small group journey
Off-the-Beaten-Track Culinary Tour
Welcome to Japan, a culinary hotbed, and a world-class food destination. On this week-long tour, you will be traveling to Tokyo, Nagano, and Yamanashi with a food blogger/chef to explore the best of Japan’s culinary traditions. Together, we will visit the Tsukiji fish market and take a cooking class there, shop in Kappabashi (Japan’s “kitchenware capital”), and try some delectable street food in the bustling city of Tokyo.
In the second part of the tour, we will take our curiosity to the countryside to learn about where the food comes from and how ingredients are prepared, visiting a wasabi farm, touring a miso brewery, preparing soba noodles, and staying overnight at a century-old farmhouse. We will also relax in hot springs, sample Japanese whiskey, and visit cultural sights to nourish ourselves, body and soul.
This tour is offered twice a year: at the first sign of spring, and during the harvest season in the fall.
- Master sushi-making, at a class at the Tsukiji Fish Market
- Shop in Kappabashi, in the “kitchen town” of Asakusa
- Take a bullet train to Nagano for vegetarian cuisine and a Zen temple experience
- Visit a wasabi farm to learn how wasabi is grown and harvested
- Tour the 500-year-old Matsumoto Castle
- Ponder the history and process of making miso at a miso brewery
- Relax at a traditional hot spring and enjoy a multi-course kaiseki dinner
- Sample world-class sake in the lakeside town of Suwa
- Visit a knife shop
- Tour the Suntory Distillery and learn about Japanese whiskey
- Take a soba-noodle-making class in the mountain town of Yamanashi
- Stay overnight in a community farmhouse
Sunday, April 11
Welcome to my home country. I am excited to share its food culture with you. We start here in Tokyo, the bustling capital of Japan, where some of the most sophisticated and refined Japanese food is found. Let me assist you with check-in, and we will head out for a welcome dinner.
After breakfast, a hands-on learning opportunity awaits you at Tsukiji Fish Market, largest fish market in the world. The relocation of the internal market in 2019 made the outer market more spacious and accessible for visitors. Now located both along the Sumida River and in the Ginza district, Tsukiji handles over 400 different kinds of seafood and more than 700,000 tons of fish every year. Today we will learn about food history and culture, and the varieties of seafood and seasonal produce at the market. For our lunch, we will learn how to make sushi in a class taught by a master sushi chef.
In the afternoon, we will hop on the subway to visit Kappabashi, a “kitchen town” where professional chefs and restaurant owners shop, located in Asakusa. Enjoy street food as we stroll through the busy streets on the premises of Senso-Ji Temple.
Today we are taking the Shinkansen to Nagano City for a Zen experience. We will visit Zenkoji, the largest Buddhist temple in the prefecture. Nagano City was built around Zenkoji Temple, and from the train station, a cobblestone walkway will guide us to the temple entrance, where you will be welcomed into a community of shops and inns and cafes.
Our evening meal will be served in the temple’s dining hall. It will be a traditional vegetarian meal, carefully prepared using long-established methods to bring out the best flavors of local vegetables and grains. Admire the artful presentation and savor the delicate and delicious vegetarian flavors as you relax in the tranquility of the Zen lifestyle.
After morning prayers at Zenkoji Temple, we head to the picturesque castle town of Matsumoto, a cultural destination and home to one of Japan’s finest feudal era castles. We’ll tour the castle and explore the amazing architecture and history of Japan’s feudal era.
We’ll also visit a 150-year-old Miso Brewery. Ishii Miso is known for using traditional wooden barrels instead of modern stainless steel for its three-year maturing process. No additives are used, resulting in delicious natural, pure-tasting miso. In the afternoon, we will visit a destination wasabi farm.
In the evening, we will check in at a traditional ryokan, an inn in a hot spring town on Lake Suwa. This ryokan was a celebrated restaurant from the Taisho era (1912–1926) to the beginning of the Showa era (1926–1989), when it became an inn, and to this day they take pride in serving excellent kaiseki dinners to their guests. Enjoy a relaxing evening soaking in a hot spring and a splendid meal paired with local sake.
Today, we are going to explore the lakeside town of Suwa. Rich in history and blessed with nature, the city of Suwa is famous for many things: its sake, natural hot springs, clock-making, and Japanese silk, to name only a few. We will visit a local knife maker and then visit a neighborhood brewery to learn about sake. Enjoy a free afternoon hiking to a nearby shrine, visiting a museum or renting a bike.
Today, we will travel through a spectacular valley in the Japan Alps to Yamanashi Prefecture. Yamanashi is well-known for its national parks, the beautiful peaks of the Yatsugatake Mountains, high-quality produce, and buckwheat (soba). Upon arrival, we will learn to make soba noodles for our lunch. Because they contain only freshly ground buckwheat, a little wheat and water, these nutty and aromatic noodles are highly regarded for their flavor and refined preparation.
In the afternoon, we will tour the Suntory Hakushu Whiskey Distillery, nestled in the forest on the slopes of Mt. Kaikoma. Known locally as the “Forest Distillery”, it’s also one of the highest whiskey distilleries in the world. Here, surrounded by a wild bird sanctuary, we’ll learn about the distillation process and taste some of the finest Japanese whiskeys.
Tonight, we are going to sleep at a thousand-star hotel (a.k.a. the bunkhouse on the farm premises). We’ll enjoy a dinner that is home-cooked by the inn owner and served in the formal dining room of a 150-year old farmhouse. After dinner, be sure to take the time to stroll through the farmhouse gardens.
Wishing you all a safe journey home!
(or you can add another day and a visit to Mt. Fuji!)
April 11 – 17, 2021
$3999 per person, double occupancy
($100.00 discount for check payment)
Deposit of $750.00 due at the time of registration (non-refundable)
Cooking Classes and Admissions
Guide & Interpreter
what’s not included:
travel or medical insurance
flight to/from Japan
personal spending including:
shopping, alcohol, laundry, some meals
koshiki yonemura, 651-734-3923, firstname.lastname@example.org