Itinerary – Japan Cuisine and Culture Tour

Day 1 Thursday May 11 Depart USA

Day 2 Friday May 12 Arrive Tokyo

Travel by private car transfer to our downtown hotel, the four-star Marunouchi Hotel, in the centrally-located Marunouchi district and adjacent to Tokyo Station. As guests will be arriving at different times, no activities are planned for this day. 

Hotel: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: None

Day 3 Saturday May 13 Tokyo

After breakfast in hotel, depart to tour the Tsukiji Outer Market, exploring Japanese ingredients with snacking and shopping opportunities along the way. After this early visit, we will travel 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. Lunch today is in a Michelin-starred restaurant for traditional kaiseki cooking, followed by a visit to the Axis building with shops selling contemporary design tableware, knives, interior goods and the highly innovative works of Nuno textile studio. Tonight’s dinner is informal, izakaya cuisine.

Hotel: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4 Sunday May 14 Tokyo

We begin the day with a visit to the Tokyo International Forum and an architectural walk in the Ginza district, Japan’s priciest real estate of buildings designed by Pritzker Prize winners, arriving in time for a department store opening ceremony, in which the entire staff bows in welcome. After free time to experience the famous depachika (department store basement food floors), we will journey across town and take a cooking class on making a traditional Japanese bento – and enjoy our creation for lunch. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to explore nearby museums or shops in Tokyo Midtown or the Roppongi Hills areas or return to Ginza. 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. 

Hotel: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: breakfast, lunch

Day 5 Monday May 15 Tokyo

This morning we will journey across Tokyo Bay to the new location of Tokyo’s central fish market, which was recently moved from Tsukiji. From here we will journey to the Asakusa neighborhood, center of Tokyo’s historic “low city” (downtown), for a visit to Sensoji Temple and Nakamise-dori, where many street foods are sold including freshly roasted sembei (rice crackers) and manju (bean-paste dumplings). After lunch in a neighborhood restaurant, we will have time for exploration in the Kappabashi restaurant supply district, known for its lifelike plastic models of foods. Fittingly for this city with east-west influence, our final dinner Tokyo is a gourmet experience of Japanese-influenced French fusion cuisine.

Hotel: Marunouchi Hotel
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6 Tuesday May 16 Kanazawa

This morning we will depart to nearby Tokyo Station for a chance to explore Japanese station bento culture and purchase a bento lunch to eat on board the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kanazawa, on the coast of the Sea of Japan. After arrival, we will explore the Nagamachi Samurai District and shops selling Kanazawa-style wagashi (sweets), followed by a visit to the landmark Omicho Food Market. 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.

Hotel: Kanazawa Tokyu
Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 7 Wednesday May 17 Kanazawa

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 a buffet lunch at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, with free time to tour the cutting-edge exhibits and architecture by the Pritzker Prize-winning SANAA team. We will then journey about 7 minutes on foot to the quietly stunning D.T. Suzuki Museum, dedicated to the Kanazawa native who helped spread Buddhist teachings around the world. The remainder of the day is free. You might want to explore the Higashi Chaya-gai geisha district and enjoy a casual meal.

Hotel: Kanazawa Tokyu
Meals included: breakfast, lunch

Day 8 Thursday May 18 Kyoto

After breakfast we will head by express train to Kyoto and then to Daitokuji Monastery for a Buddhist vegetarian lunch followed by a lesson in the Way of Tea and a visit to an exquisite temple garden. We will then journey across town to our centrally-located hotel, where, after check in, there will be an orientation walk of the neighborhood and downtown shopping district. Dinner this evening is a contemporary kaiseki of Kyoto specialties.

Hotel: Royal Park THE Kyoto
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9 Friday May 19 Kyoto

Today we will visit the Arashiyama District, highlighted by Tenryuji Temple, the Sagano Bamboo Forest and Okochi-Sanso Villa, where footpaths through strolling gardens lead to hilltop views across the city. Lunch is a regional specialty of yudofu, stewed tofu with condiments. On the way back, we will stop for a guided walk through the landmark Nishiki Food Market. The remainder of the day is at leisure for individual exploration. Should you wish, the hotel concierge can assist with restaurant reservations.

Hotel: Royal Park THE Kyoto
Meals included: breakfast, lunch

Day 10 Saturday May 20 Kyoto

Today we journey northeast of Kyoto to the farming village of Ohara. We will visit the morning farmers’ market and a 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 and the multi-level strolling gardens of the mountain hermitage Shisendo, before a lesson in Japanese obanzai (homestyle cooking) and dinner.

Hotel: Royal Park THE Kyoto
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11 Sunday May 21 Kyoto

The early morning is free for those who would like to visit the monthly flea market at Toji Temple, one of the best in Japan, where discoveries might include pots and pans to traditional tableware and linens. Following a late morning visit to the gallery of renowned ceramics expert Robert Yellin, where we will hear how ceramics inform Japanese food ways, the afternoon is at leisure, with an optional visit to the nearby Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) temple and stroll along the creekside Philosopher’s Walk. Dinner tonight is upscale, Japanese-influenced Italian fusion cuisine.

Hotel: Royal Park THE Kyoto
Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 12 Monday May 22 Osaka

This morning we will board a charter coach and begin our day at a tea farm in Kyoto’s Uji district. 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’s meal will be a progressive dinner around the neon lit Dotonbori canal featuring two Osaka specialties for everyday folk: conveyor-belt sushi and okonomiyaki, savory pancakes.

Hotel: Hilton Osaka
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13 Tuesday May 23 Osaka/Kobe Day Trip

We will begin the morning with an udon-making class and lunch, then travel by regional train to the port city of Kobe. There, we will learn the history of sake brewing at a brewery in the Nada district, known for centuries as one of Japan’s leading sake centers – we’ll also get to have a tasting. From here it’s a short ride to central Kobe, where we will have time to visit the city shrine and have free time to explore Kobe’s compact downtown (snacking opportunities abound in its famous bakeries and Chinatown) or walk among the Ijinkan, western-style houses built by some of Japan’s earliest foreign residents. Our farewell dinner of locally raised Wagyu (Kobe) beef and vegetables is delicately steamed in a seiro (wooden steamer). After dinner, return to Osaka by train.

Hotel: Hilton Osaka
Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 14 Wednesday May 24 Departure

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

Meals included: breakfast

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