Japan's Culinary Heritage

A small-group guided food tour through Japan's best-kept culinary traditions

Japan's Culinary Heritage

Number of travellers

Start date


Tour details

Japan's Culinary Heritage
x1 traveller
Single room additional charge
USD 700

Solo supplements guarantee solo rooms at the hotels on your tour. At inns, you will share with another member of your departure of the same gender.


If you would like to do multiple tours in one trip or have a question about any of our tours, do not hesitate to contact us with the button below.

  • Duration: 11 days
  • Trip level:
  • Availability: March to October
  • Type:Guided tour with an expert bilingual guide
  • Price: USD 5,020(Price per person, based on 2 travellers sharing a room)

Please choose your preferred month to see available departures.

  • Visit Kanazawa's local food market which has attracted residents and visitors for almost 300 years
  • Hunt for wild vegetables (Sansai) with a Sansai expert and learn traditional cooking methods with the Gokayama community
  • Learn the art of earth-oven cooking in Hida-Furukawa and make Miso Senbei in a traditional shop
  • Get hands on with history during a visit to Sakai-City, famous for high-quality Japanese kitchen knives
  • Visit Awaji island to learn about its seafood culture and enjoy a beach lunch with a local food-designer chef
  • Learn more about tea culture in Uji and experience making tofu in Kyoto

Please note: due to the special focus of this tour on Japan's culinary heritage, which includes meat, fish, seafood, soy sauce, miso, and items made from wheat, we are unable to accommodate special dietary requests for this tour.

This culinary journey 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 one of the most intimate ways to uncover Japan’s history and culture. 

Japan is blessed with rich natural products from the ‘Satoyama’ landscape, the border area between flat arable land where rice is grown, and the mountains. Managed sustainably over centuries, Satoyama is biologically diverse and supports a wide variety of wildlife throughout four seasons, offering a great variety of dishes and regional specialties. Japanese cuisine's unique qualities are the product of a long tradition of respect for the harvest of ingredients, and for nature itself. 

Food culture in Japan is also closely related to festivals and rituals, and reflects the way of life in each particular region. Travelling from mountain villages to fishing ports, staying in rural thatched-roof houses and in the dazzling cities, you will taste the sake, experience the food and the culture, awaken your senses and share unforgettable moments with people you’ll meet on your journey. 

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 hosts us in an old Kominka house. Here we learn about Okudo-san (earth oven) cooking and Furukawa’s specialty “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.

*Due to coronavirus, some substitutions may be necessary 

Exclusive behind-the-scene experiences:

Nakanishi-san (sake brewer) - Community-hosted lunch in Gokayama

Toga-mura is a small-scale local community in the hidden valley of Gokayama. Ueda-san is a Sansai (wild vegetable) specialist and Nakanishi-san cultivates rice to brew Doburoku sake. They will take us foraging for seasonal produce and we'll call at villagers' houses on the way, tasting some home-preserved Sansai. The villagers will collaborate to produce a community-hosted lunch for us.

Chef Shinse - Foodscape beach lunch on Awaji Island 

Rendez-vous on the coast for the ultimate beach lunch experience…your chef today is a real artist and will prepare for you his signature “Foodscape”. Using locally harvested ingredients, he applies his inspiration to create an edible landscape that will delight all your senses.

Baba Cutlery Works - Craftsmanship inherited from father to son

Sakai-City in Osaka is the home of Japanese knives with a history of 600 years. Founded in 1916, Baba Cutlery Works has been inherited from father to son with a commitment to create the best quality kitchen knives, and pass this knowledge on to the next generation. We will visit Sakai-City to observe how collaboration between highly-skilled professionals creates steel with an unparalleled sharpness.

Download PDF itinerary

What is included


Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
10 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns
Daily breakfast, 4 lunches, and daily dinner
All transportation between tour locations
Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group's itinerary
Forwarding of 1 item of luggage with daily luggage transfer on a portion of the trip
All cooking experiences and workshops


What is not included

Airport transfers
Drinks and meals not included in itinerary
Entrance fees to museums, temples, etc. not mentioned in the itinerary
Single room supplement for solo travellers at hotels









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.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: 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, referred to as ‘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.


Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, 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 (山菜/mountain vegetables) 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

After a traditional Japanese breakfast, we depart by highway bus to visit nearby Shirakawago, 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-wood 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.

Accommodation: Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

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. Here, we meet with a local food guide who will introduce us to the delights of the town’s local markets, brimming with fresh produce. Later we will head to a sake brewery and enjoy a taste before enjoying dinner at leisure.


Accommodation: Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn)

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

We board our train in Takayama with an ekiben (駅 弁/train station bento box) for Osaka. Osaka was historically known as tenka no daidokoro ( 天下の 台所/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 has been dedicated to fulfilling the intentions of sake brewers for over 30 years. Interacting with sake aficionados with the same level of enthusiasm, he has over 10,000 bottles of sake collections, all of which are from local specialty brewers.


The term sakana traditionally referred to food served to accompany sake, originating from the word saka (sake) and na (food). Special delicacies which pair well with selected sake are served for today’s dinner.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

This morning we travel by local train to Sakai City, once known for the production of samurai swords, 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.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

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 cafe. 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.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, lunch

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 flavour and your cups. We then depart Uji for Kyoto City 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.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Kyoto is renowned throughout Japan for its regional washoku cuisine and specialities, as well as for the refinement and artistic presentation of kaiseki cuisine. This morning, we start our day at 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 speciality items such as seafood, pickled and dried Japanese vegetables, tea, sweets, and also ceramics.


After Nishiki Market, we enjoy learning the technique of cooking in a classic earth oven known as an okudo-san, which is rarely used in modern times. We make our way to Arashiyama where we have a traditional Buddhist vegetarian lunch with beautiful garden scenery. After a visit to the famous bamboo forest, we head to central Kyoto for our farewell dinner.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, farewell dinner

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.


Meals: Breakfast

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