As a foreigner living in Tokyo, I can confidently say that this city offers a unique and unparalleled experience for anyone looking to immerse themselves in a different culture.
For me, the original decision to move to Tokyo was driven by a combination of factors: the allure of the city's bustling energy, the chance to live somewhere unique and as far away as possible from everything I'd grown up with, and the opportunity to experience life in a culture that is vastly different from my own.
Tokyo's rich history and tradition are going to be a draw for anyone who is interested in the past.
Even in the midst of the city's modernization, its temples and shrines are the cultural treasures that remain amazingly well-preserved and accessible for anyone to visit and appreciate.
For example, no matter how much you like the funkiness and fun of Tokyo, you can't not be blown away by the stunning beauty of the Meiji Shrine, the historical significance of the Tokyo National Museum, the peacefulness of the gardens at the Imperial Palace, and the intricate architecture of the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.
Another aspect of Tokyo that I love is the diversity of the people and its incredible food scene.
Tokyo is home to a thriving international community, with expats from all over the world. As a result, the Tokyo food scene is truly like no other.
Whether you're in the mood for sushi, ramen, Indian curry, an American hamburger, or an Italian pasta, you can find it all in Tokyo.
There's also a thriving nightlife scene, with everything from cozy bars and jazz clubs to high-energy nightclubs and karaoke bars.
Finally, for anyone living in or visiting Tokyo, the convenience and efficiency of this city's public transportation system is also a major draw.
The trains run like clockwork, and it's incredibly easy to get around the city using a combination of trains, buses, and taxis.
This type of transportation has made it so fun and easy for me to explore all that Tokyo has to offer - from the quaint neighborhoods of Shimokitazawa and Koenji to central Tokyo and Shibuya Crossing.
And now that I've found myself completely enthralled in this city, I want to share my love for it with others.
If you're looking for a private custom tour during your stay in this fantastic city, either myself or one of the other City Unscripted local hosts will be the perfect private tour guide for you.
Do you appreciate neighborhoods that are a bit "off the beaten path?"
Would you like at least one of your private tours in Tokyo to not involve everything that is considered "touristy" and see some of the real heart behind this city?
Do walking Tokyo tours that involve a lot of "wandering" make you excited?
Then join me as I share some snippets of a one-day private tour itinerary I have put together specifically for someone like you.
Private Tours in Tokyo: A Local Guides Look into the Coolest Neighborhoods
Stop #1 - Kichijoji
If you've decided on a one day private tour to see some of the most unique and unknown neighborhoods in Tokyo, I believe that one of the best private tours of these types of hidden gems should start in Kichijoji.
To get there, we will take the JR Chuo Subway Line from Shinjuku Station and exit at Kichijoji Station.
Kichijoji is a lively neighborhood located in the western part of Tokyo.
Known for its bohemian atmosphere and laid-back charm, Kichijoji's streets are lined with trendy cafes, vintage shops, and small boutiques, creating a unique and vibrant vibe that draws people from all over the city.
The neighborhood is also home to a large park - known as the Inokashira Park - where locals and travelers alike gather to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the spring and colorful foliage in the fall. And if you have more time? Consider renting a paddle boat on the lake and paddling around while taking in some Tokyo nature while you do.
Kichijoji is also pretty popular for its cultural offerings, with a number of art galleries, theaters, and live music venues scattered throughout the area.
With its easygoing vibe, Kichijoji is always a favorite of mine and a must-visit destination if you are looking for a private tour that really begins with showing you a different side to the city.
Stop #2: Breakfast at World Breakfast
World Breakfast ALLDAY is a unique restaurant located in Tokyo that offers a wide variety of breakfast dishes from around the world.
The restaurant prides itself on serving breakfast all day, giving customers the opportunity to enjoy a hearty breakfast regardless of what time they visit.
From the always popular American pancakes and eggs Benedict, to traditional Japanese breakfast sets and Mexican chilaquiles, World Breakfast ALLDAY offers a diverse selection of dishes that are sure to satisfy any breakfast lover's cravings.
The restaurant's interior is cozy and welcoming, with a laid-back atmosphere that makes it a great spot to relax and enjoy a delicious meal with friends or family.
Stop #3: Inokashira Park and the Studio Ghibli Museum
Inokashira Park is a stunning oasis in the heart of Tokyo, offering a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Whenever I wander through this park, I am struck by the natural beauty that surrounds me at every turn. From the serene lake to the vibrant flowers and trees, it's the perfect place to relax and unwind.
But the real gem of Inokashira Park is the Studio Ghibli Museum, located within its boundaries.
As someone who has always been a bit of a fan of the famous award-winning Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, this museum never ceases to excite me.
The whimsical museum includes a theater showing film excerpts, a children's play zone, a rooftop garden, and exhibits related to Miyazaki's movies, including Spirited Away.
The museum itself is housed in a really gorgeous building that is surrounded by greenery and features some incredibly cool architecture that blends seamlessly with its surroundings, giving another type of nod to the creativity of Studio Ghibli's ongoing genius.
Stop #4: Nakano
Before lunch, let's sneak one more hidden gem into our morning...Nakano!
We will hop back on the metro, taking the Chuo Line from Kichijoji Station to Nakano Station. From there, we will wander through the streets of Nakano until we get to the shopping center.
Nakano is a charming neighborhood in Tokyo that will offer you a unique glimpse into local Japanese life.
It's known for the always-busy Nakano Broadway shopping center, which is a treasure trove of anime and manga shops, vintage clothing boutiques, and quirky souvenir stores.
For anyone who likes to collect things or really enjoys those rare and hard-to-find items, Nakano is going to be a treasure trove hot spot for you!
Aside from shopping, Nakano also has a number of great restaurants and cafes, ranging from traditional Japanese cuisine to lots of international flavors. The narrow streets and alleys are lined with cozy eateries and secret spots, each offering a unique dining experience.
Nakano also has a rich cultural history, with several important temples and shrines located within the area. One of the most notable is the Nakano Shrine, which is known for its beautiful torii gate and the serene forested grounds that lie behind it.
If you are lucky enough to be here in October, the shrine is a popular spot for the annual festival held here.
Stop #5: Lunch at Daily Chiko
In my opinion, Daily Chiko is a must-visit cafe in Tokyo. From the moment you step inside, you'll be struck by the trendy yet cozy atmosphere, with the bright and airy space decorated with a variety of indoor plants and stylish furnishings.
Daily Chiko operates a fantastic udon shop next door where we will fill up on some delicious noodles before diving into the true treat of this special stop.
It won't take long for you to realize that Daily Chiko is no regular ice cream stand. If you're around Nakano Broadway, you definitely won't want to miss their 20cm tall soft serve, consisting of eight layers of heaven.
Though the flavors do change once in a while (depending on what type of mood the manager is in) but vanilla, chocolate, and matcha always seem to be staples.
Though this monstrous dessert looks intimidating, the ice cream itself is surprisingly light. But even if it wasn't, you simply can't experience Nakano without some scoops from Daily Chiko.
Stop #6: Shimokitazawa
Though I love all things Tokyo, I must admit something to you as your private tour guide...Shimokitazawa is one of my favorite spots in this entire eclectic city.
To get there we will take the Odakyu Line from Nakano Station to Shimokitazawa Station. As we exit the station you will hopefully be immediately as transfixed by this area as I am.
Easily touted as probably the most bohemian neighborhood in Tokyo, this has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike.
But if you join one of my Tokyo tours, we will find some gems that others may very well miss!
The area of Shimokitazawa is home to a vibrant arts and music scene, with plenty of vintage shops, record stores, and independent boutiques to explore. Believe me, I have some favorites that I'll show you, but we will also see if you can discover some of your own.
One of the most unique things about Shimokitazawa is the abundance of small, independent theaters and live music venues. This neighborhood is known for its off-beat and experimental performances, ranging from avant-garde theater productions to indie rock concerts.
But whether you're a fan of the arts or just looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, Shimokitazawa is also a great place to just wander around and soak up some of the local atmospheres. Tokyo private tour guides like me find the biggest appeal of Shimokitazawa to be how much this area welcomes - almost insists - that a person pace slow, that the mode of movement should be to wander, not rush.
From art and music to just soaking up some local vibes, Shimokitazawa is a must-visit stop on my private tours and by far one of my favorite destinations in Tokyo.
Take the Odakyu Line from Nakano Station to Shimokitazawa Station. Explore the vintage clothing shops and record stores in the area.
Stop #7: A traditional rice ball and some sake at Andon
(Are you starting to think that my private tours in Tokyo are as much food tours as they are walking tours? Well, you might be right!)
Few things scream tradition in Japan quite like a lovely rice ball and some sake do. And a perfect spot to enjoy both is at Andon.
Andon is owned by a man who comes from a family of rice farmers, and he has cheerfully brought these talents to Tokyo at this deliciously casual food and drink spot.
At Andon, the menu feels intentionally simple though you won't be without plenty of options.
The sake selection is impressive, with a variety of local and regional options to choose from. And, though I know a bit about sake, I always welcome the staff to help us select the perfect sake to pair with whatever it is we are eating, or what you may be in the mood for.
The ambiance of Andon is warm and inviting, with wooden tables and traditional Japanese decor. It's the perfect spot to unwind before we begin our evening leg of your private tour.
Stop #8: A play or comedy night at The Suzunari
For local guides like me who absolutely love everything about Shimokitazawa, The Suzunari is one of the most iconic ways we can experience this eclectic and electric neighborhood in Tokyo.
The Suzunari will allow you to experience the side of Shimokitazawa that has been always loved by residents in this city.
As one of several theaters belonging to the Honda Theater Group, The Suzunari is a landmark of the Japanese contemporary theater scene. Often those who perform here go on to experience careers on the larger stage.
The theater itself is a small, intimate space, with a very small capacity for an audience. I think this intimacy allows for a truly immersive experience, as we will most likely be seated just a few feet away from the performers.
The space is also highly flexible, with movable seating and a stage that can be configured in a variety of ways to suit the needs of each production, from comedy shows to one-act plays and larger performances.
In addition to its performances, The Suzunari is also known for its commitment to fostering new talent in the Japanese theater scene. The theater is known to regularly host workshops for aspiring actors and directors, helping to launch their further careers.
Private Tours in Tokyo: Ready to Sign Up?
After having been a private tour guide in Tokyo for a few years now, I can honestly say that most of my favorite and unforgettable private tours in Tokyo have involved some sort of wandering.
If you are someone who has a wanderlust desire as well as a strong love for adventure, I hope you'll consider one of my personalized tours through the quaint neighborhoods and fascinating streets of my adopted city.
What are you waiting for? Tokyo is waiting for you!
Private tours lovingly tailored to you by our local insiders
Our tours have received an outstanding 5-star rating from over 700 satisfied customers!