Five Fun and Creative Tokyo Classes
Do you sometimes feel that you spend your days doing nothing but working and running around on a never-ending hamster wheel? Just like our bodies need exercise, our mind sometimes needs a break from the grind. And what better way is there to enjoy a mental escape than learning a new skill or honing an old one? Here are five classes you can take in Tokyo that will help get your creative juices flowing—and you don't even have to understand Japanese.
When my boyfriend’s mother lived in Tokyo she studied the Japanese art of flower arranging, called ikebana, and even though that was almost 20 years ago, to this day she still creates some beautiful, minimalist pieces using fresh flowers and foliage. The Ohara School of Ikebana offers classes in English, and several types of courses are available. All are taught by professionals in the field at the school’s convenient location on Kotto-dori in Aoyama. Most lessons cost ¥4,000 for about two hours, but some require additional fees for supplies. See website for schedule and additional details.
When I was 17 and an international exchange student, one of my host mothers was an internationally recognized pottery and ceramics artist. She taught lessons from a studio at her home, and I was fortunate enough to join these several times a week. There is something about the cool, squishy feeling of wet clay between your fingers that is very therapeutic, and it’s extremely rewarding to see this strange, unshapely mass become a useful object in your very hands. The Shirogane Ceramic Art School has classes in using the pottery wheel, hand building, and freeform creation, as well as classes for children and even a course for making wedding gifts. English classes are currently taught on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and cost ¥3,800 for 90 minutes, plus a firing fee.
One of the best things about traveling to or living in a new country is trying new foods, and Japan is often described as something of a culinary gold mine. Mari studied in California and worked at an international school before starting her own business teaching Japanese cooking lessons from her home. She focuses on traditional dishes that most Japanese would eat each evening for dinner, and she caters the menu to individual students. After learning to cook the dishes, students share the spoils of their meal with Mari in her home near Ginza and the Tsukiji market. Her lessons routinely earn rave reviews, and are currently ranked among the top three activities in Tokyo on the Trip Advisor travel review site.
While artistic ability definitely has a lot to do with natural talent, even non-artistic people like myself can improve their skills with careful guidance and instruction. Atelier OMO3 is an art school in the back streets of Omotesando that offers English courses in still life painting and Japanese painting. The studio is open and modern, and filled with natural light that pours in from the floor-to-ceiling windows. When the weather is nice, some classes are even held outside on the large terrace. A trial lesson costs just ¥1,000 for two hours, and the fee is refunded if you end up joining the school.
Anyone who has ever worn a kimono knows that getting into one and securing it around your body is a feat in and amongst itself. Inspire Space in Hiroo gives private and group lessons in English on dressing yourself or others in a kimono, as well as a course in putting on an elaborate wedding kimono. If you just want the experience of wearing a kimono but don’t care much for how it’s put together, the school also offers a kimono rental and dressing service. This can even be combined with a professional kimono photo shoot in the streets of Tokyo.
Ikebana photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbera; pottery by Shoshanah; kimono dressing by Josh Berglund; others courtesy of the schools.