marky star

🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌

Japan This! Tours
Guided Tours for History Nerds

UPDATE: (1/1/2018) When I started these tours in 2016, I wasn’t sure how things would go. I’m happy to say, they’ve gone extremely well and 2018 is poised to be my busiest year yet. Because of this, I’m asking people who want to take a tour with me during the peak seasons (spring and fall) to book a year in advance to guarantee I can get you into my calendar. For off season, one year in advance is recommended, but there may be some flexibility – even for last minute bookings. Just ask! Contact me on Facebook and let’s work something out!


I’ve put together a small series of tours that cater specifically to Japanese History Fans. Most of them focus on topics that have come up on JapanThis!. I’m developing some new tours and I’m open to the idea of creating a personalized tour just for you.

Some of these are super nerdy, but a lot of them are inclusive enough to bring your friend or family. I’m here to make sure your tour goes smoothly. I’ll show you loads of cool stuff and take you off the beaten path. I have tons of peripheral insights and anecdotes to enhance the experience and I’m always on hand to answer your questions. Oh, and most importantly, I’m not a jerk. We’re totally gonna have fun!

It’s fun! Don’t believe me? Here’s what people have to say!

 This was pretty much all I was hoping for. An in-depth, funny, fascinating tour of Edo history from someone who knows his stuff. I would totally do this again, and when I’m back in Tokyo, I definitely plan on round 2!
 I thought this tour was fucking awesome! Marky’s insight and knowledge of the locations and the neighborhoods we explored really helped flesh out aspects of Edo and post-Edo period history for us in an exciting way. His friendliness and willingness to contextualize what we were looking at even made the tour interesting and fun to our non-history buff friends, which was great! I would happily go for another!
 Marky also discusses history in a way that makes you feel you’re hearing an actual cool story rather than a classroom lecture 🙂 Aside from just telling you what happened where, he gives you a good feel of the personality of each historical figure that you can actually see them as characters rather than just figures. Go ahead, ask him which ones are his favorite and who he hates!
 Informative but not dry; I was probably the least familiar with Japanese history out of the group but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Because some tours are very walking intensive, I’ve developed a ranking system in terms of how geeky a course is and how much time or walking you’d have to do. I can walk for hours and hours or sit seiza for hour and hours no problem. Not everyone can. That’s why I made this. If a course seems too demanding, just contact me via Facebook and we can discuss alternatives.

Here’s my Ranking System

What does is mean?

Geek Ranking


A low ranking means less obscure shit (you can bring a non-nerd), a high ranking means we’re going deeeeep (way off the beaten path).

Walking Intensity


I can walk for hours and never get tired. That’s a 5. Watching kabuki, that’s a 1 (or less).

Time Intensity


Are you a half-day whiney little bitch or are you ready to go ballz to the wallz?

Keep in mind, a low ranking doesn’t mean it’s boring and high ranking doesn’t mean it’s super cool. There’s no correlation. I’m just trying to make sure everyone’s on the same page as to what their getting into. If you have any questions, just ask. If you use a wheelchair or have any other difficulties with mobility, vision, or otherwise, contact me directly and I’m pretty sure I can sort you out. No problem. Everyone is welcome!



Let’s Start with the Not-So-Nerdy Tours

These are tours made for Japanese history nerd traveling with friends or family.

koishikawa korakuen

Light Crash Course in Edo-Tōkyō

Starts at Ryōgoku and finishes at Tōkyō Dome. Want to learn more about the history of Tōkyō? Have a traveling companion who is coming from zero but wants to learn a little bit? This might be the course for you!

Edo-Tōkyō Museum

The foremost museum on the history of the city. A fantastic insight into the evolution of the shōgun’s capital into one of the greatest economic powerhouses in the world.

Tōkyō Waterworks Museum

Edo was a city of 1 million people at its peak – the largest city in the world at the time by some accounts. It was also considered the Venice of East. This museum tells the story of how water played a major factor in the history of the city.

Kōraku-en Garden

This is one of the few daimyō gardens that still remain relatively intact from the Edo Period. It was on the grounds of the residence of the Mito Tokugawa. It was designed to change over the course of the 4 seasons. Bring a camera!!


Eat chanko nabe, the staple food of sumō wrestlers. Eat takoyaki, a popular snack or drinking food. Eat both. May change the order of the course, but we can do it all!

Geek Ranking: ★★✬☆☆ 2.5
Walking Intensity: ★★☆☆☆ 2
Time Intensity: ★★★★★ 5

 50,000(one time charge for guide/organization/materials)
2000円 per person (to cover admission fees)
Contact me via Facebook.

Related Articles

edo bay

One of the few places you can see the original shoreline of Edo Bay

Quirky Tōkyō Museum Tour

Tōkyō has a lot of museums. Seriously. A lot! This tour hits up 4 of the most unique museums in the city. Unfortunately, most don’t provide comprehensive English support, but don’t worry. I got your back.

Ōmori Nori Museum

Learn about nori[iv] production and even get hands on practice at the making it the way people did in Pre-Modern Japan. Also, see Japan’s first manmade beach.

Tōkyō Waterworks Museum

This is seriously one of the most underrated museums in the world. It studies the history of water in Edo-Tōkyō, in particular, how did the shōgunate provide water and sewerage for a city of a million people?!

Tōkyō Parasitological Museum

Supposedly one of Tōkyō’s most popular date sites, this science museum looks at… yup… parasites! You can even buy one of your very own and smuggle it back into your country.

Meiji University Museum

We’ll only visit the wing of the museum dedicated crime, policing, sentencing, incarceration, torture, torture, and execution – with an emphasis on the Edo Period.

Geek Ranking: ★★★★★ 5
Walking Intensity: ★☆☆☆☆ 1
Time Intensity: ★★★★★ 5

50,000(one time charge for guide/organization/materials)
Personal transportation cost (we’ll use the subway)
Contact me via Facebook.

The hands on “nori experience” is first come first serve, so it needs to be booked at least 2 months in advance. Believe it or not, it fills up super quick.
Also, the museum hours change by season.
The Parasitological Museum is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.
I’ll work closely with you to make this happen!

Related Articles:


Ready to get yo ass cultured?

Kabuki – From Edo’s Low Style to Meiji’s High Style


Early lunch; discussion about shitamachi/yamanote culture and kabuki.


3 kabuki shows, high class Japanese sweets

Option 0

Return to hotel

Option 1

Cheap Shōwa Era dinner, drinks, & a lot of vibe in Yūraku-chō

Option 2

High end Shōwa Era tempura dinner and a lot of vibe in Ginza

Geek Ranking: ★★★☆☆ 3
Walking Intensity: ✬☆☆☆☆ .5
Time Intensity: ★★★★☆ 4

Price varies greatly depending on number of people and proximity of seats and if you add an option. Since there are many factors involved, we should discuss this in detail.
Contact me via Facebook.


Tokugawa family crest

Shōgun Courses

There are 3 of them! You can do one. You can do two. Hell, you can do all three!


Grave of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

Edo from Ōta Dōkan to the Bakumatsu
Shōgun Graves Part 1

This is easily my most popular tour. It starts at Nezu Shrine, climbs Dōkan’yama and finishes at Ueno Station spanning the mythological Age of the Gods to the 1870’s. We’ll see many shrines and temples and a sprawling necropolis that will blow your mind. I’ll also get you the closest you can get to the shōguns’ graves in Ueno[v]. We’ll also see sites associated with the Battle of Ueno which destroyed much of the area in the 1860’s resulting in the building of Ueno Park.


Suwa Shrine, former satellite castle of Ōta Dōkan and Edo Period cherry blossom spot



Yanaka Cemetery and environs; graves of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, Higuchi Ichiyō, Date Munenari, and Takahashi O-den


Main hall, pagoda ruins


Graves of the Tokugawa shōguns, post-Boshin War main hall, pagoda, Tōshō-gū, Ghost Lantern, Ueno Big Buddha, Benzaiten, Shinobazu Lake, Kiyomizu Kan’non-dō, Shōgitai Grave and other sites associated with the Battle of Ueno, Saigō Takamori Statue (and possibly access to the Aoi no Ma)


See a shitamachi red light district, place where Katsu Kokichi[vi] retired and wrote his memoires

Nezu Shrine

One of Tōkyō’s most beautiful shrines


Visit an Edo Period tōfu shop for dinner

Geek Ranking: ★★★★★ 5
Walking Intensity
: ★★★★★ 5
Time Intensity
: ★★★★☆ 4

55,000(one time guide/organization/materials donation)[vii]
Cost will vary if you add an option.
Contact me via Facebook.


Grave of Tokugawa Hidetada

A Walk from Edo Castle to Shiba
Shōgun Graves Part 2

Starts in the Outer Moat area of Edo Castle and finishes at Azabu-Jūban. Roughly follow the path the shōgun and his retinue would take from the castle to his funerary temples at Zōjō-ji . Food options exist along the way, so we can discuss by email.

Edo Castle

Hibiya Gate, Saiwai Gate, Shibaguchi Gate, Sukiyabashi Gate/Yūraku-chō, Edo Magistrate’s Office, Sotobori/Marunouchi/Daimyō Alley overview, Tiger Gate


Remains of original Shinbashi Bridge, Original Shinbashi Station, Karasumori Shrine, Shiogama Shrine, Red Brick Way, remains of Sendai Domains lower & middle residences (Date clan), site of Asano Naganori’s seppuku


Graves of the Tokugawa Shōguns, O-nari Gate, Ietsugu’s Niten Gate, remains of Ietsugu’s innermost stone wall, consolidated graves of the shōguns (there is a museum with regularly changing exhibits – if interested), cemetery for dead babies, Hidetada’s main gate, lesser known remains of Hidetada’s mausoleum, Tōshō-gū, a sakura planted by Iemitsu


Fushimi Sanpō Inari Shrine, Shin’ami-chō, upper residence of Kurumae Domain (Arima clan), Kurumae fire watchtower

Bakumatsu Murder Bridges

Site of Henry Heusken’s murder, site of Kiyokawa Hachirō’s murder

Additional Options

Tōkyō Tower; graveyard of Nanbu Domain and/or Nabeshima Domain, Zōjō-ji Museum, shopping/eating in Azabu-Jūban and/or Roppongi Hills – Edo Period shops are in the area; karaoke in Shinbashi/Hamamatsuchō/Roppongi

Geek Ranking: ★★★★★ 5
Walking Intensity: ★★★★★ 5
Time Intensity: ★★★★☆ 4

55,000(one time guide/organization/materials donation)[viii]
Cost will vary if you add an option.
Contact me via Facebook.


Grave of Tokugawa Iemitsu

A Day and Night in Nikkō
Shōgun Graves Part 3

We start at Tōkyō Station, go to Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture for sightseeing and fun, stay in at traditional Japanese inn with a hot spring, then return to Tōkyō the next morning. This is the final resting place of the 1st and 3rd Tokugawa shōguns and the best extant example of shōgunal mausoleums. This tour is great for anyone, but especially good for people whose traveling companions aren’t history nerds but want to do some must-see sightseeing and have a really unique Japanese experience.

(Nikkō Tōshō-gū and Taiyū-in)

Grave of the found of Rin’nō-ji and origin of all Buddhist activity in the area, Roku Butenzō – the oldest Buddhist monuments in Nikkō, Rin’nō-ji – the temple controls most of the area, Tōshō-gū (grave of Tokugawa Ieyasu), Taiyū-in (grave of Tokugawa Iemitsu). Tōshō-gū is one of the top 5 spots in Japan!

Edo Wonderland

A theme park that recreates the spirit of Edo in architecture, costume, shows, and hands on experience. All of the staff is in character, so they offer guests the chance to cosplay in character! When you’re done, you can enjoy a beer or too watching the sun set over “Edo” in the mountains.

Relax in a Japanese hot spring

Have traditional dinner and a bath (or 2 or 3) in natural, geothermally heated water; get a good night’s sleep on a futon in a traditional Japanese room.


If you want, a traditional Buddhist vegetarian course meal can be arranged. If we extend the trip to two full days (or three and a half), we can visit Tochigi City, famous for its traditional warehouses and samurai residences. A spiritual hike up the sacred mountain that made Nikkō so important to both Shintō and Buddhism

Geek Ranking: ★★★☆☆ 3
Walking Intensity: ★★★✬☆ 3.5
Time Intensity: ★★★★★ 5

There is a Japanese proverb, “Don’t say something is ‘splendid’ until you’ve seen Nikkō” because of its sublime beauty. This may not be the nerdiest destination, but it will definitely make a big impression. In a addition, a famous Kyōto and Nikkō tofu specialty is widely available.

60,000 (per day for guide/organization/materials; if you add a day, this charge may decrease depending on the options, but it won’t increase)
However, final cost will vary depending on number of people, options, etc., but I’m fairly sure I can keep things reasonable, especially for groups![ix]
Contact me via Facebook.

Related Articles:


Other Tours!

hama goten.jpg

Scenic Gardens, Tokugawa Palaces, and Zōjō-ji

Starts at the seaside villa remains of the shōguns, continues to the seaside villa of a high ranking retainer of the shōguns, and ends at one of 2 funerary temples of the shōguns. This is a fairly hands-off course so you’re free to explore at your own pace, but I’m available for everyone at all times.

Former Hama Palace

This was the shōgun’s seaside villa. It retains a unique salt water moat system and Edo Period hunting grounds. It also offers a beautiful view of the city and nature. We can enjoy tea and Japanese sweets a teahouse built in the middle of a lake.

Shiba Rikyū Garden

Originally a seaside fort of the Hōjō clan of Odawara, it was later a daimyō residence of the Ōkubo clan (who originated from Tokugawa Ieyasu’s homeland, Mikawa Province).


We can approach Zōjō-ji the way it was intended to be approached, from the sea. We’ll pass the Great Gate and then move on for a look at a funerary temple of the Tokugawa shōguns.


Feeling a little garden crazy? We could easily swap out Zōjō-ji for 1 or 2 other Edo Period gardens. Perfect for photographers interested in Japanese nature!

Geek Ranking: ★★★☆☆ 3
Walking Intensity: ★★★☆☆ 3.5
Time Intensity: ★★★★☆ 4

50,000 (one time charge for guide/organization/materials)
2000円 per person (to cover admission fees)
Contact me via Facebook.


Ready to go somewhere really dark?

The 3 Great Execution Grounds of Edo

I think this will be popular! If you want to see the dark and macabre side of Edo-Tōkyō, you’re not alone. I’m as fascinated with it as I am repulsed by it. Depending on where your hotel is, I will re-arrange the order for the most convenient order – though my personal favorite is Denma-chō→Kozukappara→Suzugamori[x].


See the killing floor, the posts for burnings at the stake and crucifixions, the well for cleaning heads before display, Namidabashi (the place families said goodbye), “Bone Street.”


See the “supposed” killing floor, monuments to Yoshida Shōin (who was a prisoner here); discuss why Yoshida Shōin was a douche.


See the killing floor of the worst prison in Edo, the Kubikiri Jizō (the last thing the beheaded saw before they died), Ekō-in (temple for the repose of the dead), Namidabashi (the place families said goodbye), “Bone Street.”

Geek Ranking: ★★★★★ 5
Walking Intensity: ★☆☆☆☆ 1
Time Intensity: ★★★✬☆ 3.5[xi]

51,000円 (one time charge for guide/organization/materials/commutation)
Contact me via Facebook.

 Related Articles:


I’m Working on a few New Tours

Please remember, I’m just starting this up and I’m doing this all on my own. I have a lot to learn and I’m starting to reach out to other people to try and make a partnership that will help me expand my offerings to longer tours, and even nationwide tours. Imagine a 4-5 day nationwide Shinsengumi tour? How fun would that be??!

Anyways, I really think the sky’s the limit with this. In my mind, it’s the ultimate way to bond with you guys – face to face, high fives and all. And after a serious “thank you” for your support, let’s go take a look at this city – no, this country – that I absolutely love! Also, if you are looking for a more personalized experience, let me know. I’m willing to make custom tours.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you like this idea, share with a friend!

[iv] An edible seaweed. If you eat sushi rolls, the wrapper is nori.
[v] Working on getting better access, but the area has been pretty much off limits for a long time. They don’t even allow photography in the off limits areas, even if you can get in.
[vi] Son of Katsu Kaishū, the father of the Japanese Navy.
[ix] Nikkō is in the mountains, so I don’t recommend winter at all. Also, the area is extremely crowded in autumn because people come to see the autumn leaves. If you want to come in the fall, I recommend booking 6 weeks or more to guarantee a comfortable bed and hot bath.
[x] In terms of subway use, it’s an impractical course unless you do alone or unless it’s a one-on-one tour. For groups, I have to find the most cost efficient/time efficient route for everyone.
[xi] Because a good deal of your time will be taking trains to the next execution ground. I’m good at conversation, so it won’t be boring but expect to change trains a few times lol.

  1. Hi. I really like the selection of tours you have and I’m really impressed by your knowledge and passion. I’ve been thinking of doing something similar in Japan, but I’ve been put off by the laws governing paid guides/ guiding. As understand it, only certified guides are allowed to provide tours/ guiding services and be paid. Have you found a way around this? Thanks in advance and best wishes for your success in your work and travels! 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment and kind words.

      As for the law… yeah, it’s a bit tricky. To my knowledge to operate legally as a tour guide in Japan, you need to pass a written and oral exam to receive a permit. You also need a special kind of insurance that covers your customers and covers damage they may cause to sites visited. You also need to report your earnings at tax time.

      There is, however, a a way around this. If you work for a company that has a permit, for example a company that offers tour packages, they can extend the permit and insurance they have to any employee. So, I have a friend who got a job as a tour guide at a company but didn’t have to take tests or anything. I don’t work at a guided tour company, but my company has the insurance and permit, so now I’m operating legally. If someone were to ask me about it, I actually have a legit badge number to give them. Have I ever been asked about my certification, no. Do I have the 500,000円 to pay the fine, no.

      But when I first designed and started offering these tours, I wasn’t working at my current company and didn’t have a badge or insurance or anything. That’s why I use the word “suggested donation” instead of “price.” My logic was that were I to be stopped, I could say that technically speaking I was a volunteer and wasn’t getting paid. If someone tipped me or “donated” that was up to them. That said I never actually left that up to the customers, to them I used the word “price” in emails and conversation.

      That’s a bit sketchy and I’m not sure if it would hold up in court, but that’s what I did before. I think if you start getting a lot of customers and keep going to the same places, the staff might recognize you and say something, but if you just take a couple of people to a museum, it wouldn’t look suspicious. It just depends on the size of the group and if you’re constantly going back to the same places or if – god forbid – a customer has an accident, damages something, or acts like an asshole and attracts attention.

  2. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  3. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  4. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  5. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  6. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  7. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  8. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  9. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  10. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  11. […] who specializes in older neighborhoods. The other, Mark Hobold, writes a history blog called Japan This ! that is sometimes too geeky even for […]

  12. […] Lee Chapman: Tours $181-$316 for up to four people.>> Mark Hobold: Tours start at $450 for up to six […]

  13. […] Tokyo tour guides: Lee Chapman,; tours $181-$316 for up to four people. Mark Hobold:; tours start at $450 for up to six […]

  14. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  15. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

  16. […] 🌌 Japan This! Tours 🌌 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: