CUISINE & CULTURE OF JAPAN

In May 2018, join Esprit’s Japan Food Tour with Andrew Bender, one of Esprit’s top tour leaders – and a travel and food writer – on a journey through Japanese food ways. Through culinary hot spots of Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka, we’ll explore famed public markets and restaurant supply districts, learn the art of Japanese home-style cooking, tour a green tea plantation, explore the sake making – and tasting – process, and sample delicacies from Kaga-style cooking on the coast of the Sea of Japan to Japan’s renowned wagyu beef.

Your Japanese Food tour leader, Andrew Bender, writes the Seat 1A travel site for Forbes.com, and his annual list of food and restaurant trends has become required reading in the hospitality industry. He has also written multiple guidebooks to Japan for Lonely Planet and is a frequent contributor to publications including the Los Angeles Times and in-flight magazines.

Andy Bender

Japan Tour Leader and Travel Guide Writer
Otomo Tabito (665-731)

Great sages of the past
gave the name of 'sage' to wine.
How well they spoke!

Highlights

φ Experience Japanese food through market adventures, cooking classes, farm visits and specially arranged meals at some of Japan’s most renowned restaurants.

φ Savor Japanese cuisine: humble home-style fare, sushi, noodles, izakaya (Japanese pubs) and train station bentos to the ultimate in refined, multi-course kaiseki extravaganzas.

φ Sample local specialties in their home towns: sushi and tempura in Tokyo, Kaga-style cuisine in Kanazawa, the Way of Tea and Buddhist vegan cuisine in Kyoto, kushikatsu, takoyaki and okonomiyaki in Osaka, sake and Kobe beef in Kobe.

φ All along the way, get to know Japan’s one-of- a-kind culture: ancient Shinto rituals, cutting-edge architecture, traditional and contemporary textiles and crafts, the Way of Tea, exquisite gardens, historic Buddhist temples, the path of the samurai, the futuristic Shinkansen bullet train and the neon-lit streetscapes of Osaka.

φ Personal encounters with master chefs, artisans, teachers and cultural experts.

Daily Itinerary: May 10 - 23, 2018

Depart for Japan on your individually arranged flight.

Transfer by private car to our four-star downtown hotel in the centrally located Marunouchi district and adjacent to Tokyo Station. Brief meet and greet orientation in the evening. 

 

 

Accommodations: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: None

Esprit-Food-Tour-Tsukiji-Market

After breakfast in hotel, depart to tour the historic Tsukiji Market, for an introduction to the building blocks of Japanese cooking in the Outer Market, with snacking and shopping opportunities and time to view the fish stalls. At a sushi making class, we will observe techniques for preparing fish and make our own sushi for lunch. This afternoon we will visit the Nezu Museum to view the national treasure paintings of irises by Ogata Korin, perfectly timed with the irises blooming in the museum’s photogenic garden. You may wish to return to the hotel or join your tour leader on a brief walk of cutting-edge modern architecture in the adjacent Omotesando neighborhood. Tonight’s dinner is informal izakaya (Japanese pub-style) cuisine.

Accommodations: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Esprit Food Tour-Tokyo International

We begin the day with an architectural walk through the Marunouchi and Ginza districts (including the Kitte Building and Tokyo International Forum), Japan’s priciest real estate of buildings designed by some of the world’s top architects, arriving in time for a department store opening ceremony. After free time to experience a depachika (department store basement food floor), we will journey northeast to the Asakusa neighborhood, center of Tokyo’s historic “shitamachi” (downtown). We will enjoy lunch in a neighborhood restaurant and a visit to Sensoji Temple and Nakamise-dori shopping street, where many street foods are sold including freshly roasted sembei (rice crackers) and manju (bean-paste dumplings). From here it is a short walk through side streets to the Kappabashi restaurant supply district, known for its lifelike plastic models of foods. Dinner tonight will be in one of Tokyo’s best known restaurants.

Accommodations: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Esprit Food Tour-Meiji Shrine Entrance

This morning we will journey across town to Meiji Shrine, one of the largest in Japan’s native Shinto religion, for a blessing of our tour involving kagura (traditional court dance and music) and sake. From here we proceed to the Axis Building for a presentation at the highly innovative Nuno textile studio and free time to visit other design shops in the building selling contemporary design tableware, knives, interior goods and more. Today’s lunch is traditional kaiseki cooking. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore nearby museums or shops in Tokyo Midtown or the Roppongi Hills areas or elsewhere around town. Dinner will be on your own this evening; you may wish to have the concierge arrange dinner at one of Tokyo’s nearly 200 Michelin-star restaurants, or venture out on your own to explore.

Accommodations: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

This morning we will depart to nearby Tokyo Station for a chance to experience Japanese ekiben (train station bento) culture and purchase a bento lunch to eat on board the Shinkansen (bullet train) to the beautifully preserved city of Kanazawa, near the coast of the Sea of Japan. After arrival, we will visit the Nagamachi Samurai District and shops selling Kanazawa-style wagashi (sweets), followed by the Higashi-Chaya-gai former geisha district. Dinner this evening will be a kaiseki dinner including regional specialties of Kaga-style cuisine. Our hotel is conveniently located steps from sights, shops and restaurants.

Accommodations: Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Esprit Food Tour-Omicho Market

This morning we depart early for Kenroku-en, the former pleasure garden of Kanazawa Castle and considered one of Japan’s top three strolling gardens. After a visit to the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Crafts, enjoy lunch of your choosing among the stalls and restaurants of the landmark Omicho Market, nicknamed Kanazawa’s kitchen. Our afternoon visits begin with the inspiring D.T. Suzuki Museum, dedicated to the Kanazawa native who helped spread Buddhist teachings around the world, followed by free time to tour the cutting-edge exhibits and architecture of the 21st Century Museum of Art, by the Pritzker Prize-winning SANAA team. The remainder of the day is free for craft shopping, sightseeing and dinner on your own at one of Kanazawa’s many fine restaurants.

Accommodations: Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Esprit Food Tour-Arashiyama Spring

After breakfast we will head by express train to Kyoto, and then to the mountainous Arashiyama District west of the city center. Following lunch of yudofu, a regional specialty of stewed tofu with condiments, we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site Tenryuji Temple and stroll through the Sagano Bamboo Forest to Okochi-Sanso, villa of a silent film star, where footpaths through strolling gardens lead to hilltop views across the city. We will then journey across town to our centrally located hotel for check-in and an orientation walk of the neighborhood and downtown shopping district. Dinner this evening is contemporary kaiseki of Kyoto specialties.

Accommodations: Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Esprit Food Tour-Isuzen Tofu-

Today we will visit the Daitokuji Monastery for a lesson in the Way of Tea and a visit to an exquisite temple garden, followed by a Buddhist vegan lunch. The remainder of the day is at leisure for individual exploration using detailed sightseeing information provided by Esprit. Suggestions include Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion Temple), Kiyomizu Temple and the Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka neighborhoods, or browsing for crafts and antiques in the city center using Esprit’s proprietary map of downtown Kyoto.

Accommodations: Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Esprit Food Tour-Ohara Fields

Today we journey northeast of Kyoto to the farming village of Ohara. We will visit the morning farmers’ market before heading to a working farm and dye workshop that uses natural extracts of herbs and plants to make its dyes. From here we will walk along terraced rice fields to a multi-course lunch featuring produce from the farmers’ market. En route back to central Kyoto we will stop at the intimate temple Rengeji for an introduction to Buddhist statuary. This evening’s dinner is a lesson in Japanese obanzai (homestyle) cooking.

Accommodations: Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will visit the gallery of renowned ceramics expert Robert Yellin, to hear how ceramics inform Japanese food ways. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Sightseeing suggestions near Robert’s gallery include Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) temple and stroll along the creekside Philosopher’s Walk, or you may join your tour leader on an optional guided walk through the landmark Nishiki Food Market. Our final dinner in Kyoto is upscale, Japanese-influenced Italian fusion cuisine.

Accommodations: Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning we will travel by charter coach Kyoto’s Uji district, known for centuries as one of Japan’s most important tea growing centers. Here will visit a tea plantation and get a rare visit to a tea processing plant. From there we will continue to Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, hub of the Kansai region and one of the nation’s food capitals – the unofficial city motto is ‘kuidaore’ (eat ‘til you drop). After a casual lunch of kushikatsu (fried foods on skewers) in the gaudily decorated lanes of the retro Shin-Sekai neighborhood, we will browse the market districts of Doguya-suji Arcade (for restaurant and kitchen supplies) and Kuromon Market (for food). We will have a break to check in to our hotel, conveniently located near the shopping and restaurant halls of the Umeda and Osaka Station areas. This evening we will enjoy a progressive dinner around the neon-lit Dotonbori canal, featuring two Osaka specialties for everyday folk: conveyor-belt sushi and okonomiyaki, savory pancakes.

Accommodations: Hilton Osaka
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

The morning begins with an udon-making class and lunch. Following free time in Osaka, we will travel by regional train to the port city of Kobe for a visit to a sake museum and brewery in the Nada neighborhood, known for centuries as one of Japan’s leading sake centers – we’ll also have a tasting. From here it’s a short ride to central Kobe, where we will have a walk among the Ijinkan, western-style houses built by some of Japan’s earliest foreign residents, and visit the landmark Ikuta Shrine before our farewell dinner of locally raised Kobe beef and vegetables served two ways: grilled and delicately steamed in a seiro (wooden steamer). After dinner, return to Osaka by train.

Accommodations: Hilton Osaka
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Travel by airport shuttle to Osaka Kansai or Itami airports for your departure flights, or travel onward in Japan on your own.

Meals: Breakfast

Note: The itinerary will be finalized approximately 30 days prior to departure.  Artist visits are subject to availability and the schedules of our Japanese colleagues.  A final itinerary will be sent to you about two weeks prior to departure.   The itinerary and visits are subject to change at any time.

Pricing, Sample Video, and Materials

Price: $7,975 USD

Registrations are being accepted as of September 22, 2017.

Tour Price Includes:

  • Twelve nights accommodations in hotels as listed, sharing a room
  • Daily breakfast and additional meals as indicated
  • Airport transfers from Tokyo (start) and Osaka (end) airports
  • All internal trains and buses for the tour
  • Informative commentary by an Esprit tour leader who is fluent in Japanese, using our unique radio headset system
  • Admissions, classes and local transportation

Single supplement information is available upon request.
Singles are limited.
Twin beds are the norm in Japan for a double room.
Group size is limited to 15.

Price may be adjusted at the time of final payment for currency fluctuation.

For registration information and Terms and Conditions, please contact Andy Bender at andy@esprittravel.com or to  be added to our pre-registration list call 800-377-7481, or email info@esprittravel.com.

Note: Actual visits and events will be finalized approximately 30 days prior to departure to allow for the inclusion of special exhibitions, visits and events, and are dependent on the schedules of our Japanese colleagues. A final itinerary will be sent to you about two weeks prior to tour departure. The itinerary is subject to change at any time.

Downloadable Cuisine & Culture of Japan

Esprit Travel – Japan Culture and Cuisine Tour

 

Note: The itinerary will be finalized approximately 30 days prior to departure.  Artist visits are subject to availability and the schedules of our Japanese colleagues.  A final itinerary will be sent to you about two weeks prior to departure.   The itinerary and visits are subject to change at any time.