Tourists visiting Japan usually set aside a substantial budget to buy all manners of tangible things back home. In recent years, however, buying enjoyable intangible experiences has seen a surge in popularity as well.
It's really no wonder, though. Taking part in cultural experiences and activities that can only be found in Japan will definitely leave you with beautiful, lasting memories for your Japan trip. To help you along, we've sourced out three experience programs available in popular tourist town Asakusa that are highly recommended for visitors from overseas! Try your hand at making your own replica food samples, woodblock print, and taiyaki snacks for a full local experience that's yours and yours alone!
1. Ganso Shokuhin Sample House: Make Your Own Lifelike Replica Food Samples
High quality fake food samples that look like amazingly the real thing can be said to be part of the Japanese culture, and needless to say, have caught the eye of many an awestruck foreign tourist. The "Food Sample Making Experience" is a program that allows you to personally make your own lifelike replica food samples to bring home as a memento of the activity.
The program we're featuring this time is known as the "Tempura & Lettuce" replica food sample making experience, a regular activity organized by Ganso Shokuhin Sample House, which is run by Iwasaki, the leading company in the replica food sample industry. The shop itself is filled with an endless stream of fun and unique food sample products made with the company's technological expertise in the field.
Wax is the main material used to make the food samples. Let's see how we can turn it into lifelike replicas using well-established techniques! First of all, liquid wax has to be shaped into solid blocks using finely-controlled temperature regulation. The goal of this activity is to create two tempura and one lettuce food samples.
Participants are surprised by how quick this process is and make audible exclamations to that effect. Shop staff are always standing by to help participants out, so first-timers to the activity can rest assured that they'll be well-taught by experienced food replica makers!
The replica food sample making program is mainly conducted in Japanese, but you can also book slots when English-speaking staff will be on duty. Because the activity involves handling hot water and melted wax, be sure to read all cautions and warnings before diving in. If you're concerned you may not be able to understand the warning notes as they're written in Japanese, feel free to bring along someone who can interpret them to you so as to make you feel more at ease.
Ganso Shokuhin Sample House Kappabashi (Main Branch)元祖食品サンプル屋 合羽橋店（本館）
- Address 3-7-6, Nishi Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to
-5 minute walk from Exit A2, Tsukuba Express Asakusa Station
-12 minute walk from Tawaramachi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line
-15 minute walk from Exit 1 of Iriya Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
- Phone Number 0120-17-1839
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
-Program Name: Tempura & Lettuce Replica Food Sample Making Experience
-What to Bring: Nothing in particular
-Phone reservations. Walk-in participation accepted if there are slots available on day of visit (available slots will be indicated at the storefront on the day itself)
-Languages Supported: Mainly Japanese (interpretation needed)
-Fee: 2,500 yen (tax included)
-One slot can take up to 16 participants (contact the shop in advance if your group has 17 or more people)
-Time Slots: (1) 11:00 a.m. onwards (2) 2:00 p.m. onwards (3) 4:00 p.m. (activity will take about 60 to 75 minutes per time slot)
*Participants: Children between the ages of 7 to 9 must be accompanied by an adult guardian (fee required). One adult can accompany up to two children
2. Mokuhankan: Experience the intricate skills behind Japan's well-established woodblock craftwork
Mokuhankan is where you can experience proper woodblock printing. The shop was founded by Mr. David, a woodblock artisan who was born in Canada but became so captivated by Japanese woodblock printing craftwork that he learned the ropes this traditional craft and is now raring to share his skills and techniques with as many other interested ones as possible.
The "Print Party" plan is what we're featuring this time. This program allows you to experience traditional woodblock printing in a party-like atmosphere. It takes about an hour to complete the workshop and the fee for each participant is 2,200 yen, including tax.
Five print processes are needed for a woodblock print to be considered completed. Woodblock printing is a technique that even most local Japanese don't know much about. You're likely to find yourself becoming engrossed in the subtle depth behind the art once you start crafting your own print.
The color gradient, thickness, and design reproduction varies according to the person doing the printing. This means your woodblock print will be the only copy of a unique work that belongs to you alone!
Here's the finished product after making prints by overlapping woodblock print after woodblock print! You're allowed to bring your print home, and there will be a commemorative shot taken as a form of graduation photograph as well!
- Address 1-41-8 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to
-1 minute from Tsukuba Express Asakusa Station Exit A1
-6 minutes from Exit 1 of Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Asakusa Station
-7 minutes from Exit 3 of Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Tawaramachi Station
- Phone Number 070-5011-1418
Hours: 10am - 5:30pm
Print Party (woodblock printing experience)
-Includes woodblock print, bag for bringing woodblock print home, a drink, and a snack
-What to Bring: Nothing in particular
-Online reservations. Walk-in participation accepted if there are slots available on your day of visit -Languages Supported: Japanese / English (Spanish, French, and German depending on day)
-Fee: 2,200 yen (tax included)
-Each slot can take up to 5 participants
-Time Slots: (1) 10:00 a.m. (2) 1:00 p.m. (3) 2:30 p.m. (activity will take about 60 minutes per slot)
-Participants: Elementary school age and above. Elementary school children must be accompanied by an adult
3. Asakusa Taiyaki Workshop Guraku: Bake your own Taiyaki Japanese snack for the greatest satisfaction
Guraku offers a taiyaki (traditional red bean pastry) baking workshop that allows you to operate an industrial grade taiyaki machine for the ultimate snack baking experience.
The program takes about an hour to complete and costs 3,500 yen for adults and 2,500 yen for minors 15 and below, all prices excluding tax.
You'll be provided with ingredients, a bag for bringing your taiyaki home with you, and whatever else you'll need to finish baking your own set of delicious taiyaki pastries. The program includes an introduction to the history of taiyaki and how to bake them. Then you'll get to make your own taiyaki and taste-test them on the spot - the highlight of the program for many!
No knives or open fires are involved in the baking of this tasty treat, so it's an activity that's appropriate for all ages. For stuffing, you'll get to choose between the traditional red bean paste, cream, or curry.
Even better: This workshop allows you to bring your own favorite ingredients to use as stuffing as well! This means the taiyaki you make will be one-of-a-kind and completely unique. Enjoying the special taiyaki you made together with a group of friends will add to the experience and enhance the tastiness of the snack!
Asakusa Taiyaki Experience Workshop Guraku浅草たい焼き体験工房 求楽
- Address 2-3-2, Nishi Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to
-4 minutes from Exit 3 of Tawaramachi Station on the Ginza Line
-4 minutes from Exit A1-2 of Tsukuba Express Asakusa Station
-8 minutes on foot from Exit 1 of Asakusa Station on the Ginza / Toei Asakusa Line
- Phone Number 03-6338-1809
Hours: 11:00am - 6:00pm
Make Your Own Taiyaki (6 pieces) With One Complimentary Soft Drink
-What to Bring: Nothing in particular
-Reservations via the official website, email, or phone. Walk-in participation accepted if slots are available on the day itself
-Languages Supported: Japanese and English, other languages supported via Pocketalk devices. Video tutorial comes with English and Simplified Chinese subtitles
-Fee: Adults (18 and above) 3,500 yen / Students (6 to 17) 2,500 yen / Preschool (0 to 5) Free / Observation tour (taiyaki ingredients not provided) 2,000 yen (all price excluding tax) - Interpreters or guides who won't be eating, drinking, or cooking at all are allowed to accompany participants for free (up to two per group)
-Each slot can take up to 12 participants
-Time Slots: (1) 11:00 a.m. onwards (2) 1:00 p.m. onwards (3) 3:00 p.m. onwards (4) 5:00 p.m. onwards (feel free to inquire via email for slots besides the above timings)
-Participants: Groups of only preschool children are not allowed.
The three activities we've featured in this article have strong connections to Japan's traditions and craftwork, so you'll only be able to experience them here! Although all the experiences prefer reservations, if there are slots available on the day itself, you'll still be allowed to join, so feel free to inquire about walk-in, since you don't have to bring anything special for the programs. In fact, any one of them would be a great filler activity to do during breaks in between sightseeing and souvenir shopping.
We highly recommend that everyone - local residents or international visitors - try out one of these uniquely Japanese experiences if at all possible to enhance their knowledge of Japanese culture and make some memorable memories that will last for many years to come.
Written by: Miyuki Yajima. English translation by: Huimin Pan
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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