine with some variations to accommodate the weather. If you are running late for your meeting with our guide, we ask that you call to alert us so that we can relay the message to the guide. No shows are treated as last-minute cancelations and are non-refundable. Cancellations within two business days need to be made directly with our local offices by calling them directly (or on the emergency number provided). Cancellations made via email or by calling our U.S. 800 number may not be honored.
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