Posts Tagged ‘tours’

Rickshaws roll back into style

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Handsome “onisan” are part of the attraction of a jinrikisha ride for the ladies

Slightly cheesy and very pricey, a ride in a jinrikisha (hand-pulled rickshaw) around Asakusa is Tokyo’s equivalent of a spin around New York’s Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage. And thanks to the opening nearby of Skytree Tower, this anachronism is still fighting fit in the 21st century as jinrikisha companies cash in on the hordes of tourists who flock to Asakusa to check out Tokyo’s newest landmark.

Skytree Tower tours don’t come cheap. A 70-minute Skytree Tower Course with Kurumaya Asakusa, which takes you from Kaminarimon in Asakusa through the streets of downtown Tokyo, costs ¥12,690 for two. That price rises to ¥18,000 if you opt to travel in a rickshaw that has been custom-made to resemble the tower itself. The newly unveiled Tokyo Skytree Model lights up at night and comes complete with a tiny Skytree Tower at the back.

The surrounding scenery is not the only attraction of a jinrikisha ride. Many women also enjoy checking out the hunks whose job it is to cart customers around town. On April 4, a show on Nippon Television Network introduced the ikemen  jinrikisha oniisan (good-looking jinrikisha guys) who are admired by female visitors to Asakusa for their fit bodies. These companies obviously know that their stables of young men are all part of the attraction; the websites of Ebisuya Asakusa and Jidaiya jinrikisha companies both have profiles of these charismatic rikshaw pullers, called shafu, for potential customers to check out.

Back in the Showa Era, the jinrikisha was not the only form of transport available for sightseeing around Asakusa. Elegant pedicabs, called rintaku, as a short form for “wheel taxi,” were also pedaled along the streets. Those interested in the history of transport in Tokyo can check out a collection of latter-day carriages in the lobby of the Asakusa Central Hotel. The vehicles are kept in working order and are available for hire for special occasions. The site says that in 1947 a ride was ¥100 per hour. A wedding rental now can cost 100 times that, at ¥30,000 for three hours.

Just can’t get enough? We suspect Kurumaya’s sales target is jinrikisha companies, but we don’t know if there’s anything stopping them from selling their two-wheelers to the general public. The Skytree model three-seater is a trifle at ¥2 million. And no, that does not include a handsome driver.

Photo: Jon Rawlinson, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Entame tours: Let us entertain and guide you

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

KNT Entame tours

KNT! Entame tours


Ever dreamed of high-fiving your favorite J-pop star or hanging out in the woods with a dreamy Korean crooner? Travel agency KNT! has put together all its up-close-and-personal themed tour packages on one website: KNT! Entame.

Tours are divided into genres: Korean and Chinese pop culture; music; anime and games; and “others.” There are plenty of choices for the growing K-pop crowd. Trips to Seoul can include a “fan meeting” with boy band Big Bang, where participants can enjoy a private mini-concert, a chat with the guys in the band and a “high-five session” (less strenuous than a handshake, more intimate than a bow?). For more one-on-one time with a star, the “Summer Holidays with S.H.S” is a three-day getaway at a resort outside of Seoul with singer Shin Hye Sung.

The music-themed trips are pretty wide ranging, from a trip to Shizuoka for a show by Japanese band AAA to a flight to Los Angeles to see the Jonas Brothers. While AAA will pose for a picture and hang out a bit, fans of the Jonas brothers will have to settle for some concert swag.

That last “other” category includes more trips with event-themed giveaways and meet-and-greet components, like a bus tour to the WWE Summer Slam, which will include T-shirts that aren’t otherwise available in Japan and special to-be-announced events on the bus. Those who prefer to keep the words “surprise” and “pro-wrestling” as far separated as possible might prefer an overnight stay at an onsen in Kagoshima with former Takarazuka star Haruhi Ryouga. The actress, affectionately called Ahi-san, will take photos with tour participants, give autographs and stop by each group member’s room.

Then there’s the plan that’s getting all the English press: the Love Plus Plus tour, a romantic overnight stay in coastal Atami that seems like it was designed just to get people to say “Did you see what the Japanese are doing?” The bus trip for fans of the dating-simulation video game from Konami is pitched as “the first summer vacation with your girlfriend.” While it is possible to book the tour for two actual people, the “girlfriend” they’re referring to is the one in the game. Local shops and sites are participating, and the magic of augmented reality technology can put the digital girls into iPhone photos. The day when she can give you a high-five, though, is still to come.

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