Japan art and food tour, tailor made

Description of Japan art and food tour, tailor made

There's so much more to Japan than the tech and towers of Tokyo.

Japanese culture is rich, diverse and eye-opening. From intricate silk kimono designs to sleeping on a futon a local ryokan. Sample the delicious flavours of Japanese dishes and stroll through the falling cherry blossom petals at stunning landscape gardens. Japan is a country of many layers.

This cultural tour of Japan's food, art and centuries-old traditions includes an itinerary of informative and fun experiences, which offer a taste of this fascinating country.

Start in busy Tokyo, taking in the capital's main sights as well as a visit to the famous teamLab Borderless digital art installation, where Japan's reputation for technology and creative talents combine. Outside the city, the Japanese Alpine town of Matsumoto is where you'll make your own soba noodles and partake in a sake tasting session.

Kyoto is the real cultural heart of Japan, where you can explore some of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Osaka is foodie heaven and a street food safari here is a must; while creative project Naoshima Island is a unique and surreal display of contemporary art. End your trip in quiet contemplation at Mount Koya, where you'll stay in a temple complex and live as Buddhist monks do.

This mix of unforgettable and authentic experiences is the perfect tour option for those who wish to delve deeper into Japan and Japanese culture.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1:Arrival in Japan - Welcome to Japan! You will be met today at Haneda Airport with a driver waiting for you as you enter into the arrivals lobby holding a sign with your name on. You will transfer by private vehicle to your accommodation in Tokyo, making for a smooth and relaxing start to your trip. Journey time is in the region of 30 minutes (dependent upon traffic). Sit back, relax and enjoy the views of Tokyo's skyscrapers as you approach the city.
Day 2:Private Tour of Tokyo - Today you will have the services of a local professional guide for a private tour of Tokyo. Our guides speak excellent English and have a wealth of knowledge to share. With the guide’s expert help, you'll get to grips with Japanese culture and history while gaining a useful orientation of the city.
Day 3:teamLab Borderless Digital Art Exhibition - Tokyo’s man-made island of Odaiba is now the proud home of the world’s first digital art museum, designed by the ultra-technologist art group teamLab. “teamLab Borderless” features almost 50 immersive, three-dimensional digital works spread over five distinct sections, with themes of nature and interaction, such as the ‘Athletic Forest’ which invites you to understand the world by bouncing, moving, and swinging your way through the art; and the stunning ‘Forest of Lamps’, full of resonating Venetian glass lamps that change colour as you approach them. The entire museum is a breath-taking, interactive, multi-sensory experience that encourages you to be at the centre of the art and appreciate how the exhibits change around you, rather than simply observing it from a single vantage point. We reckon you could easily spend a whole morning or afternoon exploring the museum, and if you ever need a pick-me-up, you can head to the ‘En’ tea house to enjoy a cup of green tea in which a digital flower blooms as you drink it!
Day 4:Matsumoto - Today you'll move onto one of Japan’s best castle towns – Matsumoto. Located in the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto is home to the dramatically coloured ‘Black Crow’ castle, often considered to be among the most beautiful original feudal castles in the country. The castle isn’t all that Matsumoto has to offer. In the castle grounds you will find the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, which has a great range of modern art and a Yayoi Kusama exhibition. If art is your thing, the Ukiyo-e Museum in the western suburbs is well worth a visit; despite its rather unassuming exterior, the museum houses the largest collection of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in the world.
Day 5:Soba Making Class - Matsumoto is famous for its soba buckwheat noodles and there are numerous restaurants in town serving this simple but tasty dish. Today you will be making soba noodles from scratch, learning how to serve them and then most importantly how to enjoy eating them! The 1 hour course takes place at Takagi, a shop that's been in operation for over 130 years and located close to Matsumoto Castle. This fun and relaxed course is conducted mainly in Japanese but is easy to follow and you are sure to leave as a soba noodles expert! In the afternoon, you'll transfer to Takayama, where you'll stay in a traditional ryokan with communal baths, futon bedding and gracious hosts.
Day 6:Sake Tasting Session - Sake is one of Takayama’s local specialties, and you can still find a number of active breweries around the town, recognizable by the large sugidama balls of cedar branches hanging over the entrance. This evening we will arrange a private sake tasting experience at a restaurant in Takayama. It’s perfect for beginners as your sake guide will explain about the history of sake in the area before introducing you to six types of sake and explaining the differences between them. You’ll try out the sakes paired with small local dishes to see what kinds of foods different kinds of sake work best with. The highlight of this 1.5 hour experience is the blind tasting game – a prize awaits the winner!
Day 7:Transfer to Kyoto - Today, you'll move onto Kyoto, one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, this ancient city showcases the heart and soul of traditional Japan. Kyoto boasts an array of world-class gardens, majestic festivals and delicate cuisine, all of which make much of the rhythms of nature and the changing of the seasons. On first glance however, visitors will see that like any large Japanese city, grid-like Kyoto has its fair share of neon and concrete. But the discerning eye will soon pick out Kyoto’s treasures: sacred shrines tucked in among shopping arcades, time-honoured teahouses nestling among modern businesses and mysterious geisha scuttling down backstreets among the tourists and souvenirs. Kyoto’s charm lies in these details and whether you’re here for three days or three years, the closer you look, the more you’ll discover.
Day 8:Private Tour in Kyoto - We will arrange for you to be accompanied by a local professional guide today. This is the best way to explore Kyoto, a city so rich in UNESCO World Heritage sites that it can be hard to know where to start! Our carefully-selected guides will reveal Kyoto’s intricate culture, introducing you to famous must-see spots as well as secret corners of the city that only the locals know.
Day 9:Bento-Making Class - Cooking Sun is a small food school aimed at international travellers wanting to learn more about Japanese cuisine. It is based in a lovely old machiya (town house) in central Kyoto. During the hands-on class you will cook 5 or 6 different Japanese dishes under the tuition of friendly and English-fluent local Japanese staff with the seasonal courses designed by a professional chef, Yasuhiro Nakai.
Day 10:Transfer to Naoshima Island - Next, you'll take a train and ferry journey to Naoshima. The island could easily be another pretty, but forgotten island in the Seto Inland Sea scraping a living from fishing. However a unique art project has given Naoshima its deserved global reputation. Naoshima is home to a large collection of contemporary art galleries, exhibits and installations which offer a tour de force of architectural expression integrating art and the natural environment. Two of the main galleries, the Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House (where you'll also be staying), were designed by the world famous architect Tadao Ando and feature works by Claude Monet, Walter de Maria, James Turrell, Andy Warhol, Richard Long and Bruce Nauman among others.
Day 11:Guided Tour of Naoshima - Having a knowledgeable local guide at your side is the best way to explore the Art Project of Naoshima. Our guides all speak excellent English and can explain how Naoshima emerged as a premier art destination, while introducing you to the concepts behind each artwork you’ll see.
Day 12:Street Food in Osaka - You'll leave Naoshima for Osaka, Japan's second city and an extremely vibrant and lively place to stay. There may not be any real 'tourist' sights but it is just the life on the streets that makes Osaka such a fascinating city to visit. Osaka people work hard and play hard and it really shows with the vast number of restaurants, bars and all round entertainment available. The city aquarium is world class and you cannot stay in Osaka without taking a ride on one of the city's several giant big wheels, perhaps the most dramatic of which is perched on top of the Hep 5 department store in the Umeda district of the city - just don't look down if you are afraid of heights! Osaka Castle is well worth a visit despite being a reconstruction as the original was burnt down during the firebombing at the end of World War Two and you will find a variety of very interesting museums scattered throughout the city. After dark Osaka really comes alive, and a walk through the bright lights of the Nanba district is a great way to take in the atmosphere, with some great people-watching opportunities. With literally thousands of restaurants, bars and entertainment spots to choose from, Osaka is perfect for a big night out, some hearty local food and the chance to let your hair down. Osaka really is one of Japan's truly all action cities and a stay here is a chance to experience what life in modern day urban Japan is really like. Tonight we will arrange for you to join an English-speaking guide on a street food safari of Osaka’s famous Dotonbori area. The brightly lit street alongside the canal is packed with restaurants and food stalls serving up some of Osaka’s tastiest food, making it a foodie’s paradise.
Day 13:Mount Koya - Leave Osaka for Mount Koya (known as Koya-san in Japanese). This one of the holiest mountains in all of Japan and the plateau at the top is home to more than 100 temples and monasteries. Koya-san is the headquarters of the Shingon sect, an esoteric school of Buddhism which has over ten million members and 4,000 temples in Japan. There has been a religious community here since 816 when it was founded by a monk named Kukai after he returned from studying for two years in China. Koya is a very peaceful and beautiful wooded area and some great walking is also available. The atmosphere is truly magical, making this a lovely place to unwind and relax. Japan can often be a hectic place and this is a real tonic. You'll stay overnight in a temple complex, eat vegetarian fare with the monks and hear the bells calling for morning prayers.
Day 14:Transfer back to Osaka.
Day 15:Depart from Japan - Sadly your time in Japan must come to an end. You will be met at your hotel by your driver and will have a smooth transfer by private car to Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Journey time is around an hour, depending on traffic. We wish you a safe flight home.

Travel Team

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Japan art and food tour, tailor made

Environment

This cultural tour makes the most of travelling around Japan via public transport, rather than private car or mini-buses, just as the locales do. This includes trips via train (including Japan's famous Shinkansen bullet trains, which are an attraction in themselves), subways, local buses, cable cars, boats and ferries, trams and also bikes, which are best for exploring rural Japan. Travelling this way reduces carbon emissions and road congestion, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

We also only work with hotels and guesthouses which share our commitment to sustainable tourism and environmental responsibility, especially in terms of recycling and energy conservation initiatives.

To further keep up sustainable practices during your trip, we recommend you carry your own reusable, non-plastic chopsticks or cutlery, as Japan gets through 24 billion pairs of ‘waribashi’ (disposable chopsticks made of wood or bamboo) every year. That's 185 pairs for every person in Japan! There are also ample recycling facilities in the country and as tap water is drinkable, we urge you to use a refillable bottle rather than buying bottled water.

Community

We are committed to responsible, sustainable and ethical tourism in Japan, and we’re proud to work with a fantastic local operator that shares our values with regards to responsible tourism.

We encourage all of our clients who are visiting Japan to travel in a responsible and respectful manner to ensure that tourism has a positive impact on the economy, the environment and the local communities.

Our tour activities focus on authentic cultural experiences, such as Japanese cooking experiences run by a local chefs, guided tours with a local perspective and stays in traditional (and often family-run) Japanese ryokans. We believe that the best way to learn about the culture of Japan is through immersive experiences like these, which often benefit the local community as well.

Our guides in Japan are highly experienced and extremely knowledgeable, so we encourage you to make an effort to get to know them and show an interest in their culture and customs.

By gaining a deeper understanding about Japan’s culture, traditions, rich heritage and religious beliefs you’re likely to have a much more interesting and meaningful travel experience.

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