Japan's Culinary Heritage

Japan's Culinary Heritage

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11 Days From

$4770

Japan's Culinary Heritage

11 Days Starting in Tokyo, Japan and ending in Kyoto, Japan

Visiting: Tokyo, Kanazawa, Gokayama, Shirakawa, Takayama, Hida-Furukawa Station, Osaka, Sakai, Awaji Island, Uji, Kyoto

Tour operator:

Oku Japan

Tour code:

107

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 13

Physical rating:

Low, All Ages / Not applicable

Age range:

18-80

Special diets catered:

contact us

Tour operated in:
English
Activities:

Sightseeing, Walking

From:
$4770

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NB: Prices correct on 23-May-2024 but subject to change.

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Tour Overview

Small-group guided food tour through Japan's best-kept culinary traditions. On this culinary adventure, you’ll experience how food is the most insightful way to uncover Japan’s history and culture. Our adventure starts in Tokyo and takes us to the local food market in Kanazawa, then hunting wild plants in Gokayama. Next, we travel to Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage Site, and Takayama, where a local community will host us in an old Kominka house. Here we learn about Okudo-san (earth oven) cooking and Furukawa’s speciality “Miso Senbei” crackers. In Sakai-City in Osaka, an area made famous by its steelwork, we learn about the art of Japanese knives and the forges that make them. We visit a fishing port on Awaji Island before heading to Uji where we learn more about Japan's unique tea culture and the origin of "sencha" tea. Our tour ends in Kyoto where we experience making tofu and participate in a traditional tea ceremony before saying our goodbyes at the farewell dinner.

Highlights

  • Visit Kanazawa's local food market which has attracted residents and visitors for almost 300 years

  • Learn the art of earth-oven cooking in Hida-Furukawa and make Miso Senbei in a traditional shop

  • Visit Awaji island to learn about its seafood culture and enjoy a beach lunch with a local food-designer chef

  • Hunt for wild vegetables (Sansai) with a Sansai expert and learn traditional cooking methods with the Gokayama community

  • Get hands on with history during a visit to Sakai-City, famous for high-quality Japanese kitchen knives

  • Learn more about tea culture in Uji and experience making tofu in Kyoto

Itinerary

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Day 1 : Arrive Tokyo

Location: Tokyo

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Shiba Park Hotel

Meals Included: Dinner

Meet your guide and the other group members at the tour hotel in central Tokyo in the evening. We head out into the city's lively streets for a Robatayaki dinner. This traditional Japanese cooking style fire-grills ingredients at varying speeds over hot charcoal.

Day 2 : Travel To Kanazawa

Location: Kanazawa

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: ANA Crowne Plaza Kanazawa

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

We catch the train for Kanazawa on the Japan Sea coast. As the seat of the powerful Maeda Clan during the Edo Period, Kanazawa had a grand castle and was a city of great cultural accomplishments, including a refined and sophisticated local cuisine. Lunch is at leisure in the Higashichaya district before visiting the local food market Oomi Ichiba, “Kanazawa's kitchen pantry”, with a local chef. The market has attracted residents and visitors for centuries. In the evening we have a cooking class in a traditional Japanese-style residence using our locally purchased ingredients, and transform them into delicious dishes with the help of a professional.

Day 3 : Foraging Experience In Gokayama

Location: Gokayama

Accommodation: Minshuku (small Japanese family run inn)

Accommodation Name: Nakaya, Goyomon, Yomoshiro or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we travel by private motorcoach from Kanazawa to Gokayama, a World Heritage Site with distinctive Gassho-zukuri farmhouses sporting triangular thatched roofs which are unique to this part of Japan. Located in a mountainous region isolated from the rest of the country for centuries, villagers still follow traditional lifestyles, gathering and preserving Sansai (wild plants) and growing their own vegetables and mushrooms. We join a local plant hunter to explore the surrounding mountains and harvest seasonal wild delicacies. We visit the home of local resident Mr. Nakanishi, who grows a special variety of rice for brewing Sake. Tasting home-brewed Sake, called Doburoku, is an unparalleled experience and to complement the Sake, villagers will show us how to cook our finds from the mountains to produce delicious local dishes.

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 : Shirakawa-Go And Takayama

Location: Shirakawa, Takayama

Accommodation: Ryokan

Accommodation Name: Asunaro, Hoshokaku, or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

After a traditional Japanese breakfast, we depart by highway bus to visit nearby Shirakawa-go which has its own impressive collection of Gassho-zukuri houses and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. After lunch in Shirakawa-go, we continue onwards to Takayama nestled in the mountainous Hida region. Takayama boasts a beautifully preserved old town and a unique culture. It has retained much traditional architecture and is known for its crafts, particularly yew carving, Shunkei lacquerware, pottery, and furniture.

This evening, sit down to a multi-course Kaiseki dinner at our family-run Ryokan. Kaiseki cuisine is the ultimate style of Japanese food, and both the preparation methods and appearance are refined. Imbuing dishes with a seasonal feel and bringing out the natural flavours of the ingredients are key elements. Only seasonal ingredients passing intense scrutiny are used for the menu. But sometimes ingredients called “Hashiri” that have been harvested before their seasons are included as treasured items. Each individual dish is a small portion, but colours, combinations, and presentation of ingredients, together with tableware, all express the aesthetics of Japanese culture.

Day 5 : Classic Earth Oven Cooking Experience In Hida Furukawa

Location: Hida-Furukawa Station

Accommodation: Ryokan

Accommodation Name: Asunaro, Hoshokaku, or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Today, we take a short train ride to Hida Furukawa, a beautifully-preserved old town with distinctive white-walled storehouses retaining the atmosphere of the Edo Period.

Entering one of the oldest Machiya traditional residences, a local grandmother will show us the technique of cooking in a classic earth oven known as an "Okudo-san" which is rarely used in modern times. After lunch, we head to a sweet shop that has been making Furukawa’s specialty “Miso Senbei” crackers for more than 100 years using the famous "Hida Miso". There will be free time to stroll the town of Takayama and the chance to dine out at one of the local restaurants.

Day 6 : Travel From Takayama To Osaka

Location: Osaka

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Monterey Grasmere

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

We board our train in Takayama with Ekiben lunch box for Osaka. Osaka was historically known as “the Tenka no daidokoro” (the nation’s kitchen), famous not just for its Michelin starred restaurants, but particularly for its street food – takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and more – the food of the common man. For dinner, we will visit a hidden house in the downtown of Namba, owned by a unique Sake specialty shop. The shop owner has fallen in love with Sake and is dedicated to fulfilling the intentions of Sake brewers for over 30 years, and has been interacting with Sake aficionados with the same level of enthusiasm with over 10,000 bottles of Sake collections, all of which are from local specialty brewers. The term "Sakana" traditionally refer to food served to accompany Sake as originated from the word Saka (Sake) and Na (food). Special delicacies which pair well with selected Sake are served for today's dinner.

Day 7 : Sharpen Your Knowledge Of Japanese Cutlery

Location: Sakai

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Monterey Grasmere

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning we travel by local train to Sakai City, once known for the production of Samurai swords but now revered for its kitchen knives. We make our way on foot to a local smith where we will see the forging process of Japanese knives up close. As you come into close contact with embers and sparks, the craftsmen will show you all the steps needed to fold steel and sharpen edges. You will learn how to sharpen and maintain a Japanese knife and purchase your own cutting-edge souvenir should you wish.

In the evening we return to Osaka; dinner is at leisure.

Day 8 : Awaji Island Foodscape Experience

Location: Awaji Island

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Yumekaiyu

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Awaji is known as the birthplace of the Japanese archipelago when the gods Izanagi and Izanami first created an island here. Awaji has long been known as a Miketsukuni (a place of food production for emperors). We visit a fish auction at a port and a local producer of the classic. We rendezvous on the coast for the ultimate beach lunch experience. If the weather is unkind, we will eat our delicious meal at a former primary school, now renovated as a lovely artistic café. Our chef today is a real artist and prepares what he calls a “Foodscape” (a food landscape). Using locally harvested ingredients, he uses his inspiration to create a natural landscape that will delight all your senses. Our accommodation tonight is a beachside property on Awaji Island and in the evening, we browse the port's backstreets and enjoy the drinking culture of Awaji Island. Dinner is at your leisure.

Day 9 : Travel To Kyoto, Uji Tawara Tea Tasting

Location: Uji, Kyoto

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo

Meals Included: Breakfast

We travel back from Awaji island in the afternoon by private vehicle and make a brief stop for a local lunch. After lunch, we make our way to Uji, an area that is famous internationally for its green tea. We visit a tea plantation and participate in a tea tasting to get to the depth of its real flavor and your cups. We then depart Uji for Kyoto where we will participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, wearing a kimono if you wish, in a renovated samurai residence.

Dinner is at your leisure.

Day 10 : Kyoto - Tofu Making And Nishiki Market, Farewell Dinner

Location: Kyoto

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Kyoto is renowned throughout Japan for its regional Washoku cuisine and specialities, also for the refinement and artistic presentation of Kaiseki cuisine.Kyoto, with its many temples, is also famous for its tofu, a dish closely tied to Buddhist cuisine. Today we try our hand at making traditional Kyoto-style tofu at a long-established tofu shop in Kyoto using locally sourced soy.

Later we head to the colourful Nishiki Market, a bustling covered shopping area which has a well-deserved reputation as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’. Here we find a wide variety of traditional foods and local specialty items such as seafood, pickled and dried Japanese vegetables, tea, sweets, and also ceramics. We make our way to Arashiyama where we have a traditional Buddhist vegetarian lunch with a beautiful garden scenery. After a visit to the famous Bamboo Forest, we make our way to Central Kyoto for our farewell dinner.

Day 11 : Tour Ends In Kyoto

Location: Kyoto

Meals Included: Breakfast

Our tour ends after breakfast at the hotel in Kyoto. Your guide will offer advice on your journey to the airport for your homeward flight, or on onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.

What's Included

  • Fully Guided

    Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide

  • Free Wi-Fi at Accommodation

  • Accommodation

    10 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns (Ryokan and Minshuku)

  • Meals – Full Board

    Daily breakfast & 6 dinners, 4 Lunches

  • All Domestic Transportation (including internal flights)

    All transportation between tour locations

  • Entrance Fees

    Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group's itinerary

  • Forwarding of one item of luggage

  • All cooking experiences and workshops in the tour itinerary

  • Local Taxes

What's Not Included

  • 1 bottle of Mineral Water per person per day

    Water is safe to drink in Japan.

    We recommend you bring a reusable water bottle.

  • Airport Transfers at Destination

  • Country Entry Visas

  • Drinks with Meals

  • International Travel

  • Tipping and Gratuities

    Tipping is not required in restaurants or hotels in Japan.

    Guides and drivers will accept tips.

More Info

This culinary tour visits famous locations like the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto, as well as hidden rural villages and the unique culture of Awaji Island in the fabled Inland Sea, where culinary traditions have been handed down from generation to generation. Foraging for wild ingredients, harvesting the bounty of the land, cooking with emblematic figures and alongside members of local communities, this culinary adventure will show you how food is the most intimate way to uncover Japan’s history and culture.

Check out our Q&As

  • What is the maximum group size?

    13

  • Are all the relevant entry visa’s included in the price of the tour?

    No, visas are the responsibility of travelers and no refunds are offered to guests denied entry into Japan for not having correct documentation.

  • Do you require a visa for this holiday?

    Please check the entry requirements for your country before travelling to Japan. Currently, visa requirements are very fluid and are changing.

  • Are all entrance fees included in the price?

    Entrance fees for all items on your itinerary are included

  • What happens if a group doesn’t make its minimum required number of passengers?

    Please refer to our booking terms and conditions

  • What currencies are required for this tour?

    Japanese yen

  • Will there be an escort accompanying this tour?

    Yes, this is a guided tour. The guide meets you at the tour hotel on the evening of the first night and leaves you on the final night of the tour.

  • Are flights included in this tour?

    No, no flights are included on this tour. This tour is offered on a land-only basis.

  • Will I know the names and details of all the accommodation before I depart?

    Yes, we will provide you with your final itinerary in electronic form approximately 3 weeks prior to your departure. This itinerary will include directions on how to access your accommodation for the first night of your tour.

  • Will passengers from another country be participating in the tour?

    Yes, our tours often included residents of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as English speakers from other countries.

  • What is the tipping policy?

    Tipping is not required at restaurants in Japan. Guides that work with guests will accept tips.

  • What is the standard of the hotels on this tour?

    Hotel accommodations tend to be 3.4-4 star. In rural areas we use character properties that reflect the local style. Some of these may offer shared toilet and bath facilities divided by sex.

  • Is the tour coach air conditioned?

    We make limited use of a tour vehicle. We focus on travel using local transportation - bullet trains, regional trains, local trains, local buses and sometimes taxis.

  • Company Instant Book

    Please see our booking terms and conditions.

  • What is the fitness level required to do this tour?

    Tours with Oku Japan allow you to experience Japan up close and personal, utilizing local trains, buses and subways to get around. Walking around villages, towns and cities is an integral element of all our trips, so you’ll need to be active and happy to tackle stairs at train stations that may not have disabled access. You may be on your feet for much of the day.

  • Is there a limit to luggage that can be brought on the tour?

    Please note that only we include baggage delivery for one bag or suitcase per person. Extra bags may be sent subject to a charge payable locally for each transfer. The suitcase should weigh no more than 30–35 lbs. at the time of departure. Please also bring a smaller backpack style daypack for overnight essentials on nights when our luggage is in transit to our onward destinations.

  • Is there a supplement for solo travellers?

    Yes, there is a supplement for solo travellers which guarantees solo rooms in the cities. On the trail participants may be asked to share a room with another member of the group of the same gender.

  • Is free Wi-Fi available in the accommodation used?

    Where Wi-Fi is available in Japan, it is typically offered free of charge.

  • Are vaccinations required for this tour?

    Please check with your local Japanese consulate or embassy for vaccination requirements.

  • Is there any free time to explore places during the tour?

    Free time is indicated in the itinerary.

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    No

  • Can you assist with pre or post tour accommodation?

    Yes, please contact our team for rates and availability.

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes, our guides are local English-speaking guides.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    No

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    All travellers get our Preparing for your Trip and Travelling in Japan documents, as well as a detailed personalized itinerary. Those travelling on one of our self-guided tours receive our bespoke topographical maps and walking instructions.

  • Am I contributing to any charity by booking the tour?

    No

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    For our small-group guided tours, if you would like to share with another traveler we will seek to match you up. If we are successful then you need not pay the solo supplement.

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Yes.

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2005

  • Who will be my travelling companions on the tour?

    Our travellers are typically English speakers from around the world. On our small-group guided tours, you travel in the company of one of our professional local guides.

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    As per our booking terms and conditions, change fees would apply. If you have to change your dates due to the prevailing entry requirements for Japan please contact us and we would be happy to work with you to change your dates without charge.

Reviews of this operator

Jan-Christoph Daniel (Google Reviewer)  

We were hiking parts of...

24-Feb-2024

We were hiking parts of the Kumano Kodō (Kiiji & Nakahechi route) in December 2023 and booked a self-guided tour through Oku Japan. This was an excellent decision. They are reliable experts in off-the-beaten-tracks and pioneered the idea of self-guided hikes in Japan. In particular we liked that Oku Japan works with local communities, so we experienced true Japanese hospitality. A big thank you for a fantastic experience of the ancient Kumano Kodō – especially to Alessia!

Jackie Berkley (Google Reviewer)  

We absolutely loved all aspects...

05-Nov-2023

We absolutely loved all aspects of the Oku tour. We selected the self-guided Nakasendo trail 5 day tour and it was fabulous. Oku set us up for success and incredible memories. We especially appreciated their advance support and answering all of our questions.

Janna Phillips (Google Reviewer)  

We did the Ancient Capitals...

16-Nov-2023

We did the Ancient Capitals tour in November and it was fantastic! It was beautiful strolling through the countryside, forests, and farmlands. It took us to places that we would never have thought of, but enjoyed immensely. We loved chatting with locals and going on what felt like an amazing treasure hunt.

Neil Galletly (Google Reviewer)  

OKU Japan provided a memorable...

25-Apr-2024

OKU Japan provided a memorable experience for our Nakasendo Trail self guided walk in April 2024. Everything from booking to the actual walking, dining, accomodation, onsen'ing went very smoothly.

Philip Payne (Google Reviewer)  

We did a self guided...

17-Apr-2024

We did a self guided tour with Oku Japan and had an excellent time. The planning and materials provided by Oku Japan were very good and made it very easy to get around (we did not get lost at all). The accommodation was excellent (Japanese style local hotels). The meals included were truly amazing - could not ask for more. The included bookings on trains, taxis etc all worked like clock work. We were very happy with the tour and will hope to do another tour with Oku Japan in the future.

Rick Nelson (Google Reviewer)  

A very knowledgeable and helpful...

11-Dec-2023

A very knowledgeable and helpful partner in organizing some of the most beautiful hiking trips we’ve walked. We booked 3 self-guided hiking trips (Nakasendo, Shikoku, Kumano Kodo) with them, and although we were pretty late they made all of them possible. The preparation went really smooth and we. Had the feeling we we’re ready for each walk. Everything was arranged really well and they were available for support when needed. The trips were gorgeous and combined breathtaking scenery with rural towns and comforting stays. They make sure you get to experience a bit of everything. Highly recommended, we can’t wait to book our next trips. Thanks

Kari Black (Google Reviewer)  

If you are looking for...

29-Apr-2024

If you are looking for a self-guided walking tour in Japan - OKU is the resource you have been waiting for. Lovely, personal and timely communication.

Jamie Stronge (Google Reviewer)  

Absolutely brilliant trip. Seamlessly organised...

20-Jan-2024

Absolutely brilliant trip. Seamlessly organised with very clear and concise maps/instructions. Got to see a side of Japan that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Clear communication throughout and an amazingly helpful and supportive local team who helped us when we wanted to change our plans and reduce the amount of luggage we were carrying.

Meredith Woinarski (Google Reviewer)  

My recent self-guided Kumano Kodo...

24-Nov-2023

My recent self-guided Kumano Kodo hike was sensational. This is a great way to discover a quieter side of Japan and its culture. Oku Japan provided very clear instructions that included travel connections, accomodation, walking directions, maps etc in paper and digital formats which gave me confidence travelling on my own in a new country. The choice and quality of accomodation was outstanding with hosts providing superb meals. I cannot rate Oku Japan service and quality high enough. Thankyou for making my experience in Japan a memorable one.

Christopher Lavender (Google Reviewer)  

Our self guided walk on...

24-Jun-2023

Our self guided walk on the Kumano Kodo was a great success and only involved two rainy days. The directions were generally accurate (with occasional ambiguity) and the B&Bs were all adequate and in some cases much more than adequate. It was a very pleasant introduction to Japanese culture and food - most of which was delicious and beautifully presented. The Hotel in Osaka was perfectly positioned (Marriott Courtyard at Shing Osaka Station). I think the grading of the walk was quite difficult, especially the last day, with ascents and descents over 800m - as it was also pouring with rain we chose to omit that day due to the danger of slipping and injuring ourselves on the downward journey. There were also leeches - which perhaps should have been mentioned in the notes. The Urashima Hotel in Kii-Katsuura was quite bizarre - a James Bond Peninsula for mass tourism - but an amazing experience on our last night ! The Takkyubin service was superb as was the advice and help we received in the OKU office in Chikatsuyu. We will certainly think of returning to Japan with OKU - and will recommend OKU to our friends. Thank you .

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Book with Confidence

  • Low Deposit

    Oku Japan requires a minimum deposit of 20% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 60 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of oku japan charges.

    Up to 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 59 days before tour starts: Forfeit 30% of booking price.

    At 41 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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