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Culture and Food Tour Japan

For many Europeans, there is no culture more different than Japan. Spirit Journeys Worldwide cultural tours are designed to immerse you in a new and different culture. Japanese culture, food, religion, and language are all very unique, which is why this is one of the joys and challenges of travelling to this beautiful region of the world. Come join this tour where you will have the opportunity to delight along some of the best Japanese highlights, while indulging into some of the most delicious Japanese dishes!


  • 1 soba-making workshop
  • Sumida River boat cruise ride
  • Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish market in the world tour
  • Koyasan, center of Buddhism and designated UNESCO World Heritage site visit
  • Sightseeing in one of the oldest Geisha districts in Japan
  • Daily breakfast, 3 lunches, and 5 dinners
  • 11 nights accommodation
  • Airport transfers


10 days with instruction in English
Spoken languages: English
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During this tour of Japan, guests will be provided with daily accommodation at hotels and ryokan, the traditional Japanese inn originated in the Edo period.


Day 1 - Arrive Tokyo

  • Upon arrival at Tokyo International Airport (HND), guests will be met by a representative, who will help them board the right train or shuttle bus to the hotel.
  • The rest of the day is spent at leisure.
  • Overnight in Tokyo.

Day 2 - Tokyo

  • Early this morning, your guide will pick you up from the hotel and take you to Tsukiji Fish Market, which handles more than 2,000 tons of marine produce each day, making it the largest fish market in the world.
  • After exploring the outer markets, you will stop at one of the nearby local restaurants for a sushi breakfast.
  • Head to Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo Period lord.
  • After strolling around the garden, you will be able to take a break at the teahouse, known as Nakajima No Chaya; which stands elegantly in the parks lake. Here, you will have the chance to taste matcha (Japanese green tea), paired with a Japanese sweet.
  • Afterwards, its time to see Tokyo from a different angle with a boat cruise on the Sumida River. The boat will head towards Asakusa, in Tokyos shitamachi, or old town. Asakusa is the city's oldest Geisha district as well as the home to the Senso-ji Temple, Tokyos oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs, and are a delight to wander through. Asakusa is also famous for its tempura; guests will stop at one of the areas local restaurants for a set course lunch.
  • From Asakusa, it is just a short walk to Kappabashi, also known as the Kitchenware Town. Here, streets are lined with dozens of stores selling everything that restaurateurs need; such as dishes, pots, pans, cooking utensils, stoves, tables, chairs, signs, lanterns, and much more. This place also sells plastic food models that can be seen outside many Japanese restaurants.
  • The last stop of the day is at Uenos Ameyoko-cho, a busy market street underneath the train lines. Formerly the site of a black market after World War II, this bustling area is now filled with shops and stalls, selling a wide variety of products, such as fresh fish, dried food, and spices. It is a great place to try some local snacks.
  • Overnight in Tokyo.

Day 3 - Tokyo

  • This morning, guests will make their way to the cooking studio in Tsukiji Fish Market, for a soba-making workshop (comprehensive directions will be provided). The class will be held by either Akila Inouye, founder and master chef of the Tsukiji Soba Academy, or one of the academys graduates.
  • Class begins with a short demonstration by asobatician, followed by lessons in how to prepare the wheat mixture, work the dough, and last but definitely not least, the precise way of cutting it into 1.6 millimeters thick noodles. At the end of the lesson, guests will cook their handmade soba and dine with the teacher and the rest of the class in tachi-gui style (eating while standing up).
  • The activity ends at the venue and the rest of the afternoon is free at leisure. Guests can simply relax at the hotel, head out and discover the busy streets of Shibuya (Tokyos iconic scramble crossing), visit the fashion Mecca of Harajuku, or explore another shitamachi in Yanaka.

Day 4 - Tokyo - Takayama

  • Today is a self-guided day.
  • Guests will take a journey to Takayama; a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture.
  • The first leg of the trip will be via the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train), which can reach speeds of 260 kilometers per hour.
  • The second part of the journey will be via the express train, Hida Wide View, one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan.
  • Spirit Journeys Worldwide recommends you strolling through Takayamas shitamachi (old town), where the streets are lined with sake breweries, old merchants homes, and local stores. Visit one of the breweries and taste the local drop.
  • Try one of the famous restaurant that sells Hida beef sushi, or stop by a caf for some afternoon tea.
  • While in Takayama, you will be staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style accommodation furnished with zaisu (no-leg chairs), a low table, shoji (sliding doors), and tatami flooring.
  • This evening, dinner will be a traditional kaiseki ryori (multi-course) meal that features local produce, including fresh vegetables, seafood and Hida beef, which rivals Kobe beef in terms of taste and quality.
  • A soak in the onsen (hot spring) before bed is recommended, as it helps you relax after a long day of traveling and sightseeing.

Day 5 - Takayama

  • Today is a self-guided day. Some of the most visited places in Takayama are the morning markets.
  • After breakfast, Spirit Journeys Worldwide recommends you head to the Miyagawa Morning Market, where locals sell their handmade crafts and local produce (depending on the season, the markets open as early as 06:00). This is also the perfect place to purchase some souvenirs, such as chopsticks, Ichii Itto-bori (wood carvings), and the iconic Sarubobo.
  • Just a short walk from the morning market is Takayama Jinya, also known as the Historical Government House (the only surviving government office building from the Edo period). Now it serves as museum, featuring some well-preserved meeting and conference rooms, a collection of century-old artifacts and office supplies, and a 400-year-old rice storage room.
  • Afterwards, head to the Takayama Festival Floats Museum to see the colorful floats that parade through the town, during the famous Takayama Festivals in spring and autumn.

Day 6 - Takayama - Kyoto

  • Today is a self-guided day.
  • Take one last soak in the onsen, before starting the journey to Japans cultural capital, Kyoto.
  • Kyoto is home to around 2,000 shrines and temples, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • The rest of the day is at leisure.
  • Overnight in Kyoto.

Day 7 - Kyoto

  • Today, guests will explore the former imperial capital with a knowledgeable local guide, utilizing Kyoto's comprehensive bus system to visit some of the city's World Heritage sites.
  • The day starts with a visit to Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence, surrounded by stunning gardens. The main building was completed in 1603. It is famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and chirping nightingale floors.
  • Continue on to Ryoan-ji Temple, the site of Japan's most famous rock garden. This temple originally served as an aristocrat's villa during the Heian period, and then converted into a Zen Buddhist temple in 1450.
  • After lunch, visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, or the Golden Pavilion, originally built as a retirement villa for the shogun. After his death, it became a Buddhist temple at his request. Now, it is one of Kyoto's most famous temples.
  • Next on the list is Kyomizu-dera, or the Pure Water Temple. From the 13-meter-high veranda, which juts out from the main hall, guests can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto, whilst pondering the fact that both the main hall and the veranda were built without the use of nails.
  • Before the tour ends, stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama district, where busy lanes are lined with quaint shops selling souvenirs, such as Kyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, and pickles.
  • Overnight in Kyoto.

Day 8 - Kyoto

  • The morning is free at leisure.
  • In the afternoon, guests will engage in a cultural culinary experience after visiting one of Kyoto's most famous markets.
  • After meeting the local guide at the designated meeting spot, in Nishiki Market, guests will embark on a tour that will delight their senses.
  • Firstly, a guided tour of the mile-long Nishiki, which passes some interesting food stalls and allows guests to learn about the local Japanese produce. The guide will help you buy the ingredients that will be needed in the cooking class, which comes next.
  • The guide will then lead the way down some backstreets, to a former sake brewery, where guests will have the chance to sample the local brew before heading to the cooking class.
  • The cooking class will take place in a machiya, a well-restored wooden house, typical of Kyoto.
  • This afternoon, guests will learn how to make rolled sushi, miso soup, and salad, with seasonal fruit for dessert. After the class, guests will be able to sit down and share the meal with their teacher.
  • The activity finishes at the venue, with the rest of the evening free at leisure.
  • Overnight in Kyoto.

Day 9 Kyoto - Koya-san

  • Home to more than 100 temples, Koyasan has been the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect for over 1,200 years. Koyasan and its vicinity, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • The journey to Koyasan is one of the highlights of the visit.
  • Guests will take several local trains, with the final ascent being on a cable car, which offers one of the most scenic journeys in Japan as it winds its way up into the mountains. The guide will meet guests at Koyasan Station and take them to a couple of popular sites, providing an insight into Japanese Buddhism.
  • The first stop will be at Kongobu-ji Temple, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism and home to Japans largest rock garden.
  • If guests are lucky, they might see a small group of worshippers led by a monk, chanting scripts in front of the temple.
  • Then, its on to Okuno-in, Japans largest cemetery, which holds the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. The classic approach starts from Ichinohashi Bridge and stretches up to 2 kilometers, filled with more than 200,000 tombstones that belong to feudal lords, prominent monks, and even well-known Japanese companies.
  • At the end of the cemetery, guests will find the Gokusho Offering Hall, Torodo Hall of Lanterns, and Kobo Daishis Mausoleum.
  • After the tour, the guide will escort you back to your accommodation, a shukubo, or Japanese temple lodge.
  • Dinner will beshojin ryori, a traditional Buddhist cuisine.
  • Overnight at Koyasan.

Day 10 - Koyasan - Osaka

  • Today is a self-guided day.
  • If you want to have a complete experience of Koyasan, it is recommended joining the morning prayer, which usually starts at 06:00. This offers not only the chance to witness the monks pray, but also to see the inside of the worship room (only in Japanese and taking photos inside the prayer room is discouraged).
  • Afterwards, guests will have a traditional shojin ryori breakfast.
  • The rest of the morning is free to further explore Koyasan before departing for the journey to Osaka, Japans Kitchen Capital.
  • Osaka's flamboyance, fun-loving people and amazing food make up for what it lacks in tourist attractions.
  • Overnight in Osaka.

Day 11 - Osaka

  • Morning is free at leisure.
  • In the afternoon, the guide will take you on a half-day tour to explore some of Osaka's most popular street food spots.
  • First, head to the Doguyasuji shopping arcade, a unique market that sells anything related to the food industry, including the plastic food models that are often found outside Japanese restaurants.
  • After seeing so much plastic food, guests will probably be feeling hungry, so, the next stop will be in Dotonbori, a restaurant mecca which serves as Osaka's entertainment district and former pleasure district.
  • Here, a wide array of food stalls and restaurants are available. You can choose to order either takoyaki (octopus balls), or okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake with cabbage, pork, ginger, nori, and a special sauce).
  • While in Dotonbori, you may wish to pose in front of Kani Doraku, the huge crab with moving legs, or stand on Ebisubashi, which offers photo opportunities with the running Glico man as the backdrop.
  • After taking some photos, the tour continues to Hozenji Yokocho, an area of narrow alleyways, filled with more than 60 traditional restaurants and izakaya (traditional Japanese pubs).
  • At the end of one of these alleys lies the Hozenji Temple, where worshippers splash water on the statue of the deity instead of tossing coins.
  • Next, guests will take the train to Shinsekai, a small old town in Tennoji area that based on the design of New York and Paris.
  • Despite the post World War II economic impact, Shinsekai still remains one of the favorite places in Osaka for food lovers.
  • Before sampling some local delicacies, you will first go to Tsutenkaku, a replica of the Eiffel Tower, and one of Osaka's most iconic landmarks. The tower is famous for its seasonal lights, which even forecast the next days weather through color-coding. On the fifth floor, you will find not only an observatory but also a replica of the statue of Billiken, the god of happiness.
  • Then, it is finally time to discover the delicious flavors of Shinsekai.
  • For dinner, it is recommended kushikatsu, a skewer of meat and vegetables dipped in batter, rolled in breadcrumbs, and then deep fried. The guide can offer alternative suggestions and will be happy to show you to the restaurant of your choice.

Day 12 - Departure from Osaka

  • The rest of the day is at leisure, until the time comes for guests to transfer via train or airport shuttle bus to Kansai International Airport (KIX).

Included excursions

  • Delight in Koyasan, the center of Shingon Buddhism, designated UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Enjoy a soba-making workshop
  • Explore Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish market in the world
  • Take a boat cruise on the Sumida River and head towards Asakusa, in Tokyos shitamachi or old town
  • Tour Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence, surrounded by stunning gardens
  • Visit a sake brewery and a teahouse
  • Visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, or the Golden Pavilion and Tsutenkaku, a replica of the Eiffel Tower and one of Osakas most iconic landmarks
  • Visit one of the oldest Geisha districts as well as the home to the Senso-ji Temple Tokyos oldest Buddhist temple
  • Visit the Miyagawa Morning Market, where locals sell their handmade crafts and local produce and head to the Takayama Festival Floats Museum, to see the colorful floats that parade through the town
  • Walk around Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo Period lord


This tour will take place in and around Tokyo, Takayama, Kyoto, Koyasan, and Osaka, Japan.


During this culinary tour around diverse beautiful Japanese regions, guests will be provided with daily breakfast, 3 lunches and 5 dinners, and will have the opportunity to relish some delicious Japanese dishes, while learning how to make rolled sushi, miso soup, salad, dessert and taste matcha (Japanese green tea), paired with a Japanese sweet.

Things to do (optional)

Afternoon trip to Shirakawago

Around noon, catch the bus to Shirakawago region in Toyama Prefecture, famous for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer," as the farmhouses steep thatched roofs resemble the praying hands of Buddhist monks. The architectural style developed over many generations and some of the houses are more than 250 years-old. The roofs, which were constructed without any nails, are intricately designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow in winter and the large attics were used to cultivate silkworms.

Stroll around Shirakawago and visit a couple of farmhouses, such as the Wada House, which previously belonged to the Wada Family, one of the richest families and village leaders in Ogimachi. Their status in the community was represented by the size of their house, still the largest gassho-zukuri farmhouse in the village today. Interesting about this house is that no nails were used in its construction, and only ropes hold everything together. Inside, you will find a number of antiques such as silkworm installations, looms, and irori, the traditional sunken hearth used for heating and cooking. Return to Takayama for another night in the ryokan.

Food and culture walk

This can be an alternative to the self-guided tour in Takayama. You can explore some of the food shops in Takayama with a knowledgeable guide, learning about the towns colorful history and familiarizing their taste buds with some of the local delicacies. The walking tour includes visits to a tofu seller, a rakugan (traditional Japanese candy) shop, and even a sake brewery (some stores may close on certain days). Food and sake tastings are also included.

Tokyo by night

Enjoy a walk around some of Tokyo's brightest and liveliest districts in the company of a tour leader, who will make sure guests experience the city's most famous nightlife spots as well more local and hidden neighborhoods. After meeting the tour leader at the hotel, guests will first head to Ebisu, where modern, western-style nightlife meets Japanese tradition. Bright neon lights will show the way to the most fashionable restaurants and bars, while more traditional lanterns will identify the manyizakayas (Japanese-style pubs).

The tour leader will also take guests to Ebisu Yokocho, one of the most traditional areas of Ebisu, where lively narrow streets are filled with traditional Japanese taverns selling finger food, traditional appetizers, Japanese beer and other traditional drinks. There, guests can choose a bar and have a drink while the tour leader explains the history and the characteristics of the area (first drink included other orders on own expense). Later, a 20-minute walk (or three-minute train ride) will take guests from Ebisu to Shibuya, one of the hearts of Tokyo's nightlife scene.

This area is home to the world-famous Shibuya crossing, considered the worlds busiest intersection with more than a thousand people crossing every time the traffic lights change. This is one of the most famous sights in Japan and definitely one of the best spots to take a souvenir photo. In the middle of Shibuya's bright lights and vibrant atmosphere lies Hachiko, the well-known statue of the dog that used to visit Shibuya station every day to wait for his owner. This is also a convenient meeting point that many locals use when they get together for a night out in Shibuya.

Next, a quick train ride will take you to Shinjuku, which is home to the worlds busiest railway station and a very popular entertainment and shopping district. From the station, head to the Shinjuku NS Building, where dinner awaits at a Japanese izakaya, located on the 29th floor. This high vantage point provides amazing views of Tokyo while guests have dinner (included). After dinner, if time permits, the tour leader can take guests to Shinjukus Golden Gai, a network of small alleys and narrow passageways famous for its unique atmosphere and tiny bars. From there, guests can either continue exploring Tokyo's nightlife on their own, or ask the tour leader to take them back to the station.

What's included

  • 2-day Kansai thru pass for days 9 and 10
  • 2-day Kyoto bus and subway pass for days 7 and 8
  • 7-day Japan rail pass in ordinary class, activated on day 4
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary on days 2, 7, 9, and 11
  • English-speaking guide in Tokyo (day 2), Kyoto (day 7), Koyasan (day 9, half-day), and Osaka (day 11, half-day)
  • Food market tour and cooking class in Kyoto on Day 8
  • Hotel accommodation in twin room with daily breakfast
  • Information pack
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Meet and greet at the airport and return transfers
  • PASMO transport pass at a value of 2,500 JPY, for days 2 and 3
  • Soba-making workshop in Tokyo on day 3

What's not included

  • International and domestic flights
  • Optional tours
  • Some local transport (some local city buses, taxi transfers, etc.).
  • Meals other than mentioned in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses (drinks, laundry, telephone, and other expenditures of a personal nature)
  • Travel insurance
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions

How to get there

Arrival by airplane

Please arrive at Narita International Airport (NRT) or Haneda International Airport (HND). You will be met by a representative who will help you getting to the hotel.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 25% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 90 days before arrival.
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