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Japan Culinary Tour Itinerary

 

Day 1: Japan Culinary Tour Begins

You will be 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 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, 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. 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 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 our farewell dinner 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, we have included a shared taxi transfer to the Kansai or Itami airport for your journey home.

Travel time: Approximately 1.5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast