The figure of the samurai is revered in Japan and forms an integral part of its history and culture. Since ancient times, these martial arts warriors have been part of the Japanese tradition, but it wasn't until the West became interested in the subject that the legend became globalised and became one of the attractions to see and do in Tokyo.
Nowadays, many tourists are interested in the stories of samurai and the experiences offered in the Japanese capital on the subject as soon as they arrive in Japan. If you are one of them, here is all the information about the best samurai tours in Tokyo.
1. Visit Tokyo's Samurai Museum
Located in the Shinjuku district, the Tokyo Samurai Museum is the place with the most information and material on the subject in the Japanese capital.
This interactive museum is geared towards those who want to live a samurai experience by learning about the culture of the warrior masters.
In this museum you can also try on armour and have your picture taken with ancient katanas, as well as visit a large souvenir shop where you can buy everything from replicas of samurai garments to objects considered cult in samurai culture.
The Samurai Museum's eight permanent and two temporary exhibition halls also explain much of Japan's history, so a visit is often recommended by Tokyo tour guides.
- Price... Admission costs approximately 14 euros.
- Museum opening hours... Open daily from 10.30am to 9pm.
- Museum location... 2 Chome-25-6 1F-2F.
2. Become an authentic samurai warrior in Shibuya
To become a true samurai it is not only enough to learn martial arts, but also to understand the discipline of the warrior masters and to wear their clothing and armour.
On this tour you will receive an introductory course to the samurai experience and get to step into the shoes of some of the most famous fighters, such as Date Masamune, the One Eyed Dragon.
On this tour of a Shibuya photo studio you can choose from seven different suits of armour in various colours and styles and you will have the swords and spears of a real samurai at your disposal. A professional photographer will capture the moment by taking the best pictures and you will be able to take digital copies as souvenirs.
This tour includes the samurai kacchu and helmet, the service of a professional photographer, the introductory course with an interactive video and the photo prints.
- Price... This experience is around 96 euros including armour, clothing and photographic service.
- TourLocation... 5-6 Maruyamacho King Bldg. 7F.
- Duration of tour... The experience lasts approximately one and a half hours.
3. Enjoy a show at the Tokyo Samurai Theatre
If you are interested in Japanese culture and spirituality, the shows at the Tokyo Samurai Theatre will leave you in awe. Attending one of these shows is a must if you are a fan of the samurai theme. It will also give you an insight into the independent art circuit of the Japanese capital.
The theatre is located in Kagurazaka, which is Tokyo's old samurai quarter, and offers two regular shows for small groups. The Samurai Show and the Samurai Experiencie, an interactive play in which the audience becomes part of the cast wearing the same costumes as the actors.
If you are visiting Tokyo during the spring, you can also enjoy Sotobori Park, famous for its lush cherry blossoms. Kagurazaka is also a neighbourhood with restaurants and bars that make the area a must for food tours of Tokyo.
Details of interest
- Price... Each show costs approximately 45 euros.
- Theatre location... 40 Yokoteramachi, Tokyo.
4. Relive the Battle of Ueno at Tokyo Park
When in 1868 the samurai army was defeated by imperial forces seeking to reinstate the Emperor as ruler of Japan, the Tokugawa shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa retreated to the Kanei-ji temple in Ueno Park and vowed to surrender without resistance.
However, a group of samurai came forward to defend the shogunate and the bloody Battle of Ueno ensued, in which the imperial forces overcame the samurai.
Today it is possible to relive this battle, which was decisive for the Meiji Restoration and the Bakumatsu, by strolling through Ueno Park between the pagoda of Kanei-ji Temple and the tombs of the Shogitai warriors. You can also visit the ancient Kuromon which bears traces of battle bullets.
Ueno Park is also home to the Tokyo National Museum, a nature reserve, a zoo and several indoor gardens where it is possible to take some of the best photographs of the Japanese capital.
- Price... Admission to the park is free.
- Park opening hours... The park is open from 5.00 am to 11.00 pm.
- Park location... Uenokoen, Tokyo.
5. Delve into the world of samurai at the Tokyo National Museum
The Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan and holds the largest collection of Japanese art in the world, but it is also a cultural haven for some of the country's most distinctive traditions, such as samurai legend.
The museum currently has six permanent samurai-themed exhibitions, with a large collection of swords, clothing and armour used by the warriors, especially during the Edo Period, when the samurai ruled the country. There are also temporary exhibits on some of the significant events that link the samurai to the history of Japan.
In the Edo Period exhibition you can also discover how traditional craftsmanship of the time paid homage to the samurai with sculptures, metalwork, ceramics and textile fabrications.
- Price... Admission costs approximately 8 euros.
- Museum location... Uenokoen, Tokyo.
- Museum opening hours... The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 5pm.
6. Train like a samurai under the orders of a great master
On this tour you will not only dress up as a samurai and learn about his legend, but you will also draw your katana under the guidance of an international master of the Kenbu style Tachibana Ittoryu. In this flexible length training you will learn how to use the sword with an ancient technique.
The tour also includes the rental of the samurai attire, the single-edged sword and a photo session to perpetuate your experience. You can also opt for a video of the training session and after the katana practice you will receive a certificate certifying you as an authentic samurai warrior belonging to a clan.
This experience is designed for the whole family, making it one of the ideal plans if you are visiting Tokyo with children.
Details of interest
- Price... This experience starts from 91 euros including single-edged sword, costume and photo or video session.
- Location of the tour... 2 Chome-2-5.
- Duration of the tour... The experience lasts approximately two hours.
7. Take a day trip to the samurai town of Kamakura from Tokyo
Kamakura is a very important city in Japanese history, as it is where the country's first military government was established from the 12th century onwards, beginning the Samurai Period.
For almost 200 years Kamakura displaced Kyoto as the seat of Japan's central power and resisted the Mongol invasions with a large army under the command of the samurai Takezaki Suenaga.
For samurai culture, therefore, Kamakura is the most important city and it is possible to visit it on an excursion from Tokyo with a knowledgeable local guide.
Located about an hour from the Japanese capital, travel during the tour is by public transport and in Kamakura the tour includes a visit to the Hachiman samurai shrine, Zen temples and the bronze statue of Kotoku-in, the eleven-metre high Big Buddha.
In Kamakura you can also tour the picturesque Enoshima Island, which is crowned by the Shinto shrine and the tropical plant garden.
Details of interest
- Price... The tour costs approximately 112 euros.
- Duration of tour... Approximately eight hours including return transfers from Tokyo.
8. Visit the tomb of the 47 Ronin at Sengaku-ji temple
The story of the 47 Ronin is a national legend of ancient Japan according to which a group of samurai who were forced to become ronin, or lordless samurai, by the suicide to which their feudal lord was condemned, took revenge by killing the high official who signed the condemnation.
This legend took place in Tokyo between 1701 and 1703 and exemplifies the samurai code of honour based on loyalty, sacrifice and perseverance of loyal vassals.
The legend pays tribute to the 47 Ronin who agreed to execute revenge and then surrendered to the authorities, who sentenced them to harakiri.
The story became very popular during the forced modernisation period of the Meiji Era, when many Japanese felt that the country was losing its cultural roots. This also contributed to the popularisation of the samurai.
Today, the tombs of the 47 Ronin can be visited at the Buddhist temple of Sengaku-ji in the old Takanawa district of Minato-ku.
Details of interest
- Price... Admission to the temple is free.
- Temple location... 2 Chome-11-1, Tokyo.
- Museum opening hours... The temple is open daily from 7.00 am to 6.00 pm.
9. Have lunch or dinner at a Sengoku Period themed restaurant
Sengoku Buyuden is a themed restaurant decorated with all kinds of objects related to samurai legends. Here you can have lunch or dinner surrounded by armour, helmets, katanas and all sorts of items from the Sengoku Period, which harks back to the long years of civil wars that ended with the unification of Japan.
This izakaya, or Tokyo-themed bar, stands out for its local food, sushi and seafood, which are as good as the ambience of the space. Menu items pay homage to great warriors by bearing their names, and the bathroom doors are guarded by two life-size samurai.
Themed restaurants are a growing trend in Tokyo and there are other similarly themed places to visit, such as Ninja Café & Bar, which in addition to the décor features ninja waiters and a photo shoot that makes diners part of the scenery.
- Restaurant location... 1 Chome-6-2 T-wing Building 4F.
- Restaurant opening hours... Every day from 11.00 am to 11.00 pm.
10. Learn how to use shuriken stars at Ninja Samurai Dojo
Although they have different origins, the ninja and samurai themes have merged throughout history. That is why at Ninja Samurai Dojo they decided to combine these two activities to create a training camp where it is possible to experience ninja-samurai training and learn how to use the shuriken stars.
At Ninja Samurai Dojo you can participate in seminars or train an individual technique. The aim of the founders is to revive the traditions of the ninjas and samurai of old, who were forced to learn the eighteen martial arts and performing arts such as dance and ninjutsu, which is the Japanese martial art of espionage and guerrilla warfare.
All these ancient techniques have survived the ages and at Ninja Samurai Dojo you can learn them in regular courses or in intensive one-week seminars for visitors. So you know, if you are visiting Tokyo for seven days you can become a professional ninja-samurai.
- Price... Intensive courses start at 55 euros.
- Temple location... 2 Chome-17-8, Tokyo.