A Culinary Exploration of Japan

With an array of regional cuisines, cooking styles, and centuries-old culinary traditions, and with Tokyo boasting more Michelin stars than any other city in the world, Japan is the ultimate foodie destination. This unbelievable small group trip has been designed to be as delicious as it is luxurious. Traveling through Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka, explore hole-in-the-wall restaurants on hidden backstreets and locals' only food markets, learn how to make noodles, sushi and elaborate kaiseki meals from master chefs, discover the art of sake brewing and have a traditional dinner with a geisha, all complimented by the incredible colors of the changing autumn leaves.

Japan Culinary Trip

Traveling through Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka, explore hole-in-the-wall restaurants on hidden backstreets and locals' only food markets, learn how to make noodles, sushi and elaborate kaiseki meals from master chefs, discover the art of sake brewing and have a traditional dinner with a geisha, all complimented by the incredible colors of the changing autumn leaves.

  • Dive into Japanese culture with a private visit to a sumo stable training session, take a calligraphy lesson and learn the art of taiko drumming.
  • Head out with an expert guide to visit locals only markets in search of hand-crafted kitchenware, fresh seafood, pickled vegetables and barrels overflowing with Japanese sweets.
  • Filled with seriously special cooking classes galore, roll up your sleeves to make soba noodles, take part in a sushi course and learn the tradition of preparing an elaborate kaiseki meal.
  • Experience exclusive foodie tours in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka, sampling takoyaki dumplings, okonomiyaki pancakes and so much more.
  • A privileged opportunity typically only available to Japan's elite society, join a geisha for a special dinner and traditional dance performance.
  • Spend a Spooktacular Halloween spotting weird and wonderful costumes and parades in Osaka.
  • Go on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park with a local volunteer from Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace.
  • Explore some of Japan’s most beautiful shrines, temples and historic districts with a knowledgeable local guide.
  • Throughout your journey you'll be joined by an expert English-speaking guide who knows Japan like the back of their hand and a Scott Dunn host.

The Itinerary

Day 1 - Tokyo
Day 1 - Thursday 22 October, Tokyo

Your adventure in Japan starts today. You’ll be met on arrival at Narita Airport by your driver and whisked away by private vehicle to the iconic Palace Hotel. Once you’re settled in, you’ll be greeted by your knowledgeable English-speaking guide who will be accompanying you for the entire trip. In the evening, meet up with your fellow travelers in the hotel bar and toast to the incredible trip ahead. Mix and mingle with each other and get excited about the coming days with a briefing from your guide before heading to a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. This will be a fabulous chance to get to know your guide and group even better, all while enjoying an authentic Japanese dining experience.

Day 2 Tokyo street food
Day 2 - Friday 23 October, Tokyo

Your first stop of the day is Tokyo’s oldest and most impressive temple, Asakusa Kannon (Senso-Ji). Many come for the curative powers of incense billowing from the bronze urn in front of the main hall. After taking in the beauty of this ornate red temple, head to the backstreets surrounding the area to get a glimpse of old Japan. Artisans, sushi and eel shops, and the general hustle and bustle make for an exhilarating atmosphere. You’ll stop for lunch at a local restaurant before having the afternoon at leisure to explore Tokyo or get some R&R back at the hotel. Once the sun sets, you’ll embark on a food tour around the hidden backstreets of Tokyo’s liveliest district, Shinjuku. Explore ‘’Ömoide Yokocho” (‘Memory Lane’), where retro bars vie for customers and the nostalgic décor makes it feel like you’ve stepped back to the 1950s. Next, it’s on to one of our favorite spots in the city, Golden Gai. Home to around 200 izakaya, small pubs and bars are packed in to narrow pedestrian-only streets, creating a sociable atmosphere.

Day 3 Tokyo Kaiseki
Day 3 - Saturday 24 October, Tokyo

Your morning starts early with a visit to a sumo wrestling stable. During your visit your guide will teach you about the sport and the etiquette for watching, then you’ll witness the training up close. After you’ve worked up an appetite at sumo training, it’s on to an exclusive kaiseki lunch cooking experience. In today’s lesson you will learn about the importance of the preparation method, flavor, the dining ware, and how the eight dishes that make up kaiseki cuisine are tailored to reflect the season and occasion. Your cooking lesson will take place at Michelin-starred Tsujitome, where you’ll observe a third-generation chef at work and get in on the fun helping him prepare the most important components of the meal. Once you’ve refueled with an incredible meal, you’ll head to one of the most impressive sights in Tokyo, the massive Meiji shrine area. The entrance, located in a sprawling, peaceful forest, is marked by an enormous wooden torii gate constructed from the trunks of cedar trees. In perfect contrast to the verdant grounds...

Day 4 Tokyo drumming
Day 4 - Sunday 25 October, Tokyo

Today you’ll have the chance to try your hand at soba making. During the class you’ll learn how to create a dough of the correct consistency, roll it out and slice it into thin noodle strips using a special soba knife – not as easy as it sounds! Of course, your reward is to eat your tasty soba noodles for lunch afterwards. Next, you’ll work off those noodles during an interactive taiko drumming lesson. From its ancient origins as military exercises and entertainment in castles and shrines, taiko has evolved into ensemble drumming. This is a fantastic way to try your hand at a traditional Japanese instrument, regardless of your musical ability. Tonight, we’ll arrange for a group dinner at a local restaurant where you can all recount the thrilling activities of the day.

Day 5 Kyoto fall leaves
Day 5 - Monday 26 October, Tokyo & Kyoto

We have timed this trip to coincide with the expected dates for the famous Tokyo Ramen Show, the world’s biggest ramen festival. Get your chopsticks at the ready because this festival attracts the best noodle soup makers from all over Japan. Try regional specialties as well as some special one-off concoctions created specifically for the event. This afternoon you’ll hop on the world-famous bullet train to make the journey to Kyoto. Keep an eye out for the shy Mt. Fuji on the way - if the weather is clear, you may have a chance of seeing her. On arrival at Kyoto Station, you’ll be transferred to the perfectly located Ritz-Carlton Kyoto. This evening is yours to do with as you please. We’re happy to recommend our favorite restaurants and neighborhoods to explore in Kyoto. Or, you may wish to spend time at your hotel’s spa relaxing with a rejuvenating treatment, unwinding with a refreshing drink in the stylish bar or soaking up the serene atmosphere in the expansive swimming pool.

Day 6 Kyoto sake
Day 6 - Tuesday 27 October, Kyoto

You’ll start today with a guided trip to Kinkaku-ji temple (the Golden Pavilion), one of the most famous temples in the entire country. Its stunning gold façade makes a lovely reflection in the ‘mirror pond’, perfect for capturing a breath-taking photo. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to uncover Nishiki Market dubbed “Kyoto’s Kitchen.’’ Nishiki is the type of market where locals purchase their weekly goods, from zingy pickled vegetables stacked in wooden baskets, to delicately shaped wagashi sweets, and everything in between. Stop for lunch as a group at a restaurant near the market. Then, you’ll enjoy a sake tasting at a local, family-run brewery where you will have the chance to sample several varieties while learning about traditional brewing techniques. End the day with dinner at an authentic Japanese restaurant, bonding with your group over all of the amazing moments you’ve shared together.

Day 7 kyoto geisha
Day 7 - Wednesday 28 October, Kyoto

Today you’ll get an early start to beat the crowds. You’ll spend the morning hiking around the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its 10,000-flaming orange torii gates winding around the mountainside. Then it’s time to join in on to a fascinating calligraphy class with an expert instructor to learn the basics of shodo. During your time in Kyoto you’ll also get to take a course in the most quintessential Japanese dish – sushi! Tonight, it’s time for an unforgettable, exclusive maiko (apprentice geisha) evening. Visit a celebrated ryokan in the heart of Kyoto’s most famous geisha district for a sumptuous ‘kaiseki’ dinner accompanied with maiko entertainment. Following dinner, the geisha and maiko will perform traditional dance at the front of the room allowing you to enjoy this special art form up close. You will also be introduced to some of the less formal maiko arts such as Japanese drinking games and have the chance to chat with the geisha and maiko.

Day 8 hiroshima
Day 8 - Thursday 29 October, Hiroshima

A trip to Hiroshima is not complete without a thought-provoking visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and Park, built as a memorial to the harrowing events of WWII. Scattered around the park are various memorials, including the Children’s Peace Monument with thousands of origami cranes, and the Peace Flame, which will burn until the last nuclear weapon is destroyed. Just across the river is the iconic A-Bomb Dome. During this tour, you’ll have the privileged opportunity of meeting a local volunteer guide at the park. The guide is a member of ‘Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace’ which is a non-profit organization set up to support A-bomb survivors and their descendants (‘hibakusha’), and to inform people about the park and museum. This is a great chance to meet a Hiroshima area resident and gain an understanding of what happened from a local perspective. This evening, you’ll head out on a Hiroshima culinary safari. No food tour here would be complete without tucking into famous Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (savory pancakes chock full of...

Day 9 miyajima gate
Day 9 - Friday 30 October, Hiroshima & Miyajima

After spending a peaceful morning at leisure taking in the gardens and onsen at your serene ryokan, you’ll catch the ferry across the bay to Miyajima Island. The island is famous for the stunning Itsukushima Shrine complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site - including its iconic floating torii gate, ranked as one of Japan’s top three sights. Another highlight is the view from the top of Mount Misen, reachable by cable car. Oysters are the specialty food of the Hiroshima area, and of Miyajima Island in particular. You’ll have a brief tasting of oysters and Chablis at Kakiwai, a stylish café. Take in the scenery from the café’s floor-to-ceiling windows that open out onto a veranda with views of Miyajima’s five story pagoda. This evening you will be served a delicious dinner, made of local fresh ingredients, at your beautiful ryokan.

Day 10 osaka food
Day 10 - Saturday 31 October, Osaka

Once you’ve checked into the Ritz-Carlton Osaka you’ll kick off the day with your final foodie tour in Japan. The famous Dotonbori street in Osaka is the most popular place for residents and visitors alike to go for their street food fix – from steaming takoyaki octopus dumplings to savory okonomiyaki pancakes. We’ve arranged for you to visit a lesser-known but equally tasty area of Osaka for a more local, retro vibe: the down-to-earth entertainment district of Shinsekai. Here you can get a taste of vintage Osaka where the culture and food dates back to the 1920s, and you’ll rub elbows with everyday Osakans out and about for a bite to eat. We’ve timed this trip to coincide with Osaka’s renowned spooktacular Halloween celebration. Though this isn’t a traditional holiday in Japan, the country has embraced the festivities and put its own special twist on the day. This evening we’ll arrange a farewell dinner at a local restaurant where you can swap stories and highlights of your trip as it comes to an...

Day 10 Osaka
Day 11 - Sunday 1 November, Osaka

Sadly, your time in Japan must come to an end. You’ll be met at your hotel by your driver and will be transferred by private car to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport to catch your flight home or continue on to another enthralling corner of Asia.

The Accommodation

Palace hotel tokyo
Palace Hotel Tokyo - 4 nights

The Palace Hotel is one of the finest in Tokyo. Walking into the cool, contemporary-style lobby is like stepping into an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Perfectly located right next door to the Imperial Palace, it’s true bliss sipping your morning coffee on your private balcony overlooking the views of Tokyo. As the only hotel in the city with balconies, this is an incredible way to start your day. The Palace’s dining options are excellent including Michelin-starred Japanese, Chinese, French and Italian restaurants. The Evian Spa, boasting panoramic views of the Tokyo skyline, is the first of its kind in Japan, blending French influences and Asian therapies to create an exceptional relaxation experience.

Rtiz Carlton Kyoto
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto - 3 nights

Located on the banks of the Kamogawa River the Ritz-Carlton in Kyoto is among the best that the city has to offer. Sympathetically drawing inspiration from the river in design, the hotel seamlessly incorporates nature inside and out. With just five stories, the hotel blends beautifully into Kyoto’s skyline and provides an oasis in this bustling and culturally rich city. All rooms are extremely spacious and boast some of the largest in Kyoto with views over the river or Higashiyama mountains in the distance. There are two stunning restaurants serving both beautifully crafted Italian dishes and traditional Japanese cuisine. Alongside these there is a fantastic and incredibly stylish bar and a lovely airy lounge where afternoon tea is served - an institution in Japan.

The Sekitei
The Sekitei, Hiroshima - 2 nights

Nestled into the hillside overlooking the inland Sea of Japan and out to Miyajima Island, The Sekitei provides the ultimate ryokan experience. Each room is in the Japanese style, with Tatami and a separate living area, dining area and two reading and relaxation rooms. The twelve rooms are designed with individual character but what they do have in common is that they all come complete with private onsen baths and incredible views. The décor is very traditional in style, which adds to the charm with walkways between rooms being open to the elements and close to nature, with natural building materials playing a large role in the design and feel of the entire ryokan.

Ritz Carlton Osaka
The Ritz-Carlton Osaka - 1 night

Centrally located in the fashionable Nishi-Umeda district, The Ritz-Carlton Osaka provides a convenient and luxurious stay in Osaka. Blending perfectly with the buzzing and fast paced city, the exterior of the hotel has a contemporary and modern feel. However, it is a different story when you venture inside with interiors mirroring a historic Georgian Manor House complete with four poster beds, antiques, and wood-paneled corridors. The rooms at the Ritz-Carlton offer some of the largest in Japan and all offer beautiful views over Osaka. There is also a beautiful indoor pool, a fantastic spa and a jazzy bar, perfect for relaxing in after days exploring.

Call us on 858 523 9000 to start planning your holiday

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