Japan culinary heritage tour
Description of Japan culinary heritage tour
This Japan culinary heritage tour is an eleven day feast of what many people consider to be Japan’s cultural highlight: food. Having cuisine at the core of a cultural tour of Japan certainly is a wonderful way to discover great cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto. As well as hidden rural villages and the extraordinary Awaji Island where culinary traditions have been handed down through the generations.
Japan utilises its local produce brilliantly, benefitting from fertile arable land which has been farmed sustainably for centuries. A term that you will come across often on this trip is Satoyama, which translates as the border between flat arable land and the mountains. This is where small farming communities still thrive today, several of which we will visit on this trip. The villages of Gokayama and Shirakawa-go with their traditional thatched Gassho-zukuri farmhouses are wonderful examples and also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Visit food markets in Kanazawa, the fish auction in Awaji, sample Washoku cuisine in Kyoto and the proverbial at Yamanaka Sake shop, spend time at working farms and be hosted to a fine meal in a kominka house in Takayama.
For the perfect final course on this food odyssey, explore Kyoto and celebrate the wonders of Japanese cuisine with a Kaiseki dinner prepared and explained by celebrated chef Taro Katayama.
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PlanetThis tour shows how culinary traditions handed down from the past are the best way to reveal Japanese culture. The uniqueness of Japanese cuisine comes from a long tradition of thanks for the harvest of ingredients and respecting nature.
On the tour you visit the ‘Satoyama’ landscape of rural Japan, the border area between arable flat land where rice is grown and the mountains. Managed sustainably over centuries, it is biologically diverse and supports a wide variety of wildlife. We visit rural communities and remote places where nature is sacred.
Located in a mountainous region isolated from the rest of the country for centuries, villagers of Toga-mura (a small local community in the Gokayama valley) still follow traditional lifestyles, gathering and preserving Sansai (wild plants) and growing their own vegetables and mushrooms.
Our tour includes stays in traditional Japanese inns called Minshuku (family-run guesthouses). Our hosts value locally-produced food, which has a lower carbon footprint and encourages economic activity in the community. Choosing smaller lodgings such as these traditional inns, owned and run by local people, helps and supports local communities and businesses. We ourselves have been hugely impressed at the pride these communities take in their traditions and local resources.
We aim to ensure the long-term sustainability of natural resources, culture and society, treating them with respect and fairness. We use public transport wherever possible on our trips rather than chartered motor vehicles to lessen our environmental impact.
We explain to clients that water supplies in Japan are safe to drink. We encourage them to re-fill one water bottle instead of buying numerous bottles of water. We explain to clients how to divide their waste according to the strict Japanese systems - burnable, plastic type 1 and plastic type 2. Clients find this fascinating!
PeopleFocusing on emblematic locations as well as hidden rural villages and the unique culture of Awaji Island in the fabled Inland Sea, this tour fosters genuine interaction between local communities and visitors. This culinary journey features an outdoor kitchen experience with the engaging Yoko Era, who is an example of Japan's I-turn movement: she left her busy city life to settle in the peaceful Japanese countryside. In the agricultural community of Asuka, Era-san and her family, who are now organic farmers, welcome us to their home and prepare an eco-friendly picnic lunch amidst their organic rice fields.
Bringing visitors to country communities, such as the peaceful agricultural community of Asuka, Awaji Island or the small community of Toga-mura in the hidden valley of Gokayama, helps sustain their economic viability. Encouraging economic activity in the community means their society and culture can endure, too. This is particularly important for rural areas, many of which faced decades of decline and depopulation as younger people moved away to the cities. There are now welcome signs that this tide has started to turn.
On this tour, you will create unforgettable moments with people you'll meet on your journey: hunt for wild vegetables (Sansai) with a Sansai expert, learn traditional cooking methods with the Gokayama community, discover the art of earth-oven cooking with a 70-year old grandmother in Hida-Furukawa and visit a locally-run sake brewery in Takayama.
Our guides are Japanese nationals; we provide training sessions to facilitate their interaction with our overseas clients. Our connections with the local communities on this tour have been fostered over several years of contact (especially face-to-face contact) with Japanese staff from our Kyoto office. After cultivating these relationships, we are confident that interaction between our clients and the local communities will be beneficial for both sides. Our guide's presence facilitates happy communication between visitors and residents.