FROM KAISEKI TO ONSEN: CULTURE AND CUISINE IN JAPAN

Discover art in each dish, history in each building, and poetry in each cup of tea on this culinary tour of Japan

11 Days, 10 Nights     FROM JPY 380,420 / PERSON

On this culinary tour of Japan, you’ll enjoy the best of Japanese cuisine, such as kaiseki, all while being immersed in the culture, history, and art of this beguiling country. While a relaxing stay at a ryokan will reveal the artistry of a bygone era, a trek through Tokyo’s neon jungle will introduce you to Japan’s dazzling modernity.

Because hiring a private guide in Japan is often cost prohibitive, this tour offers several “guide-free” days with plenty of itinerary ideas to explore at your own pace. We also offer optional tours and activities to customize your trip.

In Tokyo, we’ll explore Tsukiji Fish Market—a sushi lover’s mecca. Enjoy a stroll through the private garden of a former Edo lord and sip a bowl of matcha, Japanese green tea, before taking a river cruise to Tokyo’s “old town,” where you’ll taste the region’s famous tempura. Then, it’s on to Takayama, nestled among the peaks of the Japanese Alps. Here, the Hida beef is second only to Kobe beef, and this small mountain village boasts some delicious regional dishes, as well as a beautiful natural setting to explore the laid-back side of Japan. Soak in an onsen (hot spring) and enjoy the beauty of your ryokan (Japanese-style inn).

In Kyoto, a guided tour will introduce you to many of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From Nijo Castle to Kinkakuji, these buildings are a testament to Japan’s proud history and samurai culture. Optional activities will help you maximize your time in Kyoto before moving on to fun-loving and friendly Osaka, where you’ll wrap up your culinary tour of Japan with visits to some of the country’s most famous restaurants. Your culinary journey will end at Kansai International Airport with mouthwatering memories.

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“Japan truly is a feast for the senses. Not only is the food here always delicious, but the culture and art are so unique, and you can feel the pride people take in their traditions.”

Matthias, Backyard Travel Japan Specialist

UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCES

Visit Tsukiji Fish Market, the sushi lover’s mecca
Relax at a Takayama ryokan with traditional décor and an onsen
Enjoy a Sumida River boat cruise to view Tokyo from a lesser-seen perspective
Opt to taste sake, cycle, or cook in the historical city of Kyoto

Daily Itinerary

FROM KAISEKI TO ONSEN: CULTURE AND CUISINE IN JAPAN

  • Daily Itinerary
  • Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo

    Welcome to your tour of Japan, where we’ll dabble in both the cultural and culinary! Upon arrival at Narita or Haneda Airport, a representative will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. Travel times from each airport differ. Expect 90 minutes of travel if coming from Narita or 50 minutes if coming from Haneda.

    The rest of the day is free to relax and spend at your leisure.

    Overnight in Tokyo.

    Meals included on this day: None

    tokyo by night, one of the highlights of a japan honeymoon tour - Backyard Travel
  • Day 2: Tokyo

    Your first culinary adventure in Japan begins early this morning. Your guide will pick you up at your hotel to take you on a full-day tour of Tokyo’s markets, temples, and mouthwatering local restaurants. First up is Tsukiji Fish Market, which handles over 2,000 tons of marine products each day, making it one of the largest fish markets in the world. After exploring the outer markets, you’ll stop at one of the local restaurants for a sushi breakfast.

    From the market, we’ll head to the serene Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo period lord. After strolling around the garden, we’ll take a break at Nakajima No Ochaya, an elegant teahouse located over a pond in the garden. Here, you’ll have the chance to taste matcha, or Japanese powdered green tea, paired with a Japanese sweet.

    Next, it’s time to see Tokyo from a different angle. A boat cruise along Sumida River will take you to Asakusa in Tokyo’s shitamachi, or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also home to Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The nearby streets are crammed with traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs and are a delight to wander through. Asakusa is also famous for tempura—we’ll stop by one of the area’s local restaurants for a set course lunch.

    From Asakusa, a short walk will take you to Kappabashi, also known as “Kitchenware Town.” Lined with dozens of stores selling everything that restaurateurs need, you’ll find specialized stores for dishes, pots, pans, cooking utensils, stoves, tables, chairs, signs, lanterns, and much more—even the plastic food models that you see at restaurants!

    The last stop for the day is Ueno’s Ameyoko-cho, a busy market street beneath the train lines. Formerly the site of a black market after World War II, this bustling market is now filled with shops and stalls selling products such as fresh fish, dried food, and spices. It’s a great place to try some local snacks.

    Overnight in Tokyo.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and lunch.

    hoghlights of japan: a japanese customer inspects frozen tuna at the Tuna Auction Area at Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japanhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image14436391tokyo-asakusa-japan_2.jpgbusy crosswalk in Tokyo, Japan
  • Day 3: Tokyo

    Today begins with a hands-on culinary experience. You’ll head to a cooking studio located in Tokyo’s Tsukiji area for your soba-making lesson. For vegetarians, vegans, and those who prefer a healthy lifestyle, learning how to make buckwheat noodles—Japan’s famous soba—is a great opportunity.

    This 4-hour activity will begin with a short demonstration by an expert soba maker. Then, you’ll learn through hands-on instruction how to prepare the wheat, how to work the dough, and how to cut the dough into precise, 1.6-millimeter-thick noodles.

    At the end of the lesson, cook your soba and dine with your teacher and the rest of the class in tachi-gui style, which means “eating while standing up” (the activity ends at the venue).

    Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at your leisure. Feel free to relax at your hotel or explore the bustling streets of Shibuya, the fashion mecca of Harajuku, or any of Tokyo’s atmospheric neighborhoods at your own pace.

    Soba lesson starting times: 10:30 or 11:30

    OPTIONAL EVENING ACTIVITY: Tokyo Street Food Tour

    Tokyo offers one of the most varied and complete food experiences one can possibly wish for. From street food vendors and tiny Japanese-style taverns to high-end Michelin-starred restaurants, and from a spectrum of Japanese cuisine to Western and exotic restaurants, this city allows visitors to experience the best of the culinary arts.

    Our 3.5-hour tour will take you inside the lively street food scene of Tokyo: an exciting trip through some of the hidden gems that can only be found with the help of a local. Your local, English-speaking food expert will take you to tiny izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and traditional restaurants and bars tucked down the city’s narrow streets. With their distinctive atmosphere, these are the heart of the traditional Japanese entertainment districts.

    Overnight in Tokyo.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and lunch.

    japan culinary tour, cuisine okonomiyaki - backyard traveljapan culinary tour - soba noodles with sauce - Backyard Travel
  • Day 4: Tokyo – Takayama

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Today, your culinary tour of Japan takes you on a 4-hour journey to Takayama, a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture. The first leg of your trip is via the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train), which can reach speeds of up to 260 kilometers per hour. The second leg is via the limited express train “Hida Wide View,” which offers one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary: We recommend going for a stroll through Takayama’s shitamachi (old town), where the streets are lined with sake breweries, old merchants’ homes, and local stores. Visit a brewery and taste a local sake, go to the famous restaurant that sells Hida beef sushi, or stop by one of the cafés for some afternoon tea.

    While in Takayama, you will be staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with zaisu (no-leg chairs), a low table, shoji (sliding doors), and tatami flooring.

    Overnight in a Takayama ryokan.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

    http://www.dreamstime.com/-image16405575geisha in a ryokan, the japanese traditional innjapanese alps tour - typical japan moutain wooden houses
  • Day 5: Takayama

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Suggested self-guided itinerary: Takayama’s kaleidoscopic morning markets are some of this region’s most fascinating places. This morning after breakfast, how about a meander through the Miyagawa Morning Market? Vendors gather here to sell their handmade crafts and local produce (depending on the season, the markets open as early as 6:00). This is the perfect place to purchase some souvenirs, such as chopsticks, ichii itto-bori (wood carvings), and the iconic sarubobo, a regional Japanese amulet.

    A short walk from the morning market will take you to Takayama Jinya, also known as the Historical Government House, the only surviving government office building from the Edo period. Now it serves as a museum, featuring some well-preserved meeting and conference rooms, a collection of century-old artifacts and office supplies, and the adjacent 400-year-old rice storage room.

    Afterwards, you can go to the Takayama Festival Floats Museum to see the colorful floats that are paraded during the famous Takayama Festivals in spring and in autumn.

    OPTIONAL TOUR 1: Food & Culture Walk

    You’re welcome to choose this tour as an alternative to the self-guided tour of Takayama. Led by a knowledgeable guide, this tour explores some of Takayama’s unique food shops. Learn about the town’s colorful history and familiarize your taste buds with some of the local delicacies. The walking tour includes visits to a tofu seller, a rakugan (traditional Japanese candy) shop, and even a sake brewery (some shops may be closed on certain days). Food and sake tastings are also included.

    Make your way to the designated meeting place at 9:30 am (comprehensive directions will be provided), which will also be the end point after the tour. The tour will last roughly 2.5 hours.

    OPTIONAL TOUR 2: Afternoon Trip to Shirakawago

    Around noon, you can catch the bus headed for Shirakawago, the region in Toyama Prefecture famous for its UNESCO World Heritage gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer,” because the steep thatched roofs of the farmhouses resemble the praying hands of Buddhist monks. The architectural style developed over many generations and some of the houses are more than 250 years old. The roofs, which were constructed without any nails, are intricately designed to withstand heavy snow in winter. The large attics were used to cultivate silkworms.

    Stroll through the main area in Shirakawago and visit a few farmhouses like the Wada House, a legacy left behind by the Wada Family, one of the richest families and village leaders in Ogimachi. Their status in the community was well represented by the size of their house as it was, and still is, the largest gassho-zukuri farmhouse in the village. What’s interesting about this house is that no nails were used; only ropes hold everything together. Inside you will find a number of antiques such as silkworm installations, looms, and irori, the traditional sunken hearth used for heating and cooking.

    Return to Takayama for another night in your ryokan.

    Please note: Round-trip bus tickets from Takayama to Shirakawago (roughly a 50-minute journey) must be booked in advance (supplementary charges apply).

    Overnight in a Takayama ryokan.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

  • Day 6: Takayama – Kyoto

    Today is a self-guided day. Take one last soak in the onsen before starting the 3-hour train journey to Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto. Kyoto is home to around 2,000 shrines and temples, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    Upon arrival, the rest of the day is free to spend at your leisure.

    Overnight in Kyoto.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

    Ryokan: the Onsen in a traditional japanese inn and guesthouseonsen in hakone, perfect for a honeymoon in japan - backyard travelKyoto, Japan,  A geisha in traditional kimono walking in Gion Kyoto at night.
  • Day 7: Kyoto

    Today you’ll explore the former imperial capital with a knowledgeable local guide, utilizing Kyoto’s comprehensive bus system to visit some of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites.

    You’ll start your 8-hour tour when your guide picks you up at your hotel at 9:00am. First up is a visit to Nijo Castle. This ornamental castle was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning gardens. The main building was completed in 1603 and is famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and “chirping nightingale floors.”

    Continue on to Ryoan-ji Temple, the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden. Originally serving as an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period, the site was later converted into a Zen Buddhist temple in 1450.

    After lunch, you’ll visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, or the Golden Pavilion, which was originally built as a retirement villa for the shogun. After his death, it became a Buddhist temple at his request and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples.

    Next on the list is Kiyomizu-dera, or “Pure Water Temple.” From the 13-meter-high veranda jutting out from the main hall, you can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto while pondering the fact that both the main hall and the veranda were built without the use of nails.

    Before the tour ends, stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama district, where busy lanes lead up to Kiyomizu and are filled with quaint shops selling Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, and pickles.

    Please note: Kiyomizu Temple is currently undergoing partial renovations.

    Overnight in Kyoto.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and lunch

    Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion Zen temple Kyoto japan art tourGeisha woman in Kyoto that you can see on a japan luxury tour
  • Day 8: Kyoto

    Today, your Japan culinary tour gives you the opportunity to explore the foods and flavors of traditional Kyoto. After breakfast, enjoy a morning at your leisure. Then, in the afternoon, a walking tour through Kyoto’s most famous food market will be followed by a hands-on cooking class.

    You’ll meet your local guide at a designated time and place in the widely renowned Nishiki Market. From here, embark on a tour that will delight the senses!

    Nishiki Market comprises a mile-long, covered promenade lined on both sides with lively vendors. You’ll see fresh produce, seafood on ice, local dishes and tasty samples as well as souvenir shops. Your guide will show you a variety of Kyoto’s unique, regional ingredients and have you sample a few delicacies before you continue on to the venue of the cooking class.

    At your cooking class, the instructor will show you the proper way to make rolled sushi, as well as miso soup and a side salad. For dessert, learn how to plate some of Japan’s best seasonal fruit. After you’re done learning these culinary tips and tricks, sit down to eat your creations with your teacher and the rest of the group.

    Overnight in Kyoto.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

    discover japanese cook in ramen restaurant during a kanazawa tour with Backyard Travelkyoto-kimono-japan_15.jpg
  • Day 9: Kyoto – Koyasan

    Wave goodbye to Kyoto today as you make your way to Koyasan, the sacred mountain and center of Shingon Buddhism for over 1,200 years. Home to more than 100 temples, Koyasan and its surroundings has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    You’ll travel from Kyoto to Koyasan by train, meeting your local guide at Koyasan Station. The final leg of the journey is sure to be a highlight of the visit: you’ll make your final ascent via a cable car that winds its way up the mountain slopes, providing one of Japan’s most scenic journeys. Led by your guide, spend the afternoon exploring some of Koyasan’s most culturally significant sites and gaining deep insights into Japanese Buddhism.

    Visit Kongobuji, the Shingon sect’s head temple. Kongobuji is also home to Japan’s largest rock garden. Continue on to Japan’s largest cemetery, known as Okuno-in. Here, you’ll find the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. The approach to Okuno-in begins from Ichino Hashi Bridge and stretches for 2 kilometers. The area provides a tranquil setting for more than 200,000 tombstones, many of which belong to feudal lords, prominent monks, and even acclaimed Japanese companies. At the end of the trail, you’ll find Gokusho Offering Hall, Torodo Hall of Lanterns, and Kobo Daishi’s Mausoleum.

    After the walking tour, your guide will transfer you to the shukubo (temple accommodations), where you’ll dine on famed Buddhist cuisine.

    Overnight at Koyasan

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

  • Day 10: Koyasan – Osaka

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Suggested self-guided itinerary: To complete your spiritual experience at Koyasan, we highly recommend joining the Morning Prayer, which starts at around 06:00. In the tranquil prayer hall, you’ll be immersed in the chanting of the monks—a truly otherworldly experience. (All prayers are in Japanese but some priests may provide a simple English explanation at the end of the prayer.)

    After the prayer concludes, head to the temple’s dining room for a shojin ryori breakfast.

    Spend the rest of the morning at your leisure until it’s time to depart by train for Osaka. Feel free to explore Koyasan further at your own pace.

    Overnight in Osaka

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

    Pagoda in Koya San, Japan
  • Day 11: Osaka

    Welcome to Osaka! This vibrant, lively city is known throughout the nation for its flamboyance, fun-loving people and amazing regional food. Spend the morning at your leisure.

    In the afternoon, you’ll head out on a walking tour of Osaka led by an expert guide. Make your way through Osaka’s most vibrant shopping and dining districts, starting from the famed Doguyasuji neighborhood. This unique market sells anything and everything related to food, from pots and pans and other kitchenware to the quirky plastic food models used widely by restaurants.

    Your tour continues to Sennichimae, a narrow alley lined with excellent eateries serving all manner of popular Osakan dishes. Takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and the famed fugu (blowfish) are all on offer, among other bites. Sennichimae is also home to several game centers and the Namba Grand Kagetsu Theater. The theater is renowned as the headquarters of a national comedy brand.

    Before reaching the end of Sennichimae, duck left down one of the little lanes to visit Hozen-ji. This tiny village temple is dedicated to one of the Five Deities of Wisdom. After making an offering of coins to the statue of the deity, worshippers splash water on the statue and say a silent prayer.

    Just beyond the temple grounds and near the modest but culturally significant Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum is Hozenji Yokocho, a tiny lane filled with expensive restaurants.

    From here, you’ll continue on to Dotonbori, a lively restaurant mecca that once hosted Osaka’s pleasure district. Wander past the atmospheric shops and you’ll next find yourself in the flashy Ebisubashi neighborhood, which is popular with tourists. Here, you’ll find the gigantic billboard of the Glico Running Man and an expansive view of the Dotonbori River.

    Overnight in Osaka

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast.

    shino-shine-good-luck-message-japan_3.jpg
  • Day 12: Departure from Osaka

    The last day of your cultural and culinary tour of Japan is free to spend at your leisure until your scheduled transfer via train or airport shuttle to Kansai International Airport.

    Please note: Most transfers back to Kansai International Airport take roughly 1 hour.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast.

    http://www.dreamstime.com/-image20088981

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

Local vietnamese woman

Tour Details

This Japan culinary tour can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

icon Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles, where mentioned
Service of English speaking guides in every location, where mentioned
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

icon Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)



Talk to us about Your Holiday

Our advantage lies in having local expertise to create unique, bespoke tours. Whether you’re looking to cruise down Asia’s tranquil rivers, bike the peaceful rural roads, or eat at bustling night markets, Backyard Travel’s in-country Travel Specialists can plan your ideal trip. Send us a message about your ideas, and we'll send you our best suggestions.


 

 

 

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We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.

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What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
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Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.