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Make no mistake about it: Japan is the greatest feast on earth. This is a trip specifically designed to experience as much of that feast as possible, one where you will see all sides of the Japanese food chain: from soba restaurants run by the same family for a dozen generations, to bustling ramen shops and izakaya, to ancient teahouses where thousand-year old traditions live on intact today. It is not just about the greatest meals, but the most interesting characters, most cherished traditions, most eye-opening corners of Japans inimitable culinary culture.
During your time in Tokyo, you will take in the worlds largest city and its incomparable food scene with the people who know it best. Tour the Tsukiji market, the largest fish market on the planet, with a local fish expert. You will make your own sushi in a master class with a Tokyo sushi chef. Partake in a classic tea ceremony in the home of an old tea master. Taste different vintages of aged coffees prepared by a 101 year old coffee shokunin, including aged coffee from 1955. Later, take a break from the Tokyo sprawl in a trip outside the city to a 400-year old sake brewery, followed by a traditional lunch in a beautiful rural restaurant, and a tour of an equally ancient soy sauce factory.
Back in the city, meals include the citys finest tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets with a battery of trimmings) served in an unsuspecting two-story townhouse, a modernist masterpiece at one of Tokyos best new restaurants, and a yakitori dinner to end all others, where the chefs divide the chicken into 36 different cuts to challenge your perception of this humble bird. When you are not elbow deep in tuna belly and grilled chicken parts, you will have the opportunity to peruse the sartorial madness of Harajuku with a fashion expert, hit the tech future escape known as Akihabara with a genuine otaku, or head to Kappabashi, the heart of Japans restaurant supply culture, to buy kitchen gear and create plastic food with a local artist.
In the Osaka suburb of Sakai city, once the seat of Japans ancient sword culture, you will spend the afternoon with the countrys foremost knife masters, dedicated artisans with over 200 years of knife making experience among them. Follow a piece of high density carbon steel as its forged, sharpened, and set into one of the worlds most sought after knives, a point of obsession for chefs around the globe. Before leaving, you will have the chance to bring home your own personalized blade from this team of master craftsmen. Osakans live by a code called kuiadore, literally, eating until you drop.
Once night falls, local food expert Yuko Suzuki will bring that ethos to life in a far reaching food crawl through the heart of Osaka, starting with sashimi and flame-broiled sea urchin from local legend Toyo, followed by a tasting in a clandestine, subterranean sake bar, and ending with okonomiyaki, the multilayered savory pancake that counts as one of Japans most underrated culinary creations. People looking to push the night to the breaking point can move on to cocktails, karaoke, and a late-night ramen run.
The ancient capital of Japan, the fountain from which all political, social, and cultural life flowed for more than 1,000 years, continues to be home to Japans most refined cuisine, in particular, kaiseki, the beautiful, seasonal, highly-polished tasting menus that helped redefine the idea of formal dining to the rest of the world. While in town, you will take in the full breadth of Kyotos food culture. Enjoy a sake tasting in the gallery of one of Japans most renowned ceramics collectors, shop at the famous food markets with the people who know them best, and cook obanzai, classic Kyoto cuisine in an old refurbished teahouse. You will also have the chance to browse a lively artisans market, encounter a few temples, and experience local crafts. Of course, kaiseki will feature prominently on the menu.
One day, after wandering the bamboo forests and ancient temples of Arashiyama, you will sit down to a three-hour feast at Tempura Matsu, where the Matsuno family pushes the traditions of kaiseki cuisine into bold new directions. For those looking to further their exploration of the kaiseki tradition, you will have the option to escape for a dinner at a handful of the citys most vaunted, and difficult to reserve, institutions, or eat the legendary breakfast served at a 300-year old teahouse once used as a stopover for Japanese warriors. While staying in Kyoto, you will be in the expert hands of Ken Yokoyama, the legendary general manager of the Hyatt Regency, whose reputation for hospitality is unrivaled across the country.
From big Kyoto to little Kyoto, a city with all the charm of Japans most famous destination but without the dense pockets of visitors. Kanazawa is home to the A-list of Japanese attractions: a long, rich history of samurai and geisha culture, beautiful parks, castles, gardens, and, above all, a deep culinary history that includes some of the finest seafood you will find anywhere in the country.
While in Kanazawa, you will take a tour to Omicho Market for an impromptu feast of snow crab, oysters, and roasted eel. Weave your way through the back alleys of Katamachi into tiny bars and restaurants that make up a fundamental part of Japans culinary landscape. Prepare yourself for a two-hour sushi feast at the altar of a local master. Step back in time and see the city through the eyes of a local historian full of anecdotes that make the past come alive.
The Noto Peninsula is your gateway into a part of Japan that most, including the Japanese, never get to see. This is a world of lonely seascapes, verdant valleys, and hidden villages, one flowing seamlessly into the next. Noto is known as the kingdom of fermentation, a culture of preservation that has long sustained this isolated region, where locals still make their own soy sauce, miso paste, and pickles from ancient family recipes.
In the morning, you will dive deep into Notos vaunted food world, including stops at local food and crafts markets, a seaside salt farm, and a sake brewery, plus one of the funkiest little ice cream spots in the world, located in the middle of a rice field. In the afternoon, you will settle into Flatts Inn, for a long lunch mixing the fresh and fermented staples of Noto with Italian techniques to create one of the regions most essential dining experiences.
Take the new Shinkansen from Kanazawa back to Tokyo, with cold beer and one of Japans greatest bento boxes, of course, and spend the time remaining before your departure scouring Narita Airports (NRT) endless maze of shops and kiosks for the perfect souvenirs.
This culinary tour will take place in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Noto Peninsula, Japan.
During this food holiday you will be delighted with daily delicious breakfast, selected lunches and dinners, including traditional kaiseki, obanzai, tonkatsu, yakitori, okonomiyaki, tempura, sashimi, flame-broiled sea urchin, snow crab, oysters, roasted eel, and sushi meals.
Please book your flight to arrive at Narita International Airport (NRT). Roads & Kingdoms will pick you up from the airport. The pick-up is included in the price.