Japan Real Food Adventure

Price

Want your own room?

$3,500 USD per person

Single rooms are not available on this trip due to the increasing popularity of tourism in Japan. You will be roomed with another traveler of the same gender or your travel partner. 

International flights are not included, but our team would be happy to connect you with our flight partner for assistance.

Days 12
Departing March 18, 2018
Exclusive perks
  • Over 25% savings

Real Food Adventure Japan

 

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Spoil the sense on a culinary tour from Tokyo to Kyoto. 

Pack your chopsticks and celebrate thousands of years of food artistry by diving into one of the world’s most elegant, eclectic and harmonious cuisines. Spend your time seeing the sights and scouting out prized eating and drinking spots. Watch yakitori sizzling in front of you in Shinjuku's Memory Lane, eat fresh-off-the-boat sashimi at the incredible Tsukiji Fish Market and learn to make soba noodles in a hands-on cooking class. Glimpse a geisha drifting through the alleyways of Gion while in Kyoto and experience a charming obanzai dinner of Kyoto-style home-cooked dishes. Stay in a traditional ryokan in Takayama and eat vegetarian shojin ryori (monastic fare) with monks in Koyasan. If you're looking for a trip that tantalises the tastebuds as well as sates a sense of adventure, this Japan Real Food Adventure ticks all the boxes.

 

Start Tokyo, Japan Physical rating 3 out of 5
Finish Kyoto, Japan Ages Min 15 years
Destination Japan Group size 12 people
Departing March 18, 2018 Style Original

 

Why we love this trip

  • Food is taken seriously in Japan. From the station tonkatsu restaurant to the highest end sushi, Japanese people take pride in the cooking and presentation, and any bad meal is incredibly rare

  • Tasting the succulent Hida beef in Takayama is the definition of a melt-in-your-mouth moment

  • Staying alongside the brothers of a monastery in Koya-san and discovering shojin ryori – vegetarian buddhist food 

  • Experiencing the simple pleasures of obanzai ryori – the traditional home cuisine of Kyoto – in a cooking class

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip aims to give you an exciting, diverse and well-rounded experience of Japan's cuisine. While we endeavour to cater for specific dietary requirements, some meals and food activities are set in advance and may be difficult to adjust. Japanese food does have a focus on seafood (the most common stock dashi has a fish base) and can also be challenging for severe gluten intolerances – there is gluten in soy sauce, pre-made wasabi and other unexpected places. 

  • Due to the high number of travelers seeking to view the Tsukiji Fish Market tuna auctions, it is now necessary to arrive at the market just after 2am and queue up to 3-4 hours in advance to be one of the 120 viewers permitted entry. Even then, this does not automatically ensure entry. 

  • At the monastery in Koyasan, you’ll get to experience traditional bathing facilities. If you’re not into communal bathing though, it’s just one night so you won’t be far off your next shower. You can also expect a meat-free meal - all of the fare prepared here is vegetarian.

  • A good degree of fitness is recommended for this trip as there is a lot of walking involved (up to 6 miles each day), particularly around Kyoto which is best seen on foot. Bring comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to spend most of the day on your feet.

  • We are not able to offer a single supplement on this trip due to limited rooms at many of our properties and high demand for accommodation in Japan.

Itinerary

Konichiwa! Welcome to Japan. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 5pm tonight. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Have your insurance and next of kin details on hand as we'll be collecting them at this meeting.

Afterwards, get an introduction to Japanese culture on a walk down Shinjuku’s Memory Lane. This crowded alley of busy restaurants and bar stalls started in the 1940s and quickly gained infamy as a black market drinking quarter. Today, it is still one of the best spots to try some of Tokyo’s famed ‘fast food’ dishes, including yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) as well as some of the city’s more daring fare.

Included Activities

  • Memory Lane Yakitori Dinner

Accommodation

  • Hotel

Today, learn the art of creating soba, Japan’s famed buckwheat noodle, in a hands-on cooking class. Slurp up your creations for lunch.

The afternoon is free for some exploration and optional activities. You might like to head for Shibuya, a shopping mecca and home to the iconic “scramble crossing”, where crowds swarm across the world’s most famous intersection under the neon gaze of screens, signs and advertisements. Or visit the stunning Meiji Shrine. 

Tonight, after an optional dinner of monjayaki (a type of savoury pancake that tastes much better than it looks!) we head up the observation deck of the Metropolitan Government Building for a stunning night view of the city’s skyline. 

Included Activities

  • Soba cooking class
  • View from Metropolitan Government Building

Optional Activities

  • Shibuya crossing
  • Meiji Shrine
  • Sensoji Temple

Accommodation

  • Hotel 

Today we are heading to the Tokyo Fish Market – the world’s biggest. First we’ll pop in to one of the restaurants at the market for a fresh sushi breakfast. After the market tour, wave goodbye to Tokyo at super speed as you ride the rails on a bullet train to the Edo period town of Takayama. Traveling by Shinkansen is an absolute buzz, you’ll reach speeds of up to 168 mph. Arrive in Takayama in approximately 5 hours.

Takayama is a charming Edo period town located in the Japan alps. It’s famous for its traditional inns, sake breweries and Hida-gyu (Hida beef) – the beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed raised in the Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months. For the next two evenings you will stay in a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn). Rooms are equipped with thin futon mattresses that are spread on tatami mats for a comfortable night's sleep. Over the next two evenings you will dine on regional Takayama delicacies, including hida beef.

Included Activities

  • Tokyo Fish Market visit

Accommodation

  • Ryokan 

The Gifu prefecture is known to produce excellent high altitude vegetables. Explore morning markets that date back 600 years and browse the stalls of seasonal produce brought in from the surrounding countryside. Stalls are set up by local farm women from 6am every morning. Look out for the unique local style of pickles, the bags of miso wrapped in leaves, Genkotsu ame (soy bean candy), preserved fish, spices, and the delicious marshmallow treat of owara tamaten.

This afternoon is free for exploration and optional activities. 

Tonight stop into one of the region's prized sake breweries for a tasting. The alpine climate and crystal clear mountain waters are perfect for creating this signature drop. Afterwards you'll sample some more of Takayama's signature dishes at a local restaurant.

Included Activities

  • Market walk
  • Sake brewery visit

Optional Activities

  • Barge Museum
  • Hida Folk Museum

Accommodation

  • Ryokan 

Take the train from Takayama to the delightful seaside town of Kanazawa (approximately 2 hours), which is sometimes known as the hidden pearl of the Japan Sea. Having avoided bombing in WWII, it's a place where both modern and traditional Japan are found. The city is full of historic sights like Kanazawa castle, the very traditional Chaya gai (tea house district), geisha and samurai districts, but also home to the world class, ultra-modern 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. On arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk and the rest of the day is free for your own exploration. In the evening, your leader can assist you to make a booking at one of the city's renowned seafood restaurants for a truly memorable meal.

Optional Activities

  • Kanazawa Castle
  • Chaya Gai visit
  • Museum of Contemporary Art

Accommodation

  • Hotel

Take part in the city's living cultural heritage with a Japanese sweet making class. Wagashi sweets are classically used to accompany tea ceremonies, and they are as tasty to look at as they are to eat.

Afterwards you may wish to visit the 17th-century Korakuen Gardens – highly landscaped acres of bridges, ponds, waterfalls and fountains that are beautiful no matter what the season. Alternatively, make your way to the 'Samurai House' in the Nagamachi district, where Maeda samurai lords provided their vassals with grand estates. Be transported back in time, with the house giving a good idea of the lifestyle of samurai during the Edo period, when Japan was secluded from the outside world.

Included Activities

  • Wagashi sweet making class

Optional Activities

  • Omicho Market
  • Korakuen Gardens
  • Bukeyashiki (Samurai House)

Accommodation

  • Hotel

Hop on the train (approximately 1 hour) to arrive in Japan’s third-largest city and unofficial culinary capital, where the motto is 'Kuidaore' ('eat until you drop'). This is where some of Japan’s best street food is on offer. There are sprawling shopping hubs and tiny backstreets overflowing with restaurants and bars, serving up local delicacies as well as Japan's answer to fast food. Osaka is credited with the first kaiten-zushi (conveyer belt sushi) restaurants, after its inventor – the owner of a sushi restaurant with staffing issues – watched beer bottles on a conveyer belt at the nearby Asahi brewery and thought it might be a good way to solve this problem. The city is also renowned for its brand of okonomiyaki (a delicious savoury pancake) and kushikatsu (seasoned, deep fried meat on skewers). Take in some of the city's landmarks, including the wonderful Kuromon covered food market, and maybe pick up some final kitchen gadgets (or plastic food!) at the quirky Doguyasuji Arcade. Then embark on a delicious street food tour to sample some of the best morsels that Osaka has to offer. Even try your hand at making a local specialty, takoyaki (a hot snack of shredded octopus, pickled ginger, spring onion, covered in batter).

Included Activities

  • Food walking tour

Accommodation

  • Hotel

Take the train (approximately 2 hours) into an important region for Shingon Buddhism. Founded in the 8th century by the Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi, Koya-san has been a centre for religious activities for over 1,200 years. You’ll visit Okuno-in, the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered people in the religious history of Japan. Your unique accommodation tonight is in one of the hundreds of temples still operating here. You’ll live alongside Buddhist monks and follow their routine of evening meditation and morning prayers. Temple lodgings, known as shukubo, have facilities similar to Japanese ryokans. 

Notes: There are no western bathing facilities at the monastery. Instead, bathing is done in a traditional public bath. This is a two-step process. The first step is to thoroughly clean yourself, followed by a cleansing soak in a hot bath. Onsen are communal bathing areas and it is not permitted to wear bathing suits. While this can seem intimidating at first, it is a quintessential Japanese experience and often a highlight for travelers in Japan. For those who are more sensitive about public bathing, your leader can suggest times of day when you are likely to have more privacy.

Optional Activities

  • Buddhist meditation

Accommodation

  • Temple

Get acquainted with the beautiful city of Kyoto, home to numerous imperial sights and arguably the source of Japanese culinary tradition. The train from Koya-san to Kyoto takes approximately 3.5 hours. The beautiful city was originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally “tranquility and peace capital”) by Emperor Kammu in 794 and had its golden age during the imperial court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years (the name means “Capital City”) but the emperor and government are now located in Tokyo. With its many cultural landmarks and historical sites, and the abundance of traditional arts and literature, Kyoto is regarded as the cultural heart of Japan.

When you arrive you’ll stroll through the glass-covered walkway of Nishiki Market, a seemingly never-ending wonderland for food lovers and shoppers. This is the perfect introduction to Kyoto's regional specialties – from pickled vegetables hidden beneath layers of fermented rice to delicious and ornate Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets), not to mention incredible local produce, silken tofu and a renowned hand-crafted knife shop. In the late afternoon, take a step back in time on a walk through the narrow streets of Kyoto's charming Gion district and learn about the city’s geisha culture. If you’re lucky you might spot geikos (geishas) or maikos (apprentice geishas) with their elaborate dress and make up. The evening is free for your own adventure, although your leader will have plenty of suggestions.

Included Activities

  • Nishiki Market and Gion walking tour

Accommodation

  • Ryokan

As the millennium-long home of the imperial kitchen, Kyoto is known as the center of Japanese culinary tradition. From the aristocratic kaiseki ryori (Japan's haute cuisine), to the simple yet refined dishes of obanzai ryori (home-cooked cuisine), Kyoto is a city that takes food seriously.

Today, you’ll experience the simple pleasures of obanzai ryori in a cooking class. Perhaps less well-known than kaiseki in the West, the ancient style of obanzai ryori also has strict rules that must be adhered to. It follows a strictly seasonal approach, and at least half of the ingredients must be Kyo-yasai (kyoto vegetables) and other locally sourced produce. You’ll then get to enjoy the dishes you have cooked for lunch. This evening is free for your own rest or exploration. 

Included Activities

  • Obanzai cooking class

Optional Activities

  • Traditional theatre
  • Kaiseki meal

Accommodation

  • Ryokan

After breakfast today, venture out of Kyoto to explore the traditions, culture and history behind tea, which plays an important part in traditional Japanese society. Go behind the scenes of a local tea farm to learn about the long-lived customs surrounding this brew, which is more than simply a drink. Walk several beautiful tea fields in the surrounding mountains and learn about the farming process, then taste a variety of locally-grown brews: from everyday houjicha and genmaicha to premium sencha and matcha. The careful symbolism of Japanese society reaches its height in the tea ceremony, and here you will learn about the importance of the cleaning of tea utensils, the bow on receiving a cup and the three clockwise turns before a sip is taken. Return to Kyoto in the afternoon and spend some free time pursuing your culinary passions. An unknown chef in Kyoto transformed the eel (hamo) from inedible to star ingredient with the invention of a heavy knife that cut the flesh away from the many bones. Perhaps try this quintessential Kyoto taste of summer for yourself. Otherwise maybe try some of Kyoto’s famed smooth flavour tofu, perfected over centuries by Buddhist monks.

In the evening, we are going to discover Kyoto’s exuberant nightlife. Celebrate the closing of our Japan adventure with a beer or sake fuelled chance to be a karaoke superstar. We will be in a private room, which means you and your new made friends are the only ones who need to know about your off-pitch rendition of Yellow Submarine, what happens at karaoke stays at karaoke.

Included Activities

  • Tea farm visit
  • Karaoke

Accommodation

  • Ryokan 

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Inclusions

Meals

11 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners 

Transport

Bullet train, subway and bus

Accommodation

Hotel (6 nights), Ryokan (4 nights), Monastery (1 night)

Inclusions

  • Tokyo - Memory Lane Yakitori Dinner 
  • Tokyo - Metropolitan Government Building 
  • Tokyo - Asakusa Guided Walk 
  • Tokyo - Soba-noodle Class 
  • Tokyo - Sensoji Temple 
  • Tokyo - Seafood Market & Sushi Breakfast 
  • Takayama - Sake Brewery Tasting 
  • Takayama - Hida Folk Village 
  • Kanazawa - Orientation Walk 
  • Kanazawa - Wagashi (sweets) cooking demonstration 
  • Kanazawa - Omicho Market 
  • Osaka - Street Food Tour 
  • Kyoto - Gion District walk 
  • Kyoto - Obanzai Cooking Class 
  • Kyoto - Tea Farm Visit

Important notes

JAPAN RAIL PASS:
A 7 day Standard/Ordinary Japan Rail Pass is included in the price of your trip and will be validated on day 3. For those wishing to stay and travel longer in Japan, a Japan Rail Pass extension (total 14 days) is available. Please contact us at time of booking regarding this service.
Please note that Japan Rail Passes are only valid for foreign tourists visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing under the entry status of temporary visitor (tourist visa). 

LEADERS:
Please note in Japan we use a mix of local and western leaders. Our western leaders speak Japanese and have lived in Japan for some time.

ADDITIONAL ACCOMMODATION:
Accommodation in Japan can be difficult to secure at short notice. If you are traveling in Japan before or after your trip, we recommend booking accommodation at least a month in advance of travel, especially in high season (March to May, September to November). 

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A single supplement is not available to be purchased on this trip.

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Bookings

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