2020 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn
This tour takes you away from Japan’s main island and its busy cities to explore the island of Kyushu – Japan’s friendly western island famous for its temperate climate, laid-back rhythm, multicultural heritage and fantastic food.
The Food Tour of Japan in Autumn is one of our most popular tours. This 13-day tour takes you on a gastronomic adventure through the Japanese island of Kyushu, fast-becoming Japan’s favourite foodie destination for its fresh organic produce and culinary innovation.
You will visit local makers of fine soy sauce and green tea, as well as experience traditional haute-cuisine at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Sophisticated fusion food is offered at a modern Japanese restaurant, and hearty local fare dished up by night-time yatai street vendors.
A visit to Kyushu in autumn offers access to rich ceramic traditions, spectacular castles, and stunning natural environment ablaze in the colours of autumn. A fantastic time to learn about Japan’s history and culture though the lens of its food. The influence of Kyushu's long-standing connections with European and Asian traders will also be apparent in the food.
The 2020 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn is perfect for those who like the outdoors and exploring by foot, for travellers keen to discover the Japan that lies beyond the big cities, and for both first-time and repeat visitors seeking a comprehensive introduction to the world of washoku – Japan’s famous UNESCO-listed food.
Places visited: Fukuoka, Yame, Aso, Kumamoto, Unzen, Nagasaki, Arita/Imari, Karatsu, Itoshima and Dazaifu
Group size: Maximum 8
Transport: Private minivan, ferry and trains
Accommodation: Local boutique-style accommodation (typically 4-star) including Japanese inns
Fitness level: Average (please refer to FAQ)
Tour type: Signature
Visit multicultural Fukuoka and historical Dazaifu
Take a personalised tour of soy sauce & sake breweries
Discover the early European enclaves of Nagasaki
Explore feudal Kumamoto, home to Japan’s last samurai
Experience rugged Mt Aso against autumn’s stunning backdrop
Try a green tea tasting at a premium tea growing region
Visit the famous ceramic towns of Arita, Imari, & Karatsu
Soak in authentic hot springs in geothermal Mt Unzen
Day 1: Arrival in Fukuoka
On your arrival in Fukuoka (whether that’s by rail or air), you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2020 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn.
Day 2: Fukuoka
After orientation with your guide, you begin your exploration of Fukuoka. With a history going back some 2,000 years, Kyushu’s largest city has traditionally been at the centre of western Japan’s trading contact with its Asian neighbours.
Our tour begins with a walk through the atmospheric old town of Hakata. We pause at Kushida Shrine, where the vibrant Yamakasa Festival is based, Hakata Folk Museum and traditional-style shopping arcades selling local food products and souvenirs.
For lunch, "Hakata ramen" noodles are on the menu, arguably the most famous dish of Fukuoka, and we find out why the locals are so serious about their ramen.
You have some free time in the afternoon to explore Fukuoka. Tonight you 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. A very fitting introduction to this 2020 autumn food tour of Kyushu!
Day 3: Yame and Aso
Kyushu’s Yame district is one of Japan’s leading tea-producing areas and today we’ll visit a centuries-old tea merchant to learn about the different varieties of green tea and how to brew the perfect cup of Gyokuro (highest quality green tea).
We’ll travel up to a mountain-top lookout to view the brilliant green of the tea fields below. Later, we taste-test our way through another famous Japanese beverage – sake. At a visit to an award-winning local sake brewer, a personal tour by brewery staff will reveal the end-to-end processes of sake production – a special experience to engage in first-hand and ask as many questions as you like.
After lunch we head through some of the most scenic parts of the island and Kyushu’s main fruit-growing district to the Aso region. The Mt Aso volcanic caldera is located in central Kyushu and is one of the world’s largest calderas. Volcanic activity over the last 300,000 or so years has created a landscape which is visually striking: craggy volcanic peaks, dense forests, and lush grasslands.
Tonight you’ll have your first chance to experience an onsen, a hot mineral springs bath – a perfect way to relax after a day on the road. Your guide will explain the onsen ritual and why this remains one of the most favourite pastimes for the Japanese. Dinner will be a kaiseki banquet at your hotel.
Day 4: Mt Aso and Kumamoto
Travelling through Mt Aso National Park we appreciate the surrounding nature, stopping for a lunch based on seasonal local produce before heading on to the town of Kumamoto.
Kumamoto is most famous for the feudal castle that dominates its city centre, and today you will learn about the famous rebellion mounted by its resident samurai against Japan’s imperial forces in 1877. Originally built in 1607, it’s an impressive complex with massive stone walls.
Dinner tonight is at a Japanese 'Italian' fusion style restaurant, where the local Japanese chef is famous nationwide for his creative, beautifully presented dishes and the work he does to revive and promote heritage Kumamoto vegetables which were slowly disappearing from use.
Day 5: Shimabara and Unzen
We’ll start the day by boarding a ferry to the Shimabara Peninsula, a historically and culturally rich part of Kyushu. We tour Shimabara Castle, a five-storied feudal-era castle on a hilltop, to learn about Kyushu’s early samurai clans as well as the fascinating history of the Christian rebellion in the 17th century.
A visit to Mt Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall is next, a unique, high-tech museum which vividly captures the 1991 eruption of Mt Unzen. Here you can also experience an eruption in simulation (scarily real!), the only place in the world where this is possible.
In the afternoon you’ll take a walk through Unzen’s national park where you can see active geothermal geysers and mud pools. You’ll see how man has harnessed nature’s power to create the sublime hot spring experience – tonight you’ll stay in this area at an authentic onsen ryokan with a lovely Japanese garden. You’ll also sleep on futon on tatami mats in a Japanese-style room – a true onsen getaway.
Day 6: Nagasaki
Before you leave Unzen, you’ll have the opportunity to sample an authentic Japanese-style breakfast – a nutritional, protein-charged feast of grilled fish, miso soup, tofu, rice and pickles! We then head on to the picturesque town of Nagasaki.
While forever marked by the atomic bomb attack on 9 August 1945, Nagasaki has a rich and cosmopolitan history. Before Japan shut itself off to the world for two centuries from 1641, Nagasaki was the centre of Japan’s early contact with Dutch, Portuguese and French missionaries and traders, as well as visiting ships from China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. This heritage is still evident in the city today in its architecture, culture and particularly its cuisine.
Over the next few days we sample both traditional and contemporary-style Nagasaki cuisine and learn how outside influences have shaped its food culture. On this first day, we also visit the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum for a moving and sobering introduction to the events of that tragic day in August 1945. Dinner tonight is a premium wagyu beef teppanyaki.
Day 7: Nagasaki
Starting with a local fishmonger you learn about the local fish trade and see how delicate slices of sashimi are prepared for Nagasaki’s restaurants – you will have the chance to taste freshly prepared sashimi dished up in front of you by the staff.
We then take a leisurely walking tour through the southern part of Nagasaki to visit Glover Garden, where you can tour the Meiji-era residences of European settlers from the late 19th century. We also visit Oura Catholic Church, Japan’s oldest wooden church which was built by French missionaries in 1865 and which remains a symbol of Nagasaki’s long connection with Europe. You will have time to explore this welcoming and charming city and its multicultural past in the afternoon at your leisure.
Day 8: Arita and Imari
Over the next two days we focus on Japan’s ceramic traditions and the famous pottery towns of Arita, Imari and Karatsu. With its elaborate designs and influence from Chinese and Korean potters, Kyushu porcelain became highly sought after and popular both in Japan as well as Europe. Essential for the proper presentation of Japanese food, the ceramic dish is seen to be as integral a part of the culinary experience as the food itself.
Today we visit some pottery kilns specializing in Arita-yaki, a highly decorated style using various colours, and Imari-yaki, a classic style traditionally using blue and white hues.
We stay in the pretty coastal town of Karatsu, and enjoy a dinner banquet of seafood caught fresh from the Sea of Genkai and served on Karatsu-yaki, characterized by subtle earthy tones.
Day 9: Karatsu
We take a walk along the scenic Nijino Matsubara beach this morning for some stunning sea views. A visit to a beautifully preserved 19th century villa owned by one of Karatsu’s early traders is on the agenda. The opportunity is presented to inspect some of the exquisitely decorated floats used in the town’s annual festival, Karatsu Okunchi, designated a festival of national cultural importance.
This afternoon is set aside for you to explore on your own. It is the best day to find that special little piece of pottery to take home.
Dinner tonight is a buffet at the hotel.
Day 10: Itoshima
In the morning we set off for the Itoshima Peninsula and the coastal rural town of Itoshima, which is becoming a bit of a foodie haven. Young, creative chefs have set up new restaurants specializing in local produce, and centuries-old production traditions are being revived by boutique makers focusing on niche quality product.
We visit a fourth-generation-owned soy sauce brewery to learn about how this fundamental Japanese ingredient is made.
On the beach right on the edge of the peninsula is a salt extraction farm. Here you will see the production of premium salt using traditional methods. We also visit a local farmers’ market to see the range of fresh produce available.
For lunch we see how these local vegetables are transformed into deliciously tasty dishes. We chat with both the chef and farmers over lunch about their food and how to prepare typical Japanese condiments, such as tsukemono pickles. Next stop is some of the peninsula’s popular beach-side “oyster sheds”, where freshly harvested oysters from the bay are served deliciously grilled, and best washed down with some local beer!
On return to Fukuoka, it is a free evening tonight. Why not venture out into the vibrant Hakata night and pick your favourite restaurant.
Day 11: Fukuoka Cooking class and Brewery
Today it is your turn to learn how to make some modern Japanese food. We will visit a cooking studio housed in a renovated traditional house in Fukuoka’s suburbs. Here a creative food expert will passionately pass on recipes of Japanese dishes, which you can recreate back at home.
After the relaxed private culinary session, you will move to the brewery of Japan’s famous Asahi Beer. You will see how the world's popular beer is made before you taste it (of course!).
Dinner tonight is another iconic slice of Hakata food culture – the yatai food cart. These mobile carts roll into the city in the evening and serve up delicious food cooked right in front of you. Seating only 10 people, the relaxed atmosphere, shared conversation, and delicious food make it an unmissable Hakata food experience.
Day 12: Dazaifu
The 2020 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn is coming to an end but there is still something special awaiting us - a day trip to the nearby town of Dazaifu. Here you visit the magnificent Tenmangu Shrine, which dates back to the 10th century. The shrine commemorates the life of a famous Kyoto poet-scholar who was exiled to Dazaifu but later deified as the god of literature and scholarship. The shrine’s grounds are dotted with over 6,000 plum trees, favoured by the great poet-scholar in his life-time and which now attract thousands of visitors for their beautiful blossoms in spring and stunning colour in autumn.
We also visit Kyushu National Museum, particularly noteworthy for its informative overview of Japanese history within the context of the broader Asian region.
We meet in the evening for a farewell dinner, an exquisite sushi banquet. It will bring together all the elements of Kyushu food culture discovered along our journey – from its seas, mountains, rivers, and plains – reaffirming the fantastically diverse nature of its food and geography.
Day 13: Fukuoka and Bon Voyage
This morning you will check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2020 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn concludes. You can return by air or train to the international airports in Tokyo or Osaka, or fly home via Fukuoka. Why not linger longer in Kyushu and Japan? Ask Journey to the East to help you plan your personal tour extension.
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 web site are representative and are not a commitment to what may be on view on the day.
A Culinary Tour and an Autumn Tour of Japan in One
Food Tour of Japan in Autumn offers something different for those who enjoy good Japanese cuisine. A small group of only 8 people gets to try some of Japan’s best food options.
This Food Tour of Japan is all about variety. A Michelin starred restaurant is one end of the experience and a ‘yatai’ stall is another. You will see and eat everyday Japanese fare presented as if it were art. Your Japanese guide speaks excellent English and is a specialist in local Japanese cuisine.
To give you the best exposure we will take you off the beaten track. We will introduce you to the people who create the food. Visit small, generations old, local food producers. See how to brew perfect traditional cup of green tea. Eat the freshest food, straight from farms and the sea.
Furthermore, this culinary tour of Japan runs right in the middle of the autumn colours. Some of the best sightseeing are part of this Japanese adventure. You visit one of Japan’s best castles along with temples and shrines that stand out in the autumn colours. The Japanese gardens, wonderful ceramic towns and fascinating history and natural wonders like volcanoes are all part of the experience.
Keen followers of Japanese food may have heard that Japanese cuisine is called washoku. The cuisine is listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The secrets to recipe of washoku are fresh ingredients and delicate flavour. It all comes together with exquisite presentation topped off with a huge dose of passion (aka obsession!).
To celebrate washoku Journey to the East has launched this Food Tour of Japan in Autumn. It is staged on the Japanese island of Kyushu. Kyushu is a food producers’ heaven with its milder climate, fertile soil, and the rich Sea of Genkai. On the one island you can enjoy everything from top quality wagyu beef to premier sake, super juicy fruits and finest green tea. As a bonus, Kyushu’s warmer climate offers a late arrival of autumn colours. On this Food Tour of Japan in Autumn, you will see the magnificent autumn foliage and seasonal activities.
Come and join us on this extraordinary tour in autumn in Kyushu. It is the best tour of Japan for foodies.
- 12 nights accommodation with daily breakfast
- Lunches and dinners as specified
- All public and private transport for the group itinerary
- Airport (or station) meet & greet and hotel transfer on arrival
- Government qualified English speaking local guide
- Entry fees to the attractions included in the itinerary
- International or domestic airfares (unless otherwise stated)
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
Had a fabulous time with a great group of people. I loved the country, the culture, the people and everything about the tour – hope to do another tour with JTTE – maybe Hokkaido or Kyushu next time
Vivien Hewitt, Western Australia
This was my first trip with JTTE and already I am looking at the program for next year thinking about another one. I liked the fact that it was a small group, the organisation was spot on and the food everywhere was outstanding.
Dee Mason – NSW Australia