Tetsuro Koyano’s great-grandfather was a renowned sword master. Five years ago Koyano decided to turn emotion and passion into reality and accomplishment, by starting a collection of historic Samurai armour, helmets, guns and swords. In 2015 he opened the Samurai Museum in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo to allow visitors to get up close and personal with the world of the samurai, and for the action-oriented, the opportunity to practice stances, glares, threats and thrusts (using wooden swords) alongside the resident sword master.
It’s a pretty thrilling museum but only one of many Tokyo activities that respond to the needs of today’s traveller to realize value in every vacation experience as well as to get involved in, and conned with the destination, to better understand what makes it tick.
In the Monzen Nakacho area of Tokyo we headed to Orihara, a stand-up sake bar on a busy side street. The plastic milk crates piled on top of each other and topped with a square of wood laminate serve as tables outside the entrance, while inside the bar lies a treasure trove of up to 150 different sakes (depending on the season).
Takeshi Hashimoto the manager, explained that the bar features the products of small sake producers throughout the country to show not only the diversity of the brews but also the creative talents of sake brewers. Patrons can sample and quaff to their heart’s content as they seek sakes that best match their mood and their palate.
Not too far away in the Shimbashi area, a building full of small eateries and stand-up sake bars features Shinshu Osake Mura. This bar specializes in sakes from the Nagano region but to stay in touch with the latest trends, it has recently become a magnet for craft beer aficionados who enjoy the refreshing complexity of flavours that craft beers have to offer. In fact while we were in the bar, several tourists dropped by to purchase bottles as gifts and souvenirs.
And with taste in mind, we attended a Bento Making class with True Japan Tour, to learn about the allure of the ubiquitous ‘bento’ box. ‘Bento’ means ‘convenience’ and usually refers to a lunch box, divided into sections, each containing a different food item. They are sold in food courts, convenience stores, bus terminals, train stations and airports, with each type of box featuring different food combinations.