Culinary Tour of Japan
This 13 night trip takes in the food and culture across Japan attacking all the senses en route. From the bright lights of Tokyo and Osaka, to rural mountain towns, cultural Kyoto and the serenity of Mt Koya, this trip is a cultural and culinary journey.
Travelling and food go hand-in-hand and Japan is very much the place for the ultimate gastronomic and cultural adventure. From Michelin star restaurants to back street noodle bars, Japan has something for every palate whilst satisfying a hunger for impressive sights and new cultural experiences.
This gastronomic adventure heads from the foodies dream of the Tokyo
Metropolis through the Japanese Alps, to the cultural capital of Kyoto via
traditional ryokan stays with their unrivalled hospitality and a Buddhist
temple lodging with strict vegan Shoujin style cooking on the sacred Mt Koya.
The trip also includes a mouth-watering array of food opportunities and
experiences including sake tasting, soba noodle making, street food
exploring and a tour of Tsukiji, the world's biggest fish market followed by
a sushi making class.
The adventure continues to the mountains of Nagano and the castle town of Matsumoto. The imposing 'Black Crow' castle sits with towering mountain peaks providing the backdrop, but the area is also renowned for its local speciality of Soba noodles. Each region of Japan, and even from town-to-own, has its own 'meibutsu' or speciality which usually tends to be some tasty local dish. A bus journey through the mountains, continues on to the craft town of Takayama with a stay at a traditional guest house, sampling he local hospitality and the speciality of Hoba-miso and Takayama beef. Each village, town and city from the coast into the mountains will leave a distinctly different taste in your mouth with its 'meibutsu'.
The stunning Kenrokuen gardens of Kanazawa and the old tea house districts are the pre-cursor to complete cultural enlightenment in Kyoto; home to the mysterious Geisha and hundreds of impressive shrines and temples that are dotted throughout this ancient city. Sake tasting and a trip to a local food market with private guides provide alternative insights into the culture of Kyoto. Local train along the Kii Peninsula and a cable car to the top of the sacred Mt Koya reveals the centre of Shingon Buddhism sitting in a valley 800 metres above sea level. The opportunity to join in morning meditation with monks and eat like the monks at a Buddhist temple lodging sets the scene before visiting the haunting Okunoin mausoleum, where the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, continues to meditate after more than 1150 years.
The serenity of Koya is stark contrast to Osaka. Often referred to as the 'Kitchen of Japan' this city is known for a range of food specialities and its straight talking, down-to-earth people. The retro look into the future of the post-war built the Shinsekai (New world) district in the neon gaze of the Tsutenkaku tower and the exciting Nanba district offers plenty of cheap tasty treats and excitement. Tokyo's Shinjuku entertainment district is the beating heart of the city and the food finale to the trip providing the stereotypical neon image of the Metropolis contrasting tradition and sleek modern Japan.
Day 1 Tokyo
Arriving into the Narita Airport, you will be met at the airport and whisked into the city, direct to your hotel. You will be staying in the Shidome district of the city amongst the sleek skyscrapers but close to the traditional Hamarikyu Gardens. You will also be close to the Yurakucho ‘Yakitori Alley’ which is a salary man favourite – narrow streets lined with tiny shop on tiny shop selling all sorts of delicious dishes. The area is close to the Odaiba area connected by monorail and the old Asakusa District is only a short train ride away.
Day 2 Tokyo
On your first full morning, you will head off to the biggest fish market in the world. Tsukiji is an incredible sight. You will have a guided tour of the outer market before heading to a sushi making class at your guide's home. You will enjoy the best melt-in-your mouth sushi you will ever taste. That evening, you will meet up with one of our Tokyo based tour leaders who will take you out to a traditional Izakaya for good food and a few drinks. Our tour leader will show you the ropes, introduce you to some interesting dishes as well as etiquette for what is always a fun evening.
Day 3 Matsumoto
Leaving the capital behind, you will take the express train direct into the mountains of Nagano and to the castle town of Matsumoto. The ‘Black Crow’ castle is most impressive and the mountains provide a stunning backdrop for what it is one of the twelve original Edo period castles still standing in Japan. The town’s speciality is Soba noodles. Close to the castle is the 130 old Takagi noodle shop which is where you will have a short lesson on making these buckwheat noodles. After enjoying your noodles, you may like to eat one of the towns other specialities, Basashi (raw horse).
Day 4 Takayama
After breakfast, you will make your way to Matsumoto bus station for the stunning journey through the Japanese Alps to the craft town of Takayama. The town was traditionally cut off by snow during the winter months and as such as developed many of its own food specialities or ‘Meibutsu’. A stay at the family run traditional guesthouse will introduce you to many of the local meibutsu such as Tskuemono (pickled vegetables), Hoba-Miso (a leaf with miso, onions, Shitake mushrooms grilled on charcoal), Takayama beef steak and much more.
Day 5 Takayama
A walk around the old wooden buildings of the Sannomachi area of town today will reveal the other speciality of Takayama – sake. The town also boasts some lively morning markets with farmers selling produce and various crafts such as the local Sarubobo good luck charms.
Day 6 Kanazawa
Continuing by bus to the edge of the Japanese Alps will bring you to Kanazawa. The City was once the industrial powerhouse of the West coast of Japan. The old Nagamachi samurai district of the town and the traditional teahouse districts are complete with traditional buildings. The Kenrokuen gardens are rated as one of the most beautiful landscape gardens in all of Japan and justifiably so. Kanazawa being so close to the sea is renowned for its seafood and vegetables, but you may prefer to stroll through the old town, pick up a bento box and enjoy the garden.
Day 7 Kyoto
The express train will take you through the mountains back to the East coast of Japan and the cultural capital of Kyoto. The city was the Imperial capital for more than 1000 years and oozes culture wherever you go. It seems that old shrines and temples are found on every street and the old Gion District his home to the mysterious Geisha who can often be spotted gliding from appointment to appointment in all their regalia.
Day 8 Kyoto
This morning you will be met by a sake expert who will take you to the splendid Fushimi Inari shrine dedicated to the rice gods with its hundreds of vermillion tori gates that climb Mt. Inari. Having visited one of the city’s most spectacular shrines, you will head to a nearby sake brewery and sample its wares at a local sake shop discovering the subtleties of this rice wine. The afternoon is free to explore Kyoto with its myriad of temples, shrines and gardens.
Day 9 Kyoto
Today you are in for a real treat as you will be taken to a Japanese home for a private cookery lesson. You'll be met by an assistant and taken by taxi to a house in Kyoto where an English speaking instructor will show you how to cook some simple Japanese dishes (usually sushi and tempura, or teriyaki chicken) and also learn about some of the regional specialities of Japan. This is a private class and offers a great chance to learn more about Japanese food - and to get a glimpse inside a regular Japanese home! In the afternoon you are free to further explore the endless sights that Kyoto has to offer.
Day 10 Mt Koya
You will take the train to the Kii Peninsula in nearby Wakayama prefecture before taking the cable car to Mt Koya. The sacred Mt Koya is home of Shingon Buddhism introduced by Kobo Daishi in 805. This secluded temple town is home to more than 50 temples and traditional ‘shukubo’ temple lodgings. Staying in a Koya shukubo is a unique Japanese experience. The temple grounds have beautiful gardens and are filled with the smell of incense and plenty of ambience. You will have plenty of time to walk around the eerie, but beautiful Okunoin mausoleum which is home to thousands of impressive tomb stones set amongst huge evergreen trees. Kobo Daishi remains in constant meditation and has done for more than a thousand years. For best effect, visit as the light goes down in the evening, or early in the morning. The temple serves a fabulous Shoujin style feast which consists of Konyaku (a root vegetable jelly), tempura vegetables, Crysanthemum flowers, tofu, noodles and a lot more. The cooking style is completely vegan and extremely filling and delicious. Before your equally filling breakfast the next day, you will be able to take part in the morning prayers and meditation which adds to the experience.
Day 11 Osaka
You couldn’t get a greater contrast to the serenity of Mt Koya than Osaka. Osaka is Japan’s third largest city and your will be staying in the buzzing Nanba district. Row upon row of restaurants await you at your doorstep with plenty on offer. Known as ‘Kansai’s kitchen’, Osaka has several specialities with Okonomiyaki (a sort of savoury pancake) and Takoyaki (fried balls of Octopus) being amongst the favourite – cheap and delicious. The Shinsekai area of town has old style pachinko shops and is renowned for its Kushikatsu (sticks of deep fried vegetable, meat and fish). Your guided tour this evenjing will ensure you get to sample the best of Osaka's street food.
Day 12 to Day 13 Tokyo
Shooting back to the capital on the super fast bullet train, you will be staying in the lively Shinjuku district for your food finale. There are countless small restaurants, izakaya, karaoke joints, bars and plenty of neon. You can easily find a quiet place for contemplation in this district with the serene Shinjuku Park gardens, visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, head up to the top of the Metropolitan government building for views back over the city or go out with a bang and enjoy Shinjuku’s excitement for your final few days in Japan.
Day 14 Depart
We have provided a bus voucher for the journey direct from your hotel to the airport You will be able to look back at the city with fond memories, a full belly and hunger for more.
Call to check availability and make a booking on 01543 258631.
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