This is primarily a food itinerary but the route still hits some real highlights of Japan. Sleep in a ryokan, take the bullet train, explore bustling cities and escape into the timeless countryside. As you travel, you’ll sample some of Japan’s best food. What’s not to love?
Dive into this delicious two-week Japan food tour and eat your way from Osaka to Tokyo. Starting in Osaka, you’ll try some local comfort food like menchi katsu before heading to Kyoto for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Next, you’ll cycle along the shores of Lake Biwa and eat with a rural family before sampling some delicious street food in the traditional town of Takayama.
You’ll finish the trip in Tokyo with a flurry of whisky tasting, sushi classes and tours to sample tiny plates of barbecued meat and edamame in the local izakaya bars. Experiencing this unique country through its delicious food is a great way to get to know Japan.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
On arrival in Osaka, you’ll be met by our representative, who will accompany you by train to your hotel. The representative will help with any tricky language barriers and ensure that you arrive safely. You can spend the rest of the day at leisure until the early evening when you’ll set off on a guided food tour.
The motto of Osaka is kuiadore – “to eat oneself bankrupt” and believe us when we say that in this city, it wouldn’t be hard to live up to that! Your first stop will be a street food stall, where you’ll taste a traditional Japanese snack food - menchi katsu - a breaded and deep-fried meat patty. Golden and crisp, it’s a local favourite, and you’ll soon see why.
Next, you’ll head to a standing bar to taste a selection of sake and Japanese wine, served with a handful of delicious house specialities. Afterwards, you’ll sit down in a restaurant famous for its wagyu beef dishes. Often referred to as the most expensive beef in the world, wagyu beef is firmly on the wish list of foodies around the globe. Enjoy the melt-in-the-mouth textures with a refreshing cocktail and soak up the atmosphere of Osaka.
At the final stop, you'll try a new style of tempura in an eatery tucked away down a small alleyway. Here, you'll find old favourites such as shrimp tempura as well as more experimental combinations such as asparagus tempura.
Today is yours to explore Osaka; a vibrant city often overlooked in lieu of Kyoto. During your stay, be sure to head over to Nipponbashi Denden Town, colloquially known as “Electric Town”. It's a neighbourhood where fans of Japanese anime culture like to shop, so the tiny streets are packed with gaming merchandise.
Your Japanese Rail Pass will also be activated today, so you could choose to explore beyond Osaka. The city of Kobe, famous for its world-class beef, is only an hour or so by train from Osaka. While you’re there, explore Kobe Chinatown - one of only three Chinatowns in Japan. It’s a great place to try some Chinese/Japanese fusion dishes, both sweet and savoury.
This morning, you’ll use your Japan Rail Pass to take the train to Kyoto, a journey that takes 1.5 hours. When you arrive, you’ll settle into your hotel before heading off on Japanese culture and tea tour.
Your tour will start with a visit to a machiya, one of the traditional wooden townhouses found throughout Kyoto. You’ll explore the beautifully restored house, learning about its architecture and history, before slipping into a kimono, the iconic traditional Japanese garment. These full-length robes are worn by all Japanese when attending important events or formal occasions.
Next, you’ll meet the local tea master, and the traditional ceremony will begin. Watch and learn as the master brews the tea using slow, deliberate movements. The whole ritual is steeped in spirituality and meaning. At the end of the experience, you can enjoy a cup of bitter tea and try a few local sweet treats.
After the tea ceremony, you’ll continue your cultural exploration of Kyoto. This includes an introductory course in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Under the careful eye of the local craftspeople, you’ll learn the secrets behind creating beautiful decorations and images with a simple piece of paper.
You’ll finish the day with a better understanding of Japanese culture. Once the tour is over, you can continue to explore yourself or return to your hotel for the evening.
Today is yours to explore Kyoto at your leisure.
Start your day with a visit to Nijo Castle, originally built in the 1600s as a private villa for a powerful lord. The intricate sliding doors and “chirping nightingale” floors are an incredible example of Momoyama style architecture and a must-see when visiting Kyoto.
Next, head to Ryoan-ji Temple, home to a beautiful rock garden, before walking to Kinkaku-ji Temple. The stunning golden pavilion might be smaller than others in Kyoto but makes up for its size with the handmade gold leaves that cover the exterior.
After breakfast you’ll head north using your Japan Rail Pass, travelling approximately 40 minutes by train from Kyoto. Today, you’ll experience untouched Japan on an authentic half-day guided cycling tour along the shores of Lake Biwa.
You’ll hop on an electric bike and begin a scenic journey through the peaceful streets along Lake Biwa, following your guide through the countryside to the terraced rice fields. During the tour, you’ll meet some local farmers and help them with their seasonal farming activities. You'll lend a hand with planting or harvesting rice or vegetables, learning about local life as you go.
Afterwards, you’ll get back in the saddle and cycle to a local family home, where you’ll help your hostess to cook some authentic chicken sukiyaki. This delicious dish is prepared using local rice and home-grown vegetables. You’ll also try some of the region’s specialities, including pickled sour plums while experiencing the warm hospitality of a rural Japanese household.
When lunch is over, you’ll cycle back to the train station, say goodbye to your guide and hop on the scenic train back to Kyoto.
You’ll spend today in Kyoto, cooking some delicious and unusual Japanese food! You’ll begin by heading to a machiya, or traditional Japanese wooden townhouse. Your teacher will be waiting for you with all the ingredients necessary to make a unique bento box.
Anything but the average bento box, you'll learn how to make a chara-ben (“kyaraben”), or a character bento. It’s essentially an edible art form, which involves decorating a traditional bento box meal with a famous cartoon character, such as Hello Kitty. A popular edible treat for many Japanese, this half-day course will provide all the skills and means necessary to produce this adorable delicacy.
After an exciting morning, you’ll head off on a food tour of Kyoto’s markets, guaranteed to tantalise your taste buds. Join with a local guide and head to Nishiki – a covered food market – for an introduction into the world of Japanese cuisine. You’ll wander through the mile-long market, taking in the smells and sounds of the bustling stalls while looking for local ingredients and spices. Your guide will explain how these ingredients are used in authentic Japanese dishes and choose some of the freshest items for your cooking class.
Laden with local produce, you’ll head to your class. On arrival, you’ll enjoy a sake tasting and learn about the process of brewing this traditional alcohol. Next, you’ll step into the kitchen and join a culinary expert for a fun, interactive experience. You’ll try your hand at making sushi rolls, miso soup and Japanese fruit salad, using only traditional techniques. Afterwards, you’ll head back to the hotel.
Today you’ll travel to Takayama, a small city nestled in the mountains. First, you’ll take the bullet train, and then climb aboard the Wide View express train, which offers one of the most scenic rail journeys in Japan. In Takayama, you’ll be staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors, and tatami flooring.
You can spend your afternoon exploring Takayama. We recommend wandering through the old town, where the streets are lined with breweries and food stalls. Whatever you do, don’t forget to try some famous Hida beef sushi!
This morning, you’ll set off on a guided food walk of Takayama to learn about this town’s local delicacies. You’ll visit a tofu seller, a rakugan (candy) shop and even a brewery to try some sake. You’ll learn about the history of the town as you walk, and your guide can give you some great restaurant recommendations for lunch.
The afternoon is yours to relax or continue to explore this mountainous region.
After breakfast, you’ll take the train from Takayama to Tokyo, a journey that takes around 4 hours. You can spend the rest of the day at leisure before heading out on a street food tour of the city in the early evening. Bring a hearty appetite!
After meeting with your local, food-loving guide at the train station, you’ll set off into the streets for a Japan-style food crawl. Get lost in the maze of laneways that make up the capital, where street carts sell exotic snacks and locals toast each other’s health over a glass of sake. There are so many things to try, from delicious barbequed meats to eye-wateringly sweet desserts.
Next, you’ll enter an izakaya for a distinctly Japanese experience. These small, Japanese-style pubs are popular gathering places for friends and colleagues. The food on offer is served almost like tapas – all shared between the table. The guide will order up a few traditional izakaya favourites, such as fried chicken wings and cold edamame, and you’ll wash them down with an ice-cold beer.
During the tour, you’ll stop at four or five venues, each with a distinctive style. The exact routing may change, but your guide will ensure that there is plenty to eat!
Today is yours to explore Tokyo. Why not start with a stroll through Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo Period lord? Here, you can try traditional Japanese green tea at the tea house in the park's lake before taking a boat cruise along the Sumida River.
Next, you can head over to Tokyo's old town. Asakusa is the city's oldest Geisha district and home to Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple. Take a walk around the temple and soak up the peaceful atmosphere.
In the evening, you’ll join a tour to enjoy Japan’s most surprising speciality – whisky! Scotland might be the traditional home of whisky, but Japan has slowly but surely worked its way up amongst the greats. The Japanese traits of patience, skill and craftsmanship have contributed to their success. Over the last couple of decades, the Japanese have become well known for their delicious and unusual whiskies.
This evening you’ll be joining an expert and experiencing a range of rare, premium whiskies from lesser-known brands. You’ll start in a hidden bar in downtown Tokyo and move on to several more secret whisky hangouts. Whether you’re a whisky novice or a seasoned drinker, you’ll enjoy this discovery of Japan’s little-known skill.
No Japanese food tour would be complete without a sushi session, so this morning is dedicated to making and, most importantly, eating sushi. You’ll start the day with an early morning tour of Tsukiji market, where product, kitchenware and seasonings are sold alongside huge tuna for sushi.
After taking a 30-minute train journey to the kitchen, you’ll join an experienced Japanese cook to learn the basics of making sushi. During the class, you'll try your hand at maki (rolled sushi), gunkan maki (rolled sushi with seaweed) and nigiri sushi (sushi with raw fish). You’ll enjoy a delicious meal of your own creation before heading out for a final afternoon of free time in Tokyo. Cat café anyone?
After breakfast, you’ll use your PASMO card to make your way to the airport for your overnight flight home.
Late March to early April is cherry blossom season, so if you’re planning to travel in spring, you’ll need to book well in advance. The autumn foliage season (November) is also a very busy and very beautiful time to visit. June and July is the rainy season for most of Japan and it can be very humid, whereas autumn (September to mid-December) is normally cool and clear. Late December and January are cool or cold months in Honshu with snow often found in the mountains.
It’s also important to note that prices will be high and availability limited around Golden Week (early May), O-Bon (mid-August) and New Year.