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Arigato Food Tours: Your Kids and Taste Buds Will Thank You

by Elyse Glickman

Feb 15, 2020

Photo: Elyse Glickman

Destinations / Asia

There is something to be said for hitting a city’s most iconic neighborhoods, even if there is a steady stream of tourists milling about. On the other hand, there’s something delicious about discovering neighborhoods not yet on the tourist track.


With Japan the center of the world this summer, especially with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, a tour offered by Arigato Tours goes beyond providing a tasty immersion into Japanese food and culture.

Start of Oska Arigato Tour. Photo: Elyse Glickman

While many food tour companies cropped up in the past decade, Arigato Tours features several itineraries with built-in kid appeal and inclusive pricing (babies and toddlers are free; admission for children aged 3–12 runs 50 percent off adult prices with an advanced booking). Teens, meanwhile, will spot scenes from Arigato’s tours all over social media and blogs.


The company’s energetic, English-speaking guides, many of whom are recent college grads, make the introduction to new things all the more relatable.


Families with teens can quickly acclimate to Tokyo’s hustle and bustle with Arigato’s popular Shibuya Tour. With thousands of visitors descending on Tokyo, many will inevitably end up in Shibuya at some point. It’s the literal crossroads of Tokyo’s youth culture down to the oft-photographed Shibuya Crossing. It’s also a hub for inexpensive restaurants specializing in some of the world’s favorite comfort foods, from sushi and curry katsu/cutlets to ramen, tsukamen and Kit Kats in every color of the rainbow. The beauty of the Shibuya tours, besides not getting lost in the crowd on the first day, is sampling hidden gems along the neighborhood’s quieter side streets and hearing the guides’ objective takes on food hits and misses. Some tours may also include a stroll through a trendy supermarket in Shibuya Station, worth revisiting when an occasion calls for grab-and-go fare.


Arigato Shibuya. Photo: Elyse Glickman


Arigato Tokyo tours specially suited for families with younger kids include the Crazy, Cute, Kawaii Food Tour through Harajuku (which brings “playing with your food” to new heights), the best-selling Asakusa Tour and its Super Sugamo Foodie Adventure shows how Tokyo families eat within a tour of a neighborhood with a 100-year history and shops with friendly owners that have been in business for years. Older kids, meanwhile, will appreciate the Japanese Street Food Tour, given the current popularity of ramen and udon in the United States, and budding cooks may be interested in the Flavors of Japan daytime tour.


As some travelers will be flying in and out of Kansai Airport to avoid Narita and Haneda crowds, you may as well add some extra days in Osaka or Kyoto. Arigato offers can’t-miss tours of Kuramon Market in Osaka and Nishiki Market in Kyoto, both which have interesting stalls and food vendors offering samples and food items unique to each city.


Dessert Vendor in Food Show Market. Photo: Elyse Glickman


While market tours provide a good overall introduction to each city’s food culture, Osaka’s Shinsekai, a neighborhood embraced by local youth, merits more than a quick look. With its game arcades and gift shops, the recently revived area retains the feel of a Coney Island and Paris-inspired amusement park that existed decades ago. Prior to the building of the theme park in 1912, it was the birthplace of many beloved foods developed by and for its working class. The tour of this lively place includes a mix of arty cafés, specialty bakeries and tiny restaurants serving such local staples as pressed sushi, takoyaki (octopus fritters) and ohsho (breaded meat and veggie) skewers. There is also an eye-opening visit to Tower Knives, a renowned knife shop chefs around the world swear by.


Beef Vendor. Photo: Elyse Glickman


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