2020 Food Tour of Hokkaido
Seafood, dairy, wagyu beef, fruit and vegetables, wine, sake, whisky and beer. From ramen and street food to Michelin-starred restaurants, this northern Japanese Island of Hokkaido food tour has it all! The 13 Day tour also includes many personal experiences such as cooking traditional dishes with fishermen's wives.
Definitely the trip to brag about!
The 2020 Food Tour of Hokkaido is the latest in the range of Japan's frequently commmened food tours. This 13-day northern Japan tour is staged on island of Hokkaido, which is becoming very popular among serious Japan lovers as the next 'it' destination, but is still full of untapped gems.
Early pioneers began farming in Hokkaido as early as the 16th century. However, it was a government policy to develop Hokkaido as a source of primary production in the 19th century when broadacre rice production, cattle grazing, dairy farming and vegetable horticulture started on a large scale. Hokkaido also has abundant high quality seafood being surrounded by the rich arctic and subarctic waters of the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people of Hokkaido, the Ainu, add a fascinating and distinct culture to the island.
On the 13 day 2020 Hokkaido food tour, sample Hokkaido's original wagyu brand, Shiraoi beef, a great range of seafood, dairy products, and wine and whisky.
The tour includes a variety of culinary delights from street food and Sapporo's famous ramen to a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants, to name just a few. It is not just an "eatathon" either. You will experience a couple of unique nature walks, mochi pounding, fishing, harvesting, cooking with the fishermen's wives in a fishing village, the fascinating cities of Hakodate and Sapporo, green rolling hills and much more.
Places visited: Shiraoi, Noboribetsu, Toyoura, Yakumo, Shikabe, Hakodate, Kuromatsunai, Niseko, Yoichi, Otaru, Sapporo and Obihiro
Group size: Maximum 10
Transport: Private mini bus
Accommodation: Local boutique-style accommodation (typically 4-star) including Japanese inns
Fitness level: Average (please refer to FAQ)
Tour type: Signature
Stay in an authentic ryokan at Noboribetsu
Feel the impact of the indigenous Ainu culture
Visit a scallop village
Walk in Hokkaido's pristine beech forest
Explore exotic Hakodate
Taste them all - Hokkaido's wine, whisky, sake and beer
Experience famous ramen alley in Sapporo
Cook with the fishermen's wives
2020 Food Tour of Hokkaido - Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Sapporo
On your arrival in Sapporo's New Chitose Airport or JR Sapporo Station, 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 Hokkaido.
Although Hokkaido is known for its abundant snow, great skiing, and freezing winters, our food tour travels during the pleasant summer month of June. We have particularly chosen this time of the year to take full advantage of fresh produce and provide a pleasant summer tour of Japan. On average, the temperatures range from approximately 12°C (54°F) overnight to a maximum of approximately 25°C (77°F) during the day.
Day 2: Shiraoi and Noboribetsu
After breakfast, you meet your guide and start your gastronomical adventure. The first stop is the brand-new National Ainu Museum which will create a grand foundation for you about Hokkaido's history. You don't wait long for your first culinary experience, the premium wagyu beef brand called Shiraoi Beef. The BBQ Shiraoi Beef lunch is at a farm restaurant on top of the hill overlooking the lush green paddocks.
We head for Noboribetsu hot springs which generate some 10,000 tons of hot water a day, and it is arguably the most famous onsen town in Hokkaido. Here your guide will take you on the Jigokudani (Hell Valley) Nature Walk, an interesting walk where you can observe intermittently erupting geysers along the path.
Tonight's accommodation is a high class traditional ryokan (Japanese style inn), where you will sleep on futon bedding in a tatami mat room. You will experience your first onsen and kaiseki dinner on the tour tonight. Kaiseki cuisine is an exquisite multi-course banquet of seasonal local foods served in a traditional Japanese setting. A very fitting introduction to this food tour of Hokkaido!
Day 3: Toyoura and Yakumo
This morning is all about scallops, one of Hokkaido's seafood specialties. We will stop at a little fishing village, Toyoura, where a local guide will explain to us how scallop grow from a minute egg to the delicious scallop. Of course, you will get to taste-test the scallops on a BBQ.
In the afternoon at the bay side village of Yakumo we engage in the fun activity of "mochitsuki", Japanese traditional rice cake pounding. We visit a local rice farmer, Mr Chiba, whose family settled in Hokkaido in 1870 and have been producing rice ever since. This 5th generation "Dosanko" (Hokkaido resident) will show us the traditional custom of making mochi (sticky rice cake). After seeing the impressive pair work between the pounder and the turner, it is your turn to swing the mallet. After all, you will need to make your contribution to this energetic activity to reap the reward of freshly made mochi.
Tonight's onsen ryokan will contrast with last night's stay. Unlike the previous night, tonight's ryokan is rustic, with large public baths as well as small outdoor baths scattered around the property. Make sure you have time to enjoy the 'onsen hopping' in the late afternoon. The dinner tonight is a local feast with a main meal of chicken sukiyaki.
Day 4: Shikabe and Hakodate
Another of Hokkaido's famous seafoods, konbu (kelp) is on display today. Hokkaido is the biggest producer of Konbu which is used in most dashi soup stock. We will take a ride on a small boat to see konbu growing in the bay. Back on the shore we join the fishermen's wives for a cooking lesson. The cooking class is held in a purpose-built modern facility where you will get stuck right into hands-on techniques such as scaling and filleting fish, cooking scallops with geothermal steam and preparing local vegetables with cheerful and charming local ladies. By the end of lunch, you will be cooking and eating like locals.
We move on to Hakodate via picturesque Onuma Park for a bit of relaxation. It is a quasi national park with a lake dotted with little islands connected by bridges. Relax among lovely walking tracks, bike trails and sightseeing boats.
Hakodate is packed with history, a melting pot of cultures and a wonderful place to explore. First, we will visit a long-established green tea merchant founded in 1937, where you can hear all about how Japanese green tea is produced, processed and brewed.
This evening is free for you to explore the night life of Hakodate. Why not go up to the top of Mount Hakodate by gondola for a magnificent view of the port, which is considered to be one of the top three night views of the world? Or venture out to the small Daimon Yokocho alleys which are lined with street food carts.
Day 5: Hakodate
Hakodate is famous for its iconic seafood market where we join the locals for breakfast. You will have a choice of sea urchin, salmon roe, crab and scallop, and don't worry there are non-seafood options as well. After breakfast, we take a morning guided tour of Hakodate. Hakodate has a unique history as it was one of the first ports that opened after the isolation policy of the Edo period, and there was great influence from western cultures. Hakodate still has the cosmopolitan feel where different architectural styles, religions and cuisines can be found. On the guided tour, we take a short tram journey to Fort Goryokaku, a massive, star shaped, Western-style citadel, which was built in the last years of the Edo Period. It was constructed to defend Hokkaido against the Western powers.
This afternoon has been set aside as free time for you to continue exploring this fascinating city.
Tonight's dinner is sublime Japanese cuisine at one of the two Michelin-starred restaurants on this tour. Enjoy one of the freshest, tastiest and prettiest meals on earth tonight!
Day 6: Kuromatsunai and Niseko
This morning you say goodbye to Hakodate and drive north in the private mini bus to the town of Kuromatsunai. This small town is known as the northern limit for the beech forest in Japan. This natural treasure has been valued and fiercely protected by locals who have saved it twice from being cut down. We will have a guided walk of the forest this afternoon (about 90 minutes).
Kuromatsunai is a nature lovers heaven surrounded by mountains, forests, hills and rivers. While in town you will have the opportunity to try river fishing as well. Any catch will be grilled and form a part of your lunch. The lunch today will be prepared at a popular local restaurant, offering healthy home-made dishes from the local ingredients.
In the late afternoon, we head towards Niseko, well-known for its winter ski fields, where we stay for the night. It is also a prime agricultural region, in particular the dairy industry. We will make a stop at Takanashi Dairy Farm and try its famous ice cream! Dinner is contemporary French cuisine with matching wine, Niseko style.
Day 7: Yoichi and Otaru
We continue further north to the town of Yoichi. Yoichi is known for a lot of food related activities, not least of which is a whisky tasting at Nikka Distillery, that is definitely on the cards today. Another popular activity, fruit picking, is also a part of the day. You will be picking a relatively unknown fruit called haskap, native to Hokkaido. Haskap looks a bit like blueberries but has the highest amount of antioxidant (Anthocyanins) of any fruits.
Lunch today is at a local restaurant built using materials from a nishin banya, a herring fisherman’s cabin, which used to exist on the coastline of Yoichi. Nourished by the hearty lunch, your last stop this afternoon is a local organic winery.
Tonight we will finally reach a most photogenic canal city of Otaru where we stay for the next two nights. Dinner tonight is at Yabuhan, a soba noodle restaurant. The restaurant was established in 1954, housed in an old stone warehouse. Another feature of this restaurant is the owner who is a Japanese sake expert. As a treat, he will kindly join us for a special chat about sake while we sample his best selection.
Day 8: Otaru
Having tasted premium sake the night before, this morning you will visit a sake brewer to witness first-hand how this prized alcohol is produced. Next stop is the Former Aoyama Villa, a one-time residence of wealthy herring fisherman when Otaru prospered with its herring fishery industry in the 19th century up to the 1950's. Those houses built by successful fishermen are called Nishin Goten (herring mansions) and the Former Aoyama Villa is a great specimen of them. The well-preserved Aoyama Villa which spared no expense in the materials and construction, is a great place to reminisce how much wealth was made by the herring fishery in the heyday.
This afternoon is free time for you to explore this atmospheric canal city at your own pace. Otaru's number one claim to fame is sushi, and we highly recommend sushi lunch or dinner. Another optional activity is Japanese sweet making. Please let us know if you would like us to make a booking.
Day 9: Sapporo
Today we will finally reach Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture. After dropping by a craft beer brewery on the way, we get to sample Sapporo ramen for lunch today. In central Sapporo we will have a guided walking tour of historic sites which include the former Hokkaido Government Office, the Clock Tower of the former Hokkaido Agricultural College and Odori Park.
Tonight dinner is at a Michelin starred Italian restaurant. Enjoy the sophistication of Hokkaido's largest city.
Day 10: Sapporo
It is a free day today and Sapporo has so much to offer. There are many cultural and historical museums and theme parks to learn more about this unique region, peaceful parks and gardens to stroll, and arguably the best shopping in Japan! Let us know what your interests are and we will make suggestions.
Day 11: Obihiro
Have you seen a $300 rockmelon (cantaloupe) in the high-end fruit shops in Ginza? This morning you will see where they are grown. Yubari is a premium melon producing region in Japan and this is your first stop this morning. You will have a chance to make your own assessment of how much this delicious fruit is worth when you sample it at the packing shed.
You will continue travel eastward in your mini bus and stop for lunch at the town of Shikaoi. Here you will visit a tofu restaurant and see first-hand how this essential Japanese food is made. Many people may think that tofu is bland in taste, but hopefully you will taste the difference between tofu mass-produced in a factory, and tofu hand-made from locally produced soybeans.
Our final destination on this tour is the city of Obihiro, located right in the middle of Hokkaido island. Tonight we will take you to a local popular "yatai" village. Yatai is a street food cart and this village's alleys are lined with many yatai emanating tempting smells and sizzles. Pick one that tickles your fancy, or why not go 'yatai hopping'?
Day 12: Obihiro
It is your last day on the 2020 Food Tour of Hokkaido, but it is far from winding down. Today you will put gum boots on and get your hands dirty in a vegetable farm. After helping the harvesting, you will make a vegetable sushi lunch from today's prize. In the afternoon, you will visit a dairy farm, but not an ordinary one. This dairy farm employs and trains autistic young people. We hear from the farm's founder how this farm was inspired and how it helps young people to find their place in society. The farm makes a range of cheeses from their milk and you will definitely try a few.
In the evening, we meet one last time for a farewell dinner at a gorgeous teppanyaki restaurant, which will bring together all the elements of Hokkaido 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: Back to Sapporo and Bon Voyage
This morning we will take you back to New Chitose Airport (or JR Sapporo Station). This concludes your 2020 Food Tour of Hokkaido.
If you are flying out from Hokkaido today, please book an afternoon flight. You can head back to your country by air from the New Chitose Airport. Alternatively, why not linger longer in Hokkaido 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.
- 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