Japan’s cuisine evokes its diverse landscape – the seas, rivers, and mountains of Japan offer seasonal bounties, and the shun, or peak season, of various produce is anxiously awaited by all. After the thaw of winter, delicate bamboo shoots, strawberries, and rapeseed buds spring forward; in the warmth of summer, watermelon and cucumber offer respite from the heat; fall witnesses the abundance of sweet potatoes, chestnuts and mushrooms; and winter warms the palate with tart citrus and bitter daikon. It is not just this seasonality that distinguishes Japanese food, but the practiced restraint that allows chefs to highlight the natural flavor and texture of each ingredient. This results in a culinary experience that is elegant yet refined, and simple yet transportive. Japan’s culinary identity is unrivaled – it is one of five countries to hold a spot on the UNESCO heritage list of food cultures. In 2011, Japan overtook France in its number of Michelin-starred restaurants, a badge it held onto until 2016. Join us on our Japan culinary tour to experience this unique cuisine and learn how to make some of its staple dishes in your own kitchen. On our Japan Culinary Tour, we explore this island nation’s unique cuisine through hands-on cooking classes, a small-scale farm visit, market tour and a tasting walk of Osaka, recently named one of the top places to visit in 2017 by New York Times. You will learn how to prepare authentic dishes and enjoy Japanese culinary experiences such as: Preparing soba noodles from scratch; Cooking a seasonal farm-to-table lunch on a family-run Japanese farm; Learning the “way of tea” in a traditional tea ceremony; Street food tour of Osaka; Dining on fresh seafood straight from the net

9-Day Culinary Tour

From bustling Tokyo to terraced rice fields, the famous street foods of Osaka and an authentic tea ceremony, explore the fusion of Japan’s ancient traditions and modern society.
Journey across Japan as you learn to craft traditional culinary delights and explore ancient culture through cuisine. Wander in verdant bamboo forests, witness lively fish markets, and roll up your sleeves with a small group of like-minded travelers to participate in local cooking experiences.

Exceptional Experience

  • Two Japanese cooking classes: soba noodles and cook a hearty farm-to-table meal
  • Dine on fresh seafood straight from the fisherman’s net, on the Kii Peninsula
  • Sample the renowned street food of Osaka
  • Explore Kyoto’s Nishiki Market on a tasting tour
  • Take part in an ancient tea ceremony
  • Enjoy a traditional Buddhist vegetarian lunch at Tenryuji temple
  • Explore ancient temples & shrines
  • Experience traditional Japanese inns and natural hot springs

From the moment you arrive in Japan, you are struck by the refined balance of a modern society rooted in centuries-old traditions. The ornate carvings of ancient shrines are illuminated by the glow of city lights; the brightly-colored fashions of Harajuku are contrasted by the elegance of traditional silk kimonos; and the sparse serenity of zen gardens provide a respite from bustling cities. Explore Japan’s culture through its cuisine and discover its vast treasures on our Japan food tour.

Bask in the verdant green of surrounding forests as you soak in geothermal hot springs. Join masters of age-old traditions as they share their ancient rituals. Tantalize your taste buds with world-renowned Japanese food that is just as beautiful to behold as it is exquisite to eat.

Journey from bustling Tokyo to historic Kyoto. Along the way, discover the timeless villages and sacred pilgrimage routes of the Kii Peninsula, sample the delectable street food of Osaka, take part in a tea ceremony, cook a farm-to-table meal, and make meaningful connections with the kind and intriguing people of this island nation.

Day 1: Our Culinary Tour Begin in Tokyo

Our Japan culinary tour begin as you are met at the airport and taken to Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital where we find its modern core. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner together.

Drive time: Approximately 1-2 hours (depending on your arrival airport)
Meals included: Dinner

Day 2: Discover Traditional Tokyo

This morning we will set out on a sightseeing tour of traditional Tokyo. Starting in Asakusa, we will wander along the narrow streets of this historic district. We will take in the impressive sight of Senso-ji, a large Buddhist temple with a five-story pagoda, dating originally from the 7th century and rebuilt after its destruction during World War II. Afterward, we stroll along the Nakamise-dori, a pedestrian street lined with shops selling a variety of Japanese arts, crafts, and souvenirs. This walk ushers us to the Kaminari-mon, the stunning entrance gate to the temple.

We’ll then walk just west of Asakusa to Kappabashi, an area famous for its wide variety of crafts and wares. Here, we will appreciate – and perhaps, purchase! – the kitchenwares, including knives, noren (shop curtains), tableware, and another, more unusual craft: plastic food replicas. These recreations of sushi, hamburgers, rice, miso soup, and ice creams are amazingly realistic and are ubiquitous in the front windows of many of the country’s restaurants. In the late afternoon, we will learn how to make soba from scratch and enjoy a dinner made from the results.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: Explore Modern Tokyo

Today, as a counterpart to our visit of traditional Tokyo, we will explore her busy, modern side. We begin with a visit to Meiji Jingu, a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Many Shinto ceremonies are held in its tranquil grounds. After a calming respite in this serene environment, we will take a short walk to the lively Harajuku district. This neighborhood is known for its colorful styles and creativity. Shopping and picture-taking opportunities abound!

From here we will continue on to the Omotesando district, a beautiful tree-lined avenue sometimes referred to as the Champs-Elysees of Tokyo. In the afternoon we venture to Shinjuku, a neighborhood of Tokyo known for its humming energy. Here, we will visit the observation gallery of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The view will give you an appreciation for the vast size of Tokyo with its views above the metropolis.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 4: Journey to the Kii Peninsula

This morning our Japan culinary tour continues as we bid farewell to Tokyo and head to the Kii Peninsula. We’ll send our main luggage on ahead to Kyoto and will travel with an overnight bag with essentials for the next two nights. This allows us to travel hands-free by bullet train, or shinkansen, to Shingu. In Shingu, we will visit Hayatama Taisha, a shrine of the UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage route of the Kumano Kodo. The Kii Peninsula is the site of a centuries-old route of pilgrimage – one of just two recognized UNESCO World Heritage Pilgrimage Routes. Then, we continue inland by local bus to the hot springs resort of Kawayu Onsen, where we will stay in Japanese-style accommodations, soak in the hot springs, and dine on local specialties of the Kii Peninsula.

Travel Time: Approximately 6.5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Ancient Pilgrimage Route

Today we will visit another one of the shrines that forms a part of the Kumano Kodo route of pilgrimage and is key to the local shugendo faith, which holds ascetic training in the mountains as part of its core. This morning we travel by local buses and train to Nachi Taisha, one of the three shrines on this pilgrimage route, known for its picturesque setting and dramatic waterfall. We’ll dine on seafood fresh from the nets of local fishermen at lunch before continuing on to the shrine and waterfall. This evening, we return to our ryokan in Kawayu Onsen, where you may wish to have a therapeutic soak in the waters of this hot spring resort.

Travel time: Approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Travel to Kyoto

This morning, we travel by local bus and express train to Kyoto. Kyoto is considered the cultural and spiritual capital of Japan, and is renowned for its traditions, temples, festivals, and cuisine. We will visit Nishiki market to see the fish, pickles, tea, tofu, sweets and other foodstuffs on display. We continue on to discover the back lanes and traditions of Gion – a famous district for its geisha (known as a geiko in Kyoto) and the brightly attired apprentice geisha, known locally as maiko. If luck is with us, we may see one breezing into one of the local teahouses to perform for guests. Our luggage, sent from Tokyo, awaits us at the hotel.

Travel time: Approximately 5.5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7: Farm-to-Table Cooking Class & Osaka Street Food Tour

Today we travel by local train to Asuka, a town with a rich historical legacy. In addition to its colorful past, Asuka is a wonderfully picturesque destination, and visitors delight in its beautiful landscape of terraced rice fields. We will visit a small-scale farm where we learn in a true farm-to-table experience how to prepare a local dish using vegetables grown in the area. This is a highlight of our Japan culinary tour and the fruits of our labor will be our lunch today.

Afterwards, we will have some time to explore the town’s ancient monuments and rice terraces before we continue on to Osaka, which is truly the culinary sweetheart of the nation. Osaka is famous not just for its Michelin-starred restaurants, but particularly for its street food – takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and more – the food of the common man and woman. Here, it is elevated to a delicious art form. In the twilight hours, we will experience the food ourselves on a delicious Japanese street food tour. We will sample different local treats as we go, having a moveable feast for dinner. Later in the evening, we will return to Kyoto.

Travel time: Approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Cultural Treasures of Kyoto

This morning, we travel to the Northwestern Kyoto district of Arashiyama. We’ll walk through bamboo forest paths and along her back lanes dotted with temples and shrines. Our tour includes a visit to Tenryuji – considered one of the five greatest temples in Kyoto – and our guide will explain its Zen Buddhist philosophy. We will enjoy a lunch here of shojin-ryoji or traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine –the origin of the famed kaiseki dining. We then travel back to Kyoto where we will visit Nijo Castle in the afternoon and enjoy a tea ceremony where we will learn about the history associated with the ’way of tea’.

Tonight at the farewell dinner for our Japan culinary tour we dine on local Kyo-ryori or cuisine specialities of Kyoto. Kyo-banzai ryori is based on making the most of local produce and is strongly rooted in vegetables that can only be found in the Kyoto area. Tofu is another speciality of Kyoto due to the clean clear water that feeds the city from the surrounding mountain springs and rivers. At dinner, we will have the opportunity to sample various sakes from the region, which will be a wonderful way to usher our Japan culinary tour to a close.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Farewell Dinner

Day 9: End of Japan Culinary Tour

This morning, transfer to the Kansai airport for your journey home.

Travel time: Approximately 2 hours for Kansai International Airport
Meals included: Breakfast

Please note: This itinerary is designed to give you an idea of what to expect on our Japan culinary tour but is not set in stone. What we actually do on a given day is flexible and can be tailored to the interests of the group.

Note: This itinerary and package inclusions might be changed in time, subject to availability.