Best day ever

A Tour Director’s train ride around Tokyo

If a forest smack in the middle of a bustling city, a local izakaya whose owner cooks something different every night, and a delicacy called curry bread sounds interesting, you’ll probably want to keep reading. Recently, we caught up with Kumiko, one of our amazing Tour Directors—trained locals who love showing off their cities and handling logistics for EF groups. (Kumiko leads students on our Japan: Land of the Rising Sun tour.) Hop on board, virtually, as we take a train ride through her best day ever and experience the culture of Japan.

Experience the culture of Japan at Akari Bakery in Kunitachi


Breakfast at the boulangerie

Currently, Kumiko lives in Kunitachi, a university city in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis, or the Greater Tokyo Area. Similar to American states, Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, including Tokyo Metropolis. Think of Kunitachi as a suburb of Tokyo—Kumiko is 40 minutes from the center of the city.

Kumiko loves to start her day at Akari Bakery in Kunitachi. After living in French Polynesia for a year and working for a French company, she got accustomed to noshing on fresh baked goods every morning. Since then, she’s loved finding similar treats in Tokyo. Her pastry of choice? The classic croissant—specifically a pain aux raisin or pain au chocolat. The very small bakery doesn’t get a lot of tourists, so it’s just the kind of local gem that can help you authentically experience the culture of Japan (blended with the culinary culture of France). Add a coffee with steamed milk and a morning walk, and she’s off.

Experience the culture of Japan in Harajuku


Experience the culture of Japan looking at ukiyo-e Japanese wood block prints and nikuhitsu-ga paintings at the Ōta Memorial Museum of Art


Experience the culture of Japan at Meiji Jingu, a Shinto Shrine






Head to Harajuku

Next on the agenda? Hopping on the train to Harajuku, what Kumiko calls “the most charming part of the city.” Harajuku is the center of street style in Tokyo, and Kumiko loves people-watching, then window shopping the high-end boutiques on the other side of the train station. Kumiko’s favorite museum is also here: the Ōta Memorial Museum of Art, whose main collection is made up of 12,000 pieces of ukiyo-e Japanese wood block prints and nikuhitsu-ga paintings.

She also makes sure to visit the Meiji Shinto Shrine (a site she takes travelers on her tours!), which was built to commemorate Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It’s surrounded by a forest that was planted to honor the emperor and empress. Kumiko loves that this great forest is right in the middle of cosmopolitan Tokyo. Some days, this setting is the perfect place to catch up with a friend. But today, since it’s so beautiful and peaceful, she enjoys sitting in the gardens, alone with her thoughts.

Experience the culture of Japan as you eat curry bread, a local delicacy, here at Bakery & Table Hakone near Mount Fuji


To Mount Fuji we go

From Harajuku, Kumiko takes the train two stops to Shinjuku, the biggest hub station in Tokyo, then another train from Shinjuku to visit Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and the second highest volcano in Asia, and it’s a sight to behold. (You don’t have to take our word for it—it’s one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.) In addition to a majestic mountain, Mount Fuji’s home (the city of Hakone) also boasts a famous bakery called Bakery & Table Hakone that Kumiko likes to visit. Bakery & Table is one of her favorite places to get a particular specialty treat that she recommends to first-time travelers: curry bread.

“It’s very original bread in my country,” she tells us, “and looks like Russian or Ukranian pirozhki,” or boat-shaped buns with different savory fillings. She opts for red curry—the bread is deep-fried, fluffy, spicy, and has minced meat, onions, and carrots inside. Snack time/lunch time/whatever time is always the time for this delicacy. Kumiko likes to sit on a terrace outside that overlooks Lake Ashi while she digs into her curry bread. Talk about a meal with a view!

Experience the culture of Japan with Tour Director Kumiko as she plays volleyball on her moms' team


Back to Kunitachi for volleyball practice

After enjoying some more time in the Mount Fuji area, it’s back to Kunitachi. Kumiko’s been playing on a local moms’ volleyball team for nearly 20 years. The players range in age from their early 30s to their 60s, and they practice at an elementary school. Kumiko calls it her hobby, but the team is pretty competitive—they’ve won a ton of championships.

Experience the culture of Japan by eating grape mousse cake at Takano

Experience the culture of Japan with Kumiko as she visits her friend Chiharu at her izakaya Haru


Dinner and dessert

For dinner, Kumiko takes the train a half an hour to Nakano (which is actually her hometown!). “It’s now known as a holy place for Anime and a center of pop culture in Tokyo,” she says, “but it’s also a lively town with small stores and bars crammed together.” Kumiko walks down to the basement of a building to go to Haru, her friend Chiharu’s izakaya, a casual Japanese eatery that serves shareable snacks and small dishes. It’s a (literal) hidden gem since people can’t see the inside from the street. Each night, the menu changes, depending on the season and Chiharu’s creativity. Kumiko drinks and chats with Chiharu as she cooks things like tempura, katsu, and different fishes, meats, and vegetables.

And lest we forget, what would a best day ever be without dessert? Kumiko loves cake shops (you’ve sensed a theme here, right?) and her favorite end-of-day treat is a slice of whatever fruit cake is in season at Takano. (This time, it’s grape!) These confections look almost too pretty to eat—but just almost. There’s truly no sweeter way to end her ideal day.

Experience the culture of Japan with an awesome Tour Director like Kumiko on one of our Japan tours

Want to have your own best day ever in Japan with an incredible Tour Director like Kumiko?

Explore our Middle School tour Browse all Japan tours

Cassie Title

Cassie is a copywriter at EF Education First. When she's not writing about herself in the third person, she enjoys attempting to intelligently analyze unintelligent television shows, getting lost in bookstores, and searching for the best noodles/lattes/ice cream in all the lands.

Related articles

Filter articles
Why travel Tour planning Global experiences Netherlands - Amsterdam Argentina Greece - Athens Australia Austria Spain - Barcelona China - Beijing Belgium Belize Germany - Berlin United States - Boston Brazil Hungary - Budapest United States - California Canada Chile China Denmark - Copenhagen Costa Rica Croatia Czech Republic Denmark Dominican Republic Ireland - Dublin Ecuador Scotland - Edinburgh England Finland Italy - Florence France Ireland - Galway Germany Scotland - Glasgow Greece Vietnam - Ha Long Vietnam - Hanoi Vietnam - Hô Chi Minh City Vietnam - Hôi An China - Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India Ireland Italy Japan Poland - Krakow Japan - Kyoto England - London Spain - Madrid Mexico Netherlands United States - New York City New Zealand Norway Japan - Osaka Panama France - Paris Peru Poland Portugal Czech Republic - Prague Puerto Rico Canada - Quebec Italy - Rome Greece - Santorini Scotland China - Shanghai South Africa South Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland Australia - Sydney Thailand Japan - Tokyo United States Italy - Venice Austria - Vienna Vietnam Wales United States - Washington, D.C. Art Best day ever Camera roll Culture Destination guide Educator profile EF news EF One on One EF staff Food For students Fundraising Geography Global citizenship Global Leadership Summit Global Rewards Going places Government Group Leader coffee break History Holidays How it works Inauguration Language learning Meet someone new Moments on tour Music Nobel Packing Parent perspective Professional learning Recruitment Religion Resources & training Responsible travel Safety Service Learning Social-emotional learning STEM Student spotlight Symposium Talk the talk Teacher Appreciation Week The making of Theater Tour Director Thought leader Training tour Travel tips Video Virtual learning Where are they now? Clear All

No results found