2022 Food & Cherry Blossom Tour of Kyushu, Japan
An exceptional 14-day culinary tour through unique and exclusive experiences. You will meet a local farmer and fish monger, have a cooking lesson at chef's own home, and visit artisans' studios. The tour covers wide-ranging restaurants from street carts to Michelin star.
The 2022 Food & Cherry Blossom Tour of Kyushu, Japan is staged on the western Japan island of Kyushu and is offered to just 8 guests. In addition, the tour includes many exclusive experiences which only available to the guests of Journey to the East.
The 2022 Food & Cherry Blossom Tour of Kyushu, Japan is perfect for those who like exploring Japan beyond the big cities. It is an ideal tour for both first-timers and repeat visitors seeking a comprehensive introduction to the world of washoku – Japan’s famous UNESCO-listed culture.
Kyushu is fast-becoming Japan’s favourite foodie destination for its fresh produce and traditional artisans. You will visit both local makers of fine soy sauce and green tea, as well as experience traditional haute-cuisine at a Michelin-starred restaurant and hearty dishes at yatai street vendors.
Kyushu has long-standing connections with European and Asian traders, rich ceramic traditions, spectacular castles along with a stunning natural environment. This makes a visit at cherry-blossom time a fantastic way to learn about Japan especially through the prism of its food.
Minimum 4, Maximum 8
Day 1: Arrival in Fukuoka
On arrival in Fukuoka for your 2022 Food & Cherry Blossom Tour of Kyushu, Japan, you will be met by a friendly Journey to the East staff member and escorted to your hotel. Fukuoka is readily accessible both by rail and air - please ask us about your options.
Day 2: Fukuoka
After an orientation, your walking guided tour of Kyushu's capital Fukuoka starts with a visit to some of the city’s favourite spots for foodies as well as iconic historical sites. This includes a very popular dashi shop where you can taste different dashi and a famous Japanese kitchen knife shop.
Arguably most famous dish in Fukuoka is its “Hakata ramen” noodles. That is what you have for lunch today. You will find out first-hand how serious locals are about their noodles! In the afternoon you will have the first opportunity to view cherry blossom in the city.
Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant – an exquisite multi-course kaiseki banquet of seasonal local foods served in a traditional Japanese setting. An appropriate start to a food tour of Kyushu!
Day 3: Yame
Kyushu’s Yame district is one of Japan’s leading tea-producing areas. Today we will visit a traditional tea merchant to learn about how to brew a perfect cup of green tea. The family who operates the premium green tea trading business, Konomien goes back to the 16th century. During your visit, you will be served the highest premium tea (Gyokuro) by the 14th generation owner (or his son) in the heritage listed 19th century building.
After a brief stop at a lookout to view the brilliant green of the tea fields, next is a taste-test of another famous Japanese beverage – sake.
For dinner back in Fukuoka, you will be introduced to another slice of Hakata food culture – the yatai food cart. These mobile carts seat only 10 people or so and have the relaxed atmosphere and delicious food. An unmissable Hakata food experience!
Day 4: Dazaifu & Cooking Class
A day-trip takes us to the nearby town of Dazaifu by local train. Here we visit the magnificent Tenmangu Shrine, which commemorates the life of a famous Kyoto poet-scholar exiled to Dazaifu. We also visit Kyushu National Museum, which provides an informative overview of Japanese history and its early ties with its Asian neighbours.
Journey to the East exclusive experience!
Tonight we roll-up our sleeves and get stuck in some cooking ourselves. We visit a local food professional's own home studio and prepare our dinner at a fun-filled (but seriously high-standard) cooking class. With guidance from an experienced food expert you will learn the dishes that you can recreate at home to impress your friends.
Day 5: Itoshima
Leaving the city of Fukuoka in the morning, we journey to the coastal town of Itoshima, which is fast becoming a foodie haven.
Journey to the East exclusive experience!
We visit a fourth-generation-owned soy sauce brewery to learn about how this fundamental ingredient of Japanese cuisine is made. Then a salt extraction farm, right on the beach, is our next stop. Here we learn about the extraction of premium sea salt using traditional methods. In between, we visit a local farmers’ market to inspect the range of fresh produce available.
Today's lunch is not only specially prepared for our group by local chefs using local ingredients, but also you can chat with both chefs and farmers about their provenance; they will join us for the lunch. In the late afternoon we head for the pretty coastal town of Karatsu on the Genkai coast. Awaiting us is another treat as we sit down to a banquet of seafood caught fresh from the Sea of Genkai.
Day 6: Karatsu
Again the day packed with interesting activities in Karatsu. The first stop this morning is Yobuko morning market, one of the Japan's three main morning markets. Locals catch and sell fresh and dried seafood, especially squid for which Yobuko is famous ( you would have tasted it the night before!).
Next stop is the Former Takatori Residence. This residence was a home of a successful collier who operated coal mines at the end of 18th century to the beginning of 19th century. The house is designated an important national cultural asset for its high artistic value.
After lunch, you will have an opportunity to visit some kilns of high-quality Karatsu pottery.
Dinner tonight is a local wagyu brand, Imari Beef.
Day 7: Arita & Ureshino
The opportunity opens up to dive deeper into Japan’s ceramic traditions when we visit the famous pottery towns of Arita and Imari.
Kyushu porcelain, with its elaborate designs, became highly sought after and popular both in Japan as well as Europe. The ceramic dish is regarded as being as much an integral a part of the culinary experience as is the food itself.
Today we visit pottery kilns specializing in Arita-yaki (a highly decorated style using various colours) and Imari-yaki (a classic style of blue and white hues).
Tonight, yet another treat. We stay at an authentic Japanese inn with onsen spa baths and a lovely Japanese garden. You’ll sleep on soft futon on tatami mat floors in a Japanese-style room – a true onsen getaway and a quintessential Japanese experience!
Day 8: Nagasaki
The day starts with the opportunity to sample an authentic Japanese-style breakfast. It is made up of a nutritional feast of grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickles!
After breakfast we head to Nagasaki. Nagasaki was the only area open to the rest of the world during Japan’s closed-door period during the 17th and 18th centuries. The area was visited by Dutch, Portuguese and French missionaries, as well as traders from Europe, China, Korea and Southeast Asia. Of course, any visit to Nagasaki is not complete without a visit to the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum which marks the events of that tragic day in August 1945.
Day 9: Nagasaki & Unzen
Journey to the East exclusive experience!
A visit to a local fish wholesaler is where you witness the preparation of some of the freshest seafood in the world (Nagasaki has the second largest catch of seafood in Japan). The shop is in a middle of ordinary shopping arcade (not a tourist spot) and this is an exclusive experience to Journey to the East guests.
In the afternoon we make our way to the Shimabara Peninsula, a historically and geographically rich part of Kyushu. On the peninsula, we take a walk through Unzen’s national park to see active geothermal geysers and mud pools. It is a chance to check out how man has harnessed nature’s power to create a sublime hot spring experience.
Day 10: Shimabara
On the way to Kumamoto we stop at Shimabara. Shimabara Castle, a five-storied feudal-era castle on a hilltop, is a great spot for cherry blossom. We also pause at Mt Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall. It is a unique, high-tech museum which vividly captures the 1991 disastrous eruption of Mt Unzen.
Later we board a ferry to across the bay to Kumamoto.
Dinner tonight will be at an 'Italian-style' restaurant, where the local chef is famous nationwide for his beautifully presented fusion dishes and the work he does to revive and promote heritage Kumamoto vegetables.
Day 11: Kumamoto
Today’s walking guided tour of Kumamoto focuses on one of Japan’s most well-known castles. Originally built in 1607, Kumamoto Castle was damaged by the 2016 earthquake and is currently being repaired. However it remains an impressive feudal complex with massive stone walls. It also offers some of Japan’s best cherry-blossom viewing in spring. Simply a photographer's delight.
We also visit the Suizenji Japanese Gardens travelling there on Kumamoto's local streetcar.
You will have free time this afternoon and evening. Kumamoto is a great place to shop for both traditional and modern Japanese products. Tonight is your opportunity to choose dinner from hundreds of local restaurants and find your own unique Japanese food experience. (Secret - your guide has some great suggestions to try.)
Day 12: Kurokawa Onsen
Today you will travel in a private minivan through one of the most picturesque regions of Kyushu, Kuju. On the way, we visit a local winery. Wine is a more recent Japanese venture, but is gradually becoming very popular.
In the afternoon, you will stroll around Kurokawa Onsen town, one of the most traditional onsen towns in Japan. Tonight you will have your own onsen bath in your room to soak up all the goodness from the mineral spring water. Great way to relax after the 12 days of adventure.
Day 13: Yufuin
Next on our list is the delightful town of Yufuin. It’s a small resort town located in a lush river basin surrounded by mountains.
An easy walk along its narrow streets and scenic rural paths make Yufuin the ideal place to enjoy the wonderful display of cherry blossom trees lining the river bank. The township also offers some beautiful craft shops and charming cafes. You may just want to stop and enjoy the superb rural setting and fresh air.
Finally, it’s time to return to Fukuoka for our farewell dinner and the legendary “Iron Stomach Award” where the top foodie of the tour will be announced – good luck!
Day 14: Goodbye
After breakfast, your 2022 Food and Cherry Blossom Tour of Kyushu, Japan concludes. Please ask us about your options for returning back to your home country from Fukuoka or continuing your travels in Japan.
Because this tour is filled with exciting content, and Fukuoka has so much more to see and do (and eat!) it is also a great idea to come a few days early or stay on a few days in Fukuoka to relax and explore for your own adventure. We will be delighted to plan your personal pre/post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan.
Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.
Please note that there may be slight changes to the itinerary described above to accommodate changes in train timetables, opening hours, and hotel and restaurant availability.
All photographs on this website are representative only and are not a commitment to what may be on view on the day.
This fantastic food tour only has 8 places. Be quick and avoid disappointment!
- 13 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Lunches & dinners as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- Transport on private minivan and all local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Most cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
Does not include:
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer on the last day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)