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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 19 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Rob Goss

No Japanese period drama would be complete without an appearance from the nation’s most famous fighters – the samurai and the ninja. Equally famous around the world today, the two had very different roles in Japan.

The samurai began as feudal warriors and by the Edo era (1603-1868) were part of the ruling class. The ninja had more humble roots, often functioning as farmers while operating as highly skilled spies and assassins.

Samurai and ninja get varying treatment in modern Japan – the samurai and their code of ethics are held in high regard, while ninja experiences tend to be more on the kitschy side. Part of that perhaps comes down to social status, but also the lofty status of a katana, a samurai’s sword, which are still painstakingly handcrafted by highly respected wordsmiths.

For visitors to Tokyo, there are several places you can see historic swords and samurai armour, and to learn how to hold a samurai sword or throw a ninja’s shuriken.

Exterior of the Japanese Sword Museum in Ryogoku
Experience

Japanese Sword Museum

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

This museum in Ryogoku exhibits a collection of around 190 supremely crafted historic katana (samurai swords) – some designated national treasures – and documents how they are made.

Best for ages: 8+ | £7 | 2-3 hours

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Ninja Trick House, Shinjuku
Experience

Ninja Trick House

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

This reproduction of a ninja house runs tours of the facility, teaching you the sneaky arts of the ninja as you go from room to room. Groups of up to 10 per session, children of all ages welcome.

Best for ages: 6+ | £12 | 35-40 minutes

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Many Samurai costumes are shown in exhibition hall inside the Samurai museum at Shinjuku
Experience

Samurai Museum

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

A fairly new museum stocked with an impressive collection of sparklingly sharp samurai swords, elaborate, colourful armour, guns and other samurai paraphernalia. Visitors can try the armour on and play at pretend sword fighting.

Best for ages: 6+ | £12 | 2-3 hours

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Graveyard of the 47 Ronin at Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo, Japan
Experience

Sengakuji Temple

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

The 47 Ronin is a legendary tale of samurai loyalty. This is where the 47 were buried after exacting their revenge on the man who betrayed their master, and then being ordered to kill themselves.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
Frequency: annually
When: March, May and Sept
Duration: 2-3 hours

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Ninja 1-hour hands-on lesson in English in Tokyo

Ninja 1-hour hands-on lesson in English in Tokyo

Tokyo

Experience authentic, traditional and historical Ninja training in English. Best things to do in Tokyo for Activity, Group, Couple, Solo, Ki...

¥11,000 | Rating 4.96 / 5 [25 ratings]

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Samurai Training Tokyo Asakusa

Samurai Training Tokyo Asakusa

Tokyo

This is a private lesson for only one group per slot. Enjoy authentic samurai training. In just one hour you will be able to learn some of t...

¥13,000 | Rating 4.93 / 5 [33 ratings]

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Ninja Samurai 2-hour hands-on lesson in English in Tokyo

Ninja Samurai 2-hour hands-on lesson in English in Tokyo

Tokyo

Experience authentic, traditional and historical Ninja and Samurai training in English. Best things to do in Tokyo for Activity, Group, Coup...

¥13,500 | Rating 4.86 / 5 [30 ratings]

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2-Hour Genuine Samurai Experience Through Kendo in Tokyo

2-Hour Genuine Samurai Experience Through Kendo in Tokyo

Tokyo

“Kendo” is about swordsmanship, a traditional Japanese martial arts skill of the Samurai, the path of the sword in Japan. You can practice K...

¥18,000 | Rating 4.73 / 5 [26 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Aman Tokyo

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

A contemporary five-star luxury retreat, high above the city, offers bird’s eye views over Tokyo to Mount Fuji. Relax in the superb spa, employing authentic Japanese wellness rituals.

Official star rating:

BnA Studio Tokyo

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

A recently-opened boutique hotel with just 6 rooms, each a unique art installation, in a convenient location in Akihabara.

Official star rating:

Hoshinoya Tokyo

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

A high-rise, high-end contemporary take on the traditional ryokan with a great central location.

Official star rating:

Hotel K5

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

Uber-hip Scandi-inspired boutique hotel with great access to Tokyo Station, Ginza, and key business districts. A chilled-out base for hipsters.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Tokyo

Kanto, Japan

A dizzying mixture of old ways and modern style, crowds and calm, and arguably the best food scene on the planet.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

A day in Hakone [& Mount Fuji]

Hakone, Kanto, Japan

This mountainous area west of Tokyo combines magical Mount Fuji views with traditional Japanese luxury – traditional ryokan inns, sublime kaiseki-ryori dinners and onsen (natural hot-spring baths).

Best for ages: 10+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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Bullet Train

Japan

Reaching speeds of up to 320 km/h, Japan’s iconic bullet train revolutionised high speed train travel when it first launched in 1964, only eclipsed in 2002 by new maglev trains. For locals, it’s a fast, convenient and safe means to travel between Japan’s major cities. For everyone else, it’s a must do.

Best for ages: 4+ | £90 | 2+ hours

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Cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

The blossoms of ornamental cherry trees – Japan’s national flower – beguile and dazzle, both visitor and local alike – when the spring wave turns Japan pink.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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A day in Kamakura

Kamakura, Kanto, Japan

From 1185 to 1333, Kamakura was Japan’s political centre, leaving a legacy of absorbing temples, shrines and traditions – including an iconic 11.4-metre bronze statue of Buddha.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Ghibli museum is a place that shows the work of Japanese animation Studio Ghibli, features of children, technology and finearts dedicated to art and animation technique
Experience

Ghibli Museum

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

A must for anime fans, this museum out west in Mitaka is dedicated to the creations of legendary animators Studio Ghibli.

Best for ages: 13+ | £4 | 2-3 hours

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Drinks in Golden Gai

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

This collection of ramshackle alleyways in Shinjuku is home to some of Tokyo’s tiniest, but most unique bars.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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Imperial Palace & Gardens
Experience

Imperial Palace & Gardens

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

The Imperial family’s current home is off-limits to visitors, but you can steal photogenic glimpses and stroll the pretty East Gardens.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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Bonsai trees in Omiya

Saitama, Kanto, Japan

The small town of Omiya is renowned for its bonsai nurseries and bonsai museum. For a fascinating insight into the art of bonsai, and their role in traditional Japanese culture, a day trip here is an absolute must.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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