Real Food Adventure - Japan Trip Notes

Real Food Adventure - Japan

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 30 November 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016
Real Food Adventure - Japan
Trip code: CJZF
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 30 Nov 2016
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 spent 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.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodation NotesFinish point
ThemesMeals introductionFinishing point instructions
Is this trip right for you?MealsEmergency contact
Why we love itTransportVisas
MapMoney mattersWhat to take
ItineraryGroup leaderHealth
Itinerary disclaimerSafetyTravel insurance
Physical ratingJoining pointA couple of rules
Included activitiesJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel
Important notesJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Group sizeAlternate joining pointFeedback
Your fellow travellersAlternate joining point description
AccommodationAlternate joining point instructions
Is this trip right for you?
- This trip aims to give you an exciting, diverse and well-rounded experience of a country’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. Please be aware that in many countries dietary restrictions are not common or well understood. If you have dietary requirements, simply contact your agent at the time of booking for further information on how this may impact on your ability to take part in included activities and meals. Come with an open mind and open mouth, and you won’t be disappointed!
- 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.
- If you want to go to the tuna auction at Tsukiji fish market (though do note there are plans to move it to a new location), you'll need to be a very early riser. You’ll have to depart the hotel no later than 3am to guarantee a spot.
- At the monastery in Asakusa, you’ll get to experience a traditional onsen when using the 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.
- Because Buddhists do not eat meat, the delicious food in the monastery is all vegetarian.
Why we love it
- 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
- Dodging bargain hunters and fishmongers as you browse stalls of fantastical sea creatures in the organised madness of the Tsukiji Fish Market
- Exploring the unexpected underground foodie treasure trove that is a depachika (department store food court)
- Staying alongside the brothers of a monastery in Koya-san and discovering shojin ryori – vegetarian buddhist food that seeks enlightenment through perfection in cooking
- Experiencing the simple pleasures of obanzai ryori – the traditional home cuisine of Kyoto – in a cooking class
- Snacking on awesome and adventurous street food in the unofficial culinary capital of Osaka

Day 1 Tokyo
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan. Bursting with contemporary urban culture, there are many sides of Tokyo to explore, from fascinating museums and world-class shopping, to neighbourhood backstreets lined with restaurants and karaoke bars. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm 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. Why not head out for dinner at a local izakaya and get to know your fellow foodie travellers. After dinner, your leader will take you on a night night walk past the lantern-lit Sensoji Temple.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Tokyo
Today you’ll take an orientation walk around some of Tokyo's most well-known districts, including Shibuya and Harajuku – variously known as the fashion centre and the home of quirky youth pop culture. Please be aware that today will include approximately 2-3 hours of walking, so packing a pair of comfortable walking shoes is recommended. Later, learn the art of creating soba, Japan’s famed buckwheat noodle, in a hands-on cooking class. Slurp up your creations for lunch. This afternoon you’ll take some time sightseeing in the historic Asakusa area. This is one of the older and more traditional parts of Tokyo, and is often called the temple district. Here you’ll stop by Senso-ji, the city’s oldest temple – founded almost 1,400 years ago when Tokyo was nothing more than a fishing village. If you’ve got a sweet tooth then Asakusa is also a great place to satisfy a sugar craving – try fried sweet potatoes tossed in molasses, or sweet read bean paste sandwiched between baked pancake batter. In the evening, 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. Then head up the observation deck of the Metropolitan Government Building for a stunning night view of the city’s skyline.
Included Activities
  • Tokyo - Asakusa Guided Walk
  • Tokyo - Soba-noodle Class
  • Tokyo - Sensoji Temple
  • Tokyo - Metropolitan Government Building
  • Tokyo - Memory Lane Yakitori Dinner
    Optional Activities
    • Tokyo - Izakaya Dinner - JPY2500
      Hotel (1 nt)
      1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
      Day 3 Tokyo
      Today’s a free day to explore this pulsating city, where there’s almost an endless amount of things to see and do. See the crowds at Shibuya Crossing, the costumes in Harajuku, take in history at the Imperial Palace or the treasures at the National Museum, and see the grand shrine dedicated to the 19th-century Emperor. Spend some time in the city’s green spaces like Yoyogu and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, experience the theatre of a sumo bout, or create your own entertainment with some karaoke. In food terms, take some time to explore the local farmers’ market and get lost among the numerous delicacies on offer in the underground world of Tokyo’s depachikas (food hall basements). Grab a bowl of chanko nabe (a bowl of food fit for a sumo wrestler), discover the charms of a typical Japanese izakaya in Ebisu or indulge in one of Tokyo’s famed high-end dining establishments.
      Optional Activities
      • Tokyo - Izakaya Dinner - JPY2500
        Hotel (1 nt)
        1 breakfast
        Day 4 Takayama
        Rise early for an eye-opening experience at Tsukiji Fish Market – the world’s biggest – where you’ll dodge bargain hunters, fishmongers, and market trolleys piled high with crates of stock as you wander the narrow aisles of spectacular creatures. Afterwards, pop in to one of the sushi restaurants that surround the market for the freshest sushi breakfast you could ever eat. After your market tour you’ll wave bye to Tokyo at super speed as you ride the rails on a bullet train to the Edo period town of Takayama. Travelling by Shinkansen is an absolute buzz, as you’ll reach speeds of up to 270 kmh, arriving 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 that has been raised in Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months. On arrival you’ll stop into one of the region's prized sake breweries. The alpine climate and crystal clear mountain waters are perfect for creating this signature drop. Enjoy a walk around the brewery, followed by a sake tasting. 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. In the ryokan, you’ll enjoy a multi-course meal for dinner, featuring regional delicacies, including hida beef.

        Notes: There is the possibility of attending the tuna auctions at the fish market, but this requires a very early start. We recommend leaving the hotel around 3am to secure one of the limited number of spots in the auction, which starts around 5am and finishes by 7am. A taxi will be required at this time of the morning, as the trains will not yet be running. Be aware that the tuna auctions may be closed to the public during busy times. The market is also closed every national holiday and every Sunday. The markets is scheduled to close and relocate to new premises from 3-9 November 2016, so the fish market tour will not take place on departures commencing in November.
        Please note that during the Takayama Festival (14-15 April, 9-10 October), accommodation in Takayama may be multishare. Depending on rooming configurations, couples may sometimes have to be split up for these nights.
        Included Activities
        • Tokyo - Seafood Market & Sushi Breakfast
        • Takayama - Sake Brewery Tasting
          Ryokan (1 nt)
          1 breakfast, 1 dinner
          Day 5 Takayama
          The Gifu prefecture is known to produce many fine altitude vegetables. Explore the morning markets that date back 600 years and browse the stalls of seasonal vegetables brought in from the surrounding countryside, set up by local farm women from 6am every morning. While browsing the food markets 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. Later, visit the nearby Hida Folk Village, an outdoor museum where the traditional thatched-roof architecture unique to the area has been recreated in a delightful mountain setting. Discover the techniques used to build farmhouses that could withstand fierce winters and long periods of isolation due to snow-closed roads. The thick thatching kept in warmth and the roofs were angled so as to minimise snow build-up. Each house is like it’s own self-contained museum, with displays of personal items and traditional tools. While in Takayama, keep an eye out for some of these popular regional dishes – mitarashi dango (rice dumplings roasted in soy sauce), houba miso (miso vegetables cooked in magnolia leaf), chuka soba (Hida's favourite noodle dish) and, of course, hida beef. You’ll spend tonight in the ryokan once again, so there’s another chance to look super stylish in your yukata (the lightweight cotton robe in the closet).
          Included Activities
          • Takayama - Hida Folk Village
            Ryokan (1 nt)
            1 breakfast, 1 dinner
            Day 6 Kyoto
            Get acquainted with the beautiful city of Kyoto, home to numerous imperial sights and arguably the source of Japanese culinary tradition. The train from Takayama to Kyoto takes approximately 5 hours. The beautiful city was originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally “tranquillity 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. Later, 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. Perhaps attend a tea ceremony at one of the district's teahouses, or splash out on a kaiseki meal in a ryotei (small restaurants serving traditional multi-course cuisine).
            Included Activities
            • Kyoto - Gion District Walk
              Optional Activities
              • Kyoto - Sanjusangendo Temple - JPY600
              • Kyoto - Kiyomizu Temple - JPY500
              • Kyoto - Bike hire (per day) - JPY800
                Hotel (1 nt)
                1 breakfast
                Day 7 Kyoto
                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 might ask 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.
                Included Activities
                • Kyoto - Tea Farm Visit
                  Hotel (1 nt)
                  1 breakfast
                  Day 8 Kyoto
                  As the millennium-long home of the imperial kitchen, Kyoto is known as the centre 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. It should also embody the spiritual elements of genuine things, balance, encounter, hospitality and not creating waste. Ingredients are prepared simply, often simmered in dashi with traditional flavouring. Obanzai is down-to-earth, unpretentious and increasingly gaining popularity in Kyoto as people seek to ensure that this culinary tradition is preserved. 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
                  • Kyoto - Obanzai Cooking Class
                    Hotel (1 nt)
                    1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                    Day 9 Kyoto
                    Your final day in Kyoto is free for your own exploration. There is just so much to do, with the city boasting 17 different World Heritage-listed treasures. This ancient city is home to over 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, so you’re sure to find peace at one of them. Wander the squeaky ninja-warning floorboards of the former imperial palace of Nijo Castle, or climb up to the wooden deck of Kiyomizu-dera temple for views across the cherry and maple trees below. The magnificent gold-plated Kinkaku-ji Temple should not be missed, nor should the chance to learn about ancient traditions and customs in an optional Tea Ceremony class. Kyoto is also a great place to get 'lost' in - walk the streets and soak up the wonderful atmosphere. The city's lively nightlife provides plenty of options for your final evening here. If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not hop on a train to check out nearby Hiroshima (approximately 1.5 hours one way), home of one of Japan’s most famous and super delicious dishes – okonomiyaki.
                    Hotel (1 nt)
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 10 Koya-san
                    Spot the 120 temples dotted around Koya-san as you take the train (approximately 3.5 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 the temple complex of Kongobu-ji, the head of all Shingon sect temples in Japan. It features the largest rock garden in the country - a sublime creation of white raked pebbles and painstakingly positioned dark stones. Also impressive is 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 morning meditation and evening prayers. Temple lodgings, known as shukubo, have facilities similar to Japanese ryokans. Rooms are equipped with thin futon mattresses that are spread on tatami mats for a comfortable night's sleep. Tonight you’ll enjoy an introduction to shojin ryori, or monastic cuisine, lovingly prepared and presented by novice monks. Shojin ryori was popularised in Japan in the 13th century by Zen monks from China. Shojin ryori is strictly vegetarian, and prohibits inclusion of meat and fish, following the teaching that it is wrong to kill living animals. Instead meals are prepared with seasonable vegetables and wild plants from the mountains.

                    Notes: There are no western bathing facilities at the monastery. Instead, bathing is done in a traditional Japanese bath. This is a two-step process. The first step is to thoroughly clean yourself, followed by a cleansing soak in a hot bath. Bathing suits are not permitted in communal bathing areas. While this can seem intimidating at first, it is a quintessential Japanese experience and often a highlight for travellers in Japan. For those who are more sensitive about public bathing, you leader can suggest times of day when you are likely to have more privacy.
                    Monastery (1 nt)
                    1 breakfast, 1 dinner
                    Day 11 Osaka
                    Hop on the train (approximately 2 hours) to arrive in Japan’s third-largest city and unofficial culinary capital. What better way to finish your trip than in Osaka, where the motto is 'Kuidaore' ('eat until you drop') and 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). When you arrive you’ll 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. At a local restaurant you’ll try your hand at making a local specialty, takoyaki (a hot snack of shredded octopus, pickled ginger, spring onion, covered in batter). For the daring, perhaps visit a fugu (poisonous pufferfish) restaurant, where rigorously trained chefs prepare and serve this infamous delicacy. Say cheers to the end of this Real Food Adventure Japan with an ice-cold Asahi beer, brewed just outside city.
                    Included Activities
                    • Osaka - Takoyaki meal
                      Optional Activities
                      • Osaka Castle - JPY600
                      • Bunraku Puppet performance - JPY2500
                        Hotel (1 nt)
                        1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                        Day 12 Osaka
                        Your delicious Real Food Adventure Japan concludes after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
                        1 breakfast
                        Itinerary disclaimer
                        ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

                        OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

                        MUSEUM OPENING TIMES Please note that many sights, attractions and museums are closed on Mondays.
                        Physical rating

                        In Japan many of our travel connections are made at fast pace and require you to walk up and down stairs carrying your luggage in . Please make sure you have an adequate level of fitness.
                        Included activities
                        Tokyo - Asakusa Guided Walk
                        Tokyo - Soba-noodle Class
                        Tokyo - Sensoji Temple
                        Tokyo - Metropolitan Government Building
                        Tokyo - Memory Lane Yakitori Dinner
                        Tokyo - Seafood Market & Sushi Breakfast
                        Takayama - Sake Brewery Tasting
                        Takayama - Hida Folk Village
                        Kyoto - Gion District Walk
                        Kyoto - Tea Farm Visit
                        Kyoto - Obanzai Cooking Class
                        Osaka - Takoyaki meal
                        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 4. 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).
                        SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
                        A single supplement is not available to be purchased on this trip.

                        Group size
                        Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
                        Your fellow travellers
                        GROUP TRAVEL
                        As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.

                        A single supplement is not available to be purchased on this trip.
                        Hotel (8nt), Monastery (1nt), Ryokan (2nt)
                        The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.

                        TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
                        Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.

                        CHECK-IN TIME
                        Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

                        PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
                        If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

                        Japanese-style inns (ryokans) involve sleeping on futons or matresses on tatami mat floors, with bedding often packed away during the day. Attached bathrooms/toilets will usually be very small and many ryokans will have shared bathing facilities with certain hours, or times available for booking at reception. Your leader will explain etiquette involved in using the shared facilities. 

                        As this style of accommodation will often not have furniture (ie. chairs or beds) in the rooms, please consider choosing a different trip style if you have difficulty getting up from the floor or have knee, hip or back issues.

                        Some ryokans may have a curfew when travellers need to be back in the accommodation - this is usually around midnight.

                        There are shared bathrooms at some of the accommodation on this trip.
                        Meals introduction
                        While we will endeavour to cater to dietary requirements where possible, please note that many meals and food activities on Real Food Adventures are set in advance in order to deliver a well-rounded experience of a country’s cuisine. In many countries, dietary restrictions are uncommon and not well understood. If you have dietary requirements and are concerned about whether this may impact on your ability to participate fully in all food-related activities on this trip, please contact your agent at time of booking for further information. If you have dietary requirements and/or food allergies, you must notify your booking agent prior to departure so it can be determined whether your dietary requirements can be met.
                        11 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners
                        Bus, Train, Train (bullet)

                        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 4. 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).
                        Money matters
                        SPENDING MONEY:
                        When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                        The official currency of Japan is Yen (JPY).

                        Japan is predominantly a cash society and locals carry large amounts of cash for daily business.

                        International credit cards can usually only be used at major department stores or large restaurants but cash from non-Japanese bank accounts can be withdrawn via the Cirrus and Maestro systems by direct debiting (as well as Mastercard and Visa cash advance). This is now available at all post office ATMs around the country, as well as 7 Eleven convenience store ATMs, making it very easy to get access to cash throughout the trip at each location 24 hours a day.

                        If you are happy with the services provided by your group leader tipping - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please consider this when budgeting for your extra expenses on this tour.

                        The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$1-2 per person, per day can be used.

                        Tipping is not customary in Japan in restaurants and for other service providers.

                        DEPARTURE TAX
                        All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.

                        EMERGENCY FUNDS:
                        We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you bring an extra USD500 for emergencies (e.g. natural disasters or civil unrest). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to our itineraries, and we can’t guarantee there won’t be some extra costs involved.
                        Group leader
                        All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. You can expect your Intrepid Food Adventures group leader to be passionate about the local food scene and keen to share their insider knowledge on the best authentic local food and drink experiences throughout your trip.

                        Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
                        Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.

                        We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.

                        Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.

                        For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:


                        PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
                        While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
                        Joining point
                        Asakusa Sunroute Hotel
                        1-8-5 Kaminarimon
                        Phone: +81 338471511
                        Joining point description
                        Asakusa Sunroute Hotel is in the heart of Tokyo, so it is a great location for wandering around town. Ueno Park is located within 30 minutes walk.

                        Although Tokyo is a big city it is not too difficult to get around, quite safe, and people are friendly and helpful. Be sure to take a business card from reception before heading out into the streets, just in case.

                        Check-in time at our joining point hotel is after 2:00pm. Early check-in is not guaranteed, however if you arrive early, luggage storage is available. Speak to the hotel reception on arrival. Please note we cannot offer any additional accommodation at this property. If you require additional pre-tour accommodation please email the hotel directly at
                        Joining point instructions
                        The Hotel Asakusa is conveniently located five minutes’ walk from the Tsukuba Express’s “Asakusa Station” and a one-minute walk from Ginza’s “Tawaramachi Station”.
                        1) From Narita Airport, take Keisei "Skyliner" train to Ueno station. After exiting the Keisei line at Ueno station, look for the sign to Subway "Ginza" line - an orange circle with a "G" in it. Follow this sign and get on the subway Ginza line heading for Asakusa, and get off at the second station, Tawaramachi, (G-18.)
                        At Tawaramachi station, head for EXIT 3 and go up to street level (there are stairs or you can take the elevator located at the back of the platform). Follow the main road (Road 462) towards North – the same direction as you walked upstairs. As you get up to street level at exit 3, there will be an area map displayed. You are walking to the right direction if you see a "DOUTOR COFFEE" on your left at a bus stop in about 30 meters. Keep on walking along this main street for another 60 meters until you see Sunroute Hotel on the other side of the road. Sunroute hotel houses "Jonathan Restaurant" so you will see the huge red letters "Jonathan". You actually have to go a bit further on to cross the street. From exit 3 to the hotel will take you about 1 minute to walk.
                        2.) If you have a Japan Rail Pass and want to validate it you can do this before you get on the train. Then take the JR Narita Express train to Tokyo Station (1 hr) and from there change on to the Yamanote loop line (green line) going toward Ueno. This is also a JR line so you can use your JR Pass. From Ueno Station, follow directions for the Ginza subway line as above.
                        Alternate joining point
                        For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
                        22 Oct 2016 (CJZF1610222)
                        Hotel Parkside
                        2-11-18 Ueno
                        Phone: +81 338365711
                        Alternate joining point description
                        Located right across from Shinobazu Pond, and conveniently close to Tokyo’s vibrant Ameyoko-cho district and the museums and galleries of Ueno Park.

                        Check in time is 14:00. If arriving after 21:00, please telephone us your time of arrival.

                        We are unable to offer additional accommodation at Hotel Parkside. For additional nights please book online:
                        Alternate joining point instructions
                        Narita airport is approximately 60 km from Tokyo and a taxi would cost you around US$250.

                        For a cheaper option we recommend you take the train. It's not complicated and there are plenty of people around to help you if you need to ask for directions.

                        There are two railway companies that run trains from Narita Airport to Tokyo: Keisei Railways and Japan Rail. The train stations for both companies are located under the airport, very close to the exit from immigration. There are English signs.

                        If you have a Japan Rail Pass and want to validate it you can do this before you get on the train at the rail pass office in the station. Then use your pass to take the JR 'Narita Express' train to Tokyo station. At Tokyo Station, change on to the Yamanote line (look for green signs) going toward Ueno (platform 4). This is also a JR line so you can use your JR Pass. From Tokyo station Ueno is the 4th stop and should take about 8 minutes. On arrival at JR Ueno Station, go out the Shinobazu exit. When you get out of the station, you should see pedestrian crosswalks in front of you and on your right. Turn right and cross the street, then turn left. On your right you'll see stone stairs leading into Ueno Park. Walk past the stairs. Soon you'll see a blue and white sign for Keisei Ueno Station. Walk past the station, and look for a small police station on your right, just at the entrance to Ueno Park.

                        Keep walking straight, and look to your right. You should see a McDonald's restaurant on the next corner. Turn right at the McDonald's. You will see a large pond on your right, and a concert hall just past the pond. Look across the street, and you'll see an illuminated sign that says 'Hotel Parkside'.

                        If you do not have a Japan Rail pass or don't want it validated yet we suggest you take the Keisei Railways train and get off at the final stop, Ueno. The fare is 1,920 yen for the limited express Skyliner train (about 1 hour) or 1,000 yen for the regular express train (about 1.5 hours). Get off at the final stop, Keisei Ueno Station.

                        When you exit the ticket gates at Keisei Ueno Station, turn immediately right. You will be at the Ikenohata exit. Cross the small street in front you you, and turn left. Keep walking until you see a McDonald's restaurant on your right, and turn right at this corner. You will see a large pond on your right, and a concert hall just past the pond. Look across the street, and you'll see an illumated sign that says 'Hotel Parkside'.
                        Finish point
                        Unizo Yodoyabashi Hotel
                        4-2-7, Koraibashi
                        Phone: 81 662032020
                        Finishing point instructions
                        Hotel Unizo Yodoyabashi is located a 3 minute walk from Yodobashi train station. From here there are regular trains (every 10 minutes)to Shinimamiya where you will change trains to catch an airport express train to Kansai (KIX) airport (every 20 minutes and takes about 40 minutes). Another option is to catch the airport bus from Osaka Herbis (about a 20 minute walk from the hotel) which departs every 30 minutes and takes about 45 minutes. A taxi will take about 40 minutes and cost about JPY11000-14000.
                        Emergency contact
                        For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at

                        In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local operator on the number below.

                        For general contact details please use the following page:

                        While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

                        We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

                        You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.

                        Intrepid's Local Kyoto Office: +81 90 6531 9269
                        Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

                        JAPAN VISA
                        Citizens of the USA, Australia and New Zealand are granted 90-day temporary visitor visas, while stays of up to three months are permitted for citizens of Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and a number of other countries.

                        Stays of up to six months are permitted for citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK. Citizens of these countries will almost always be given a 90-day temporary visitor visa upon arrival, which can usually be extended for another 90 days at immigration bureaux inside Japan.
                        What to take
                        What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).

                        Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.

                        Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:


                        MAIN LUGGAGE
                        On this trip you will need to carry your own luggage for up to 30 minutes at a time. Train stations are quite complex and usually require a lot of stair climbing, especially when doing a quick transfer from train to train. Elevators aren't always available and cannot accommodate many people at a time, so if you are choosing to bring a suitcase, please ensure you are able to lift and carry it up and down stairs yourself without difficulty. A backpack is often preferred by travellers for this reason. Some ryokans don't allow suitcases with wheels into rooms with tatami mat floors. Japanese transportation is often quite small and cramped so it's best to pack as light as possible so that you are not blocking aisles or taking up extra seats on trains.

                        DAY PACK
                        A day pack for carrying essentials when exploring destinations as well as for short overnight stays will be useful. On trains packing this with the essentials you need to access during the trip will also be very useful.

                        WATER BOTTLE
                        Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

                        WATER BOTTLE
                        Cold tap water in Japan is generally safe and good to drink so you can avoid the purchase of bottled water by bringing your own bottle and refilling from the tap or public water fountains.

                        OTHER USEFUL THINGS TO TAKE
                        - reusable shopping bag for buying supplies for long journeys
                        - travel mug, cutlery, plate/bowl for preparing any self catered meals
                        - plastic lunch box for storing food & snacks
                        - slippers or flip flops
                        - torch/flashlight
                        - travel wipes
                        - small towel
                        - ear plugs & eye mask

                        OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
                        - check weather in destinations you are travelling to online a few days before you go to make sure you pack appropriate clothing
                        - laundry facilities may not be available in all destinations, so make sure you have a few cycles of clothes to tide you over until your next chance to wash
                        All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.

                        You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
                        Travel insurance
                        Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.

                        When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.

                        If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.

                        A couple of rules
                        Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.

                        Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
                        Responsible Travel
                        We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.


                        While Japan is known for its 'out there' fashions overall it is quite a conservative country. Please remember that we spend time at temples, working monasteries, holy shrines, recreated villages and castles, cooking schools and ancient gardens. At these places it is important to be respectful to the staff and other visitors by wearing clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.

                        WHALE MEAT
                        Intrepid Travel is a big supporter of the protection of endangered species around the world. It is against Intrepid’s Responsible Travel policy for our leaders to take passengers to places that use cruel practices or supply or serve foods that are on the endangered species list, such as whale, turtle, tiger, bird’s nests, pangolin and shark.

                        Although a global ban on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986, approximately 1,000 whales are still being killed every year. We do not visit places that serve whale meat on any of our trips, nor will your leader guide you to where it is offered.

                        For more information on our Responsible Travel policy, see our website:

                        While Japan is known for its 'out there' fashions overall it is quite a conservative country. Please remember that we spend time at temples, working monasteries, holy shrines, recreated villages and castles, cooking schools and ancient gardens. At these places it is important to be respectful to the staff and other visitors by wearing clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.

                        The Intrepid Foundation
                        Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.

                        The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:


                        After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.