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 Japan culinary tour

11 Days, 10 Nights     FROM JPY 243,912 PER PERS

On this Japan culinary tour, 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. You’ll enjoy a stroll through the private garden of a former Edo lord and sip a bowl of matcha, Japanese green tea. A river cruise will reveal Japan’s capital from a different angle, and a trip to Tokyo’s “old town” will give you a taste of the region’s famous tempura. You might also opt to learn how to make soba or join a family-friendly cooking class.

Next, it’s on to Takayama, an important stop on any culinary tour of Japan. The Hida beef here is second only to Kobe beef, and this small town in the Japanese Alps 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 this historical 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 cycling, cooking, and family-friendly activities will help you maximize your time in this gem of a city. Then, it’s 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 of Japan will end from Kansai International Airport with mouthwatering memories.

 

“The Japan culinary tour 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.”

Tuck Sernkhun, 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 angle
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 japan - 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 is a self-guided day. Enjoy a full day at your leisure or join one of these activities that promise to make a gourmet’s heart beat faster.

    OPTIONAL TOUR 1: 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 the numerous dishes of Japanese cuisine to Western and exotic restaurants, this city allows visitors to experience the best of it all.

    This 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, wandering around the city’s narrow streets. Your local, English-speaking food expert will take you to tiny izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and small traditional restaurants and bars. With their distinctive atmosphere these are the heart of the traditional Japanese entertainment districts.

    OPTIONAL TOUR 2: Tsukiji Soba-Making Lesson: For vegetarians, vegans, and those who prefer a healthy lifestyle, taking a class in making buckwheat noodles—Japan’s famous soba—is highly recommended.

    This 4-hour activity will begin with a short demonstration by a sobatician. Then, you will learn with hands-on instruction how to prepare the wheat mixture, the proper way to work on the dough, and the precise way to cut it into 1.6-millimeter-thick noodles.

    At the end of the lesson, you’ll 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).

    Starting times: 10:30, 11:30, 13:30, 15:00 or 18:30

    OPTIONAL TOUR 3: Private Japanese Cooking Class: For the more family oriented, why not join a Japanese cooking class? Japanese cuisine (or washoku) has been enjoying growing popularity around the world in recent years. Although influenced by other culinary traditions during its long history, washoku has always kept its own distinctive traits, making it profoundly different from all other cooking styles in Asia. The traditional use of ingredients, food presentation, and cooking techniques are part of Japan’s unique cultural history. Washoku is even listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

    Although Japanese restaurants around the world have become a common sight, many of these lack authenticity, as they combine washoku with local culinary traditions. Therefore, we urge you not to miss this unique chance to take a private cooking class during your stay in Tokyo. There’s no place like Japan to witness and learn the basics of the art of washoku. Classes start at 11:00 or 18:00 and last 2 to 2.5 hours.

    Overnight in Tokyo.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast.

    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.

    For dinner, you will have a traditional kaiseki ryori (multi-course) meal that features the local produce that includes fresh vegetables, seafood, and Hida beef, which is second only to Kobe beef in terms of taste and quality.

    A soak in the onsen (hot spring) is recommended before you turn in, as it will help you relax after a long day of traveling and sightseeing.

    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-Guide Itinerary: Some of the most visited places in Takayama are the morning markets. This morning after breakfast, we recommend going to the Miyagawa Morning Market where vendors 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 *This can be an alternative to the self-guided tour in Takayama.

    Explore some of the food shops in Takayama with a knowledgeable guide. Learn about the town’s colorful history and familiarize your taste buds with some of the local delicacies. Your 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 (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.

    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 9:00. 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 is a self-guided day.

    Enjoy a free day at your leisure or take part in these truly unique experiences.

    OPTIONAL TOUR 1: Kyoto Cooking Class, Sake-Tasting and Nishiki Market Walking Tour. This 3.5-hour tour with cooking class gives you a different view of Kyoto while also showing you the key ingredients and flavors that make up Japanese cuisine. Starting at 14:30, you’ll be taken on a guided walking tour of the mile-long Nishiki covered food markets. You’ll explore many interesting shops as you help your guide buy the ingredients for your Japanese cooking class. This is a great opportunity to learn about local Japanese produce. After visiting the markets, travel through the back streets and lanes of Kyoto and visit a former sake brewery for a tour with sake-tasting.

    OPTIONAL TOUR 2: Character Bento Making in Kyoto: Are you traveling with children? Your whole family will enjoy learning how to make a traditional Japanese bento box with a twist! Chara-ben (kyaraben) is the shortened term for “character bento,” which is a style of preparing lunch boxes with food decorated to look like cartoon characters, icons, and sometimes even famous people. And, for a touch of historical significance, your 3-hour lesson conducted by a local Japanese teacher will take place in a machiya, a traditional Japanese wooden townhouse located in Central Kyoto. Make your way there at 10:00, then take your bento box home as a souvenir of today’s experience!

    OPTIONAL TOUR 3: Kyoto Cycling and Cooking

    If you are more of an active traveler, you’re sure to enjoy a cycling and cooking tour through Kyoto. You’ll begin this 5-hour activity at 10:00. A leisurely ride into the center of Kyoto will bring you to the local market surrounded by narrow shopping streets lined with more than 100 shops. Check out the fresh seafood and vegetables, pickles, Japanese sweets, and sushi on offer.

    After buying your ingredients for today’s lunch, it’s off to a local machiya, a traditional wooden townhouse used by Kyoto’s merchants, to prepare your lunch. The total distance of the cycling portion of this tour is 15 kilometers.

    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 – Osaka

    Today is a self-guided day.

    The rest of the morning is free to further explore Kyoto before taking the 1-hour train ride to Osaka, Japan’s Kitchen Capital. Osaka is world famous for its flamboyance, fun-loving people, and amazing food.

    Overnight in Osaka.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast.

    tour kanazawa and see Girls in Japanese Kimono looking at the river, Japan
  • Day 10: Osaka

    The morning is free to spend at your leisure.

    At 16:00, your guide will take you on a half-day tour to explore the popular street food of Osaka.

    First, you’ll head to Doguyasuji shopping arcade, a unique market where you can find anything related to the food industry, including the plastic food models you find outside Japanese restaurants.

    After seeing so much food, you’ll probably be ready for some snacks. Your next stop will be in Dotonbori, a restaurant mecca that has long been known as Osaka’s former “pleasure district.” Here you’ll see a wide array of food stalls and restaurants—you can choose to have either an order of takoyaki (octopus balls) or okonomiyaki (“Japanese pancake” with cabbage, pork, ginger, nori, and a special sauce).

    While in Dotonbori, you may want to take some time to pose in front of Kani Doraku, the huge crab with moving legs, or stand on Ebisubashi with a neon billboard of the running Glico man as your backdrop. After taking some photos, you’ll continue your tour, passing by Hozenji Yokocho, an area with narrow alleys packed with more than 60 traditional restaurants and izakaya (traditional Japanese pubs). At the end of one of these alleys, you will find Hozenji Temple, where worshippers splash water on the statue of the patron deity instead of tossing coins.

    Next, you’ll board a train for Shinsekai, a small, old town in the Tennoji area that was designed after New York and Paris. It’s still one of the favorite places in Osaka for food lovers. First, you’ll head to Tsutenkaku, the tower modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris and one of Osaka’s top icons. The tower is famous for its seasonal lights, which even forecasts the weather of the following day with color coding! Go to the fifth floor where you will find not only the observatory but also a replica of the statue of Billiken, the god of happiness.

    Now it’s time to discover the delicious wonders of Shinsekai. For dinner, we recommend kushikatsu, a skewer of meat and vegetables dipped in batter, rolled on bread crumbs, and then deep fried. Your guide can also give other suggestions and will be happy to show you to the restaurant of your choice.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and Dinner.

    http://www.dreamstime.com/-image4088243
  • Day 11: 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.

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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
Service of English speaking guides in every location
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.


 

 

 

Why Backyard Travel?


Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.

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

With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

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