CUISINE AND CULTURE OF WESTERN JAPAN

This October, Esprit’s new Japan food tour takes you off the beaten path with Andrew Bender, one of Esprit’s most experienced guides and a travel and food writer. You will experience the unique foods of Kyushu and western Honshu through market visits, cooking classes and demonstrations, and local flavors from street food to kaiseki. All the while, you’ll take in the region’s unique history, culture and natural beauty, including a stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). At the conclusion of the tour is an optional extension to Benesse Art Site, on the Inland Sea.

Your Japan Food Tour begins in Nagasaki, where since the 1500s European traders and missionaries brought exotic customs and foods. Nagasaki was Japan’s only point of contact with the outside world for over two centuries, all the more ironic that it is best known outside Japan as the site of one of the WWII atomic bombings.

You will then continue along Kyushu’s rugged, photogenic northwestern coast to an intimate fishing village and ceramic town, en route to lively Fukuoka, crisscrossed by rivers and canals which animate local street life and food ways, including Hakata ramen and meals at yatai, mobile food carts.

Next, the Shinkansen bullet train takes you to Hiroshima Prefecture and a ryokan with sumptuous  kaiseki meals, onsen (natural hot spring) baths and views over the strait to Miyajima Island, home to the UNESCO World Heritage shrine with the picturesque “floating” torii gate. You will also have an opportunity to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Park.

You may also opt for a two-night tour extension to Benesse Art Site on the Inland Sea, dedicated to contemporary art. The extension visits museums and installations on the islands of Naoshima and Teshima and lodging at a Tadao Ando-designed art hotel.

If you are interested in a more general food tour of Japan – or are visiting Japan for the first time – please consider joining Esprit’s Cuisine & Culture of Japan Tour, offered each May and visiting the more well-traveled destinations of Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka.

Andy Bender

Japan Tour Leader and Travel Guide Writer
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

drinking morning tea
the monk is quiet
as is the mum flower

Highlights

φ Go off the beaten path in regions of Japan little visited by overseas guests.

φ Cooking classes and demonstrations, market visits and local foods from street food to multi-course kaiseki.

φ Taste Japanese foods in their hometowns: shippoku ryori and champon noodle soup in Nagasaki; ramen in Fukuoka; oysters and savory okonomiyaki pancakes in Hiroshima, and more.

φ Experience Japanese feudal era history – from Dutch traders to Madame Butterfly – and Japan’s original fusion cuisine in Nagasaki.

φ Two nights in a Japanese ryokan, offering sumptuous meals, soothing baths and Japan’s legendary hospitality.

φ Visit tiny seaside villages and a pottery town in Kyushu.

φ Take in the grandeur of the UNESCO World Heritage sites on Miyajima.

φ Learn about the heartbreak, devastation and courage resulting from the WWII atomic bombings.

φ Extend your trip for a visit to the stunning, architecturally significant Benesse Art Site.

Daily Itinerary: October 13- 23, 2018

Depart for Japan on your individually arranged flight.

For guests wishing to arrive in Nagasaki before October 14, rooms at Esprit’s negotiated rate can be reserved on a space-available basis.

Following your transfer from Nagasaki Airport or by train from elsewhere in Japan, this evening we will have an optional, casual orientation at our centrally located hotel.

 

Accommodations: Best Western Hotel Premier Nagasaki
Meals included: None

We will begin our exploration of Nagasaki by touring Dejima, the man-made island that served as the Dutch trading post during the Edo Period (though the city has now filled in around it). After seeing the faithfully reconstructed period buildings, we will have a lesson in Nagasaki-style cuisine and eat our creations for lunch. In the afternoon, we will visit Glover Garden, with splendid views across Nagasaki Bay, and take an optional visit to the majestic hillside Shinto precincts of Suwa Shrine. This evening, a banquet dinner in Chinatown pays tribute to Nagasaki’s Chinese history.

Accommodations: Best Western Hotel Premier Nagasaki
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will concentrate on the atomic bombing sites on Nagasaki’s north side, learn how this site came to be chosen for the bombing at the last minute and visit the museum and sites of the destruction. After lunch of local specialties, there will be time for exploring the city; suggestions include museums of art or history, a temple walk, hot spring complex or, weather permitting, a boat ride to Gunkanjima (Battleship Island), a fascinating, otherworldly abandoned coal mine island off Nagasaki Bay. This evening’s dinner is shippoku-ryori, Nagasaki-style east-west fusion kaiseki cuisine.

Accommodations: Best Western Hotel Premier Nagasaki
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a day trip exploring the history and natural beauty of the Nagasaki region, this evening is at leisure. You may wish to join your tour leader on a cable car ride up Mt. Inasa. The spectacular nighttime views across the city and bay are considered among the top three in Japan.

Accommodations: Best Western Hotel Premier Nagasaki
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Today we will depart by bus with our luggage to neighboring Saga Prefecture. Our first stop will be the intimate fishing village of Yobuko, famed for its morning market where local people sell produce and homemade furikake (flavored sprinkles for rice) alongside fish and seafood. From Yobuko it is a drive of under one hour to Karatsu, one of Japan’s most renowned centers of pottery. We will visit a pottery studio and a tofu shop before continuing to Fukuoka, Japan’s sixth largest city. Our accommodations are in the centrally located, recently renovated Grand Hyatt Fukuoka. Tonight’s dinner will be in the local style at a yatai (open-air food stall). Fukuoka has over 150 of these, more than the rest of Japan combined!

Accommodation: Grand Hyatt Fukuoka
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

We begin the day exploring some traditional sites of Fukuoka including the Kishida Shinto Shrine (home base of one of Japan’s great parade festivals) and, nearby the nearby Machiya Furusato-kan Museum, celebrating life in the city’s historic machiya merchant homes. After lunching on Fukuoka’s most famous dish, Hakata-style ramen in a thick pork-based broth, the afternoon will be free for shopping and individual exploration in the city’s parks, museums such as the acclaimed Asian Art Museum, and design and craft shops. Late afternoon we will visit a beer brewery (with sampling opportunities!) before a lively dinner of local specialties.

Accommodation: Grand Hyatt Fukuoka
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will travel by regional trains to Dazaifu, early capital of Kyushu and beautifully nestled in the forested woods south of Fukuoka. Here we will stroll the sprawling, photogenic grounds of the Tenman Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of education, and the futuristic Kyushu National Museum. Lunch today will include Dazaifu’s local specialty, umenohana (plum blossom) dumplings. We will return to Fukuoka in the late afternoon. The rest of the day and evening are free.

Accommodation: Grand Hyatt Fukuoka
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Today we will ship our large suitcases to onward destinations in order to travel with carry-on luggage. Our first stop is Mojiko, a beautifully preserved port town with many buildings of the Taisho era (1912-1926), which we will have time to view before lunch of yaki-curry (baked curry rice). We will continue by train to Hiroshima Prefecture and our contemporary ryokan for the next two nights, featuring views across the strait. Tonight we will arrive in time to use the inn’s lovely onsen baths before we enjoy a multi-course kaiseki dinner of local specialties.

Accommodation: Ryokan Sekitei
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a sumptuous Japanese-style breakfast in our inn, we will journey across the strait to Miyajima, home of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Itsukushima Shrine, with its famous torii gate which seems to float on the water. After lunch of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) made with noodles and oysters, we will board a ferry to the Hiroshima Peace Park. If you prefer, you may use sightseeing materials provided by Esprit to spend the afternoon at leisure on Miyajima or at the inn before another gourmet dinner.

Accommodation: Ryokan Sekitei
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, conditions permitting, we will return to the bay for an early morning excursion to view oyster beds – oysters are a major crop in the Hiroshima region. Following breakfast you will return via train for your pre-arranged return flight from Osaka Kansai airport.

Meal included: Breakfast

Benesse Art Site Extension

After breakfast, we will journey by Shinkansen and ferry to Japan’s premier art site, Benesse House, located on Naoshima Island in the Inland Sea. You will be able to purchase the bento lunch of your choice. After arrival on the island, we’ll take time to explore some of the installations and museums, including the Chichu Museum and the Lee Ufan Museum, before checking into the Benesse House Park Hotel. This Tadao Ando-designed hotel houses numerous art pieces and is located right along the island’s edge. Each room has its own installed art for you to enjoy while you are in residence. For dinner tonight, we will try our hand at grilling meats and seafood at a Japanese-style barbecue, with plenty of beer and sake.

Accommodation: Benesse Park Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning we will travel by ferry to nearby Teshima Island to experience the Teshima Yokoo House and Teshima Art Museum before having a quiet lunch at a local restaurant. Back on Naoshima, we will spend the afternoon exploring the Art House Project, in which older homes and businesses have been turned into installations by leading artists. Our farewell dinner will be at Issen restaurant at the Benesse House Museum, offering a contemporary interpretation of kaiseki served on an array of artistic functional ware from kilns all over Japan. After dinner, we will have the opportunity to explore the Benesse House Museum after hours.

Accommodation: Benesse Park Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Depart Japan on your individually pre-arranged flights. Transfer by ferry and train to Osaka for your return flights from Osaka Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Airport. Flights should be arranged for after 4:00pm to allow for ample time for travel and customs.

Meal included: Breakfast

Note: The itinerary will be finalized approximately 30 days prior to departure.  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.

TESTIMONIALS

Pricing, Sample Video, and Materials

Price: $6,450 USD

Registrations are being accepted as of February 1, 2018.

Tour Price Includes:

  • Nine nights accommodations in hotels as listed, sharing a room
  • Daily breakfast and additional meals as indicated
  • Airport transfers from/to Nagasaki (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, call 800-377-7481, or email info@esprittravel.com.

EXTENSION TO BENESSE ART SITE

Price: $1850 USD

The extension will run with a minimum of six participants and a maximum of 15. In the event the extension is not available due to insufficient enrollment, we can discuss options for traveling on your own to Benesse Art Site.

Extension Price Includes:

Accommodations for two nights in the Benesse Park Hotel, based on sharing a room.
Daily breakfast and additional meals as indicated (two lunches and two dinners)
All internal trains, ferries and transport for the tour, including riding on Japan’s famous Shinkansen “Bullet train”
Informative commentary by an Esprit tour leader who is fluent in Japanese, using our unique radio headset system.
Baggage shipping for one bag to Osaka Kansai Airport (we will travel with overnight bags only)
Admissions and local transportation

Note: The itinerary will be finalized approximately 30 days prior to departure. 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.

Downloadable Cuisine & Culture of Western Japan

Esprit Travel – Cuisine and Culture of Western Japan 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.