2021 Food Tour of Central Honshu
On this exhilarating journey through central Honshu, the mainland of Japan, you will visit Japan's iconic cities, farming villages and seaside hamlets while experiencing Japan’s centuries-old food traditions. The 2021 tour visits a first class Japanese knife manufacturer and a food model manufacturer too!
The 2021 Food Tour of Central Honshu is an ultimate introduction to the UNESCO-recognised world of washoku (Japanese cuisine) and shows you many of Japan's food icons such as Tsukiji Market. However, it does not stop there. The tour offers numerous unique local food experiences that are off-limits to private travellers and large groups. For example we have a tour of a small vegetable farm guided by the owner-farmer and have lunch specially prepared for us on the farm. Our past travellers all commented that this was one of the highlights of the tour.
The 2021 tour is further boosted by the addition of three new locations, Gujo, Mino and Seki, all in Gifu Prefecture. Seki City is Japan's premium knife manufacturing base and derived from its Japanese sword making traditions. We will visit a high quality Japanese cooking knife manufacturer there. Food models are unique to Japanese culture and you would definitely remember them in glass show cases in front of restaurant if you have visited Japan. We visit a food model manufacturer in Gujo City.
The tour is run in October - the traditional harvest season. As well as tasting the fresh harvest food, travellers will enjoy the bonus of autumn colours for which Japan is also famous for.
The tour starts in Tokyo and ends in Kyoto, and includes the guided tours in these cities specifically designed to show you the food-related sites. However, we highly recommend you spend a few more days of your own at the beginning and/or the end of the group tour to discover endless attractions of Tokyo and Kyoto areas especially if you are the first-time visitors of Japan. Journey to the East will be delighted to plan your private itinerary and provide information to suit your interests.
Places visited: Tokyo, Yokohama, Ibaraki, Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Noto Peninsula, Gujo, Mino, Seki, Kyoto and Osaka
Group size: Minimum 4, Maximum 8
Transport: Bullet train, express & commuter trains, subway, private minivan and taxi
Accommodation: Four-star hotels and equivalent Japanese style inns
Fitness level: Average (please refer to FAQ)
Tour style: Signature
Visit Tokyo’s bustling Tsukiji Outer Market and sample many traditional and unique food items
Enjoy a personalised tour through artisanal soy sauce & sake breweries
Discover the sophisticated culture and food of Kanazawa’s castle town
Visit the UNESCO-listed mountain village of Shirakawa-go
Join the traditional atmosphere at Wajima’s morning market
Soak in mineral hot springs on the Noto Peninsula
Taste test Osaka's unique street food
Taste premium green-tea at an ancient tea plantation in Uji (Kyoto)
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel. Tokyo will be the hub our adventure over the next few days. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2021 Food Tour of Central Honshu.
Day 2: Tokyo
The first visit today is arguably Japan's most famous food venue, Tsukiji’s Outer Market. The small size of our group will allow your private guide to stop at many stores and explain their unique traditional and popular food items. Then we are off to the upmarket shopping district of Ginza. We visit one of its exclusive department stores to check out its food hall with the dizzying range of beautifully presented food and confectionery!
Our first day ends with a fitting welcome dinner at an old sake brewery converted into a restaurant. The restaurant specializes in an elaborate multi-course menu of delicate tofu cuisine. This experience will be sure to change your perception of this famous Japanese ingredient.
Day 3: Tokyo and Yokohama
Just south of Tokyo lies the modern city of Yokohama. It is the site where the first foreign ships arrived in 1858 to open Japan’s first trading port after centuries of isolation. Yokohama is particularly important to us as it is the beginnings of Japan's "western" food and shows us how this history impacted Japan's food culture.
Lunch today is at the Ramen Museum where you can choose your favourite noodle dish. Much of Japanese food has its origins in Chinese cuisine, so naturally the next stop is Yokohama's Chinatown, which is Japan’s largest Chinatown. We walk through its narrow streets so you can sample the Japanese versions of Chinese street-food as we go.
The tour heads back to Tokyo for dinner. Tonight you will enjoy a deep dive into the Japanese "salary-man's" culture, yakitori and beer.
Day 4: Tokyo and Ibaraki
JttE Unique Experience!
According to our past travellers, today is one of the highlights of the tour. The destination is north of Tokyo, here we visit a privately-owned farm which specializes in growing quality vegetables for direct supply to some of Tokyo’s leading restaurants. Our guests can engage with the owners and sample a variety of fresh produce at lunch, which is specially prepared for us. It is an unforgettable experience having a five-star meal in the fresh air of rural Japan.
We head back to Tokyo for an evening at your leisure. Our guides are always on hand to provide tips about getting around Tokyo or local restaurant recommendations.
Day 5: Kanazawa
Onboard the shinkansen bullet train this morning, we cross to Kanazawa on the Japan Sea side. With its historical heritage as a wealthy castle town, Kanazawa offers a huge array of cultural attractions and is commonly known as “Little Kyoto”.
We start our tour with a visit to the Higashi Geisha district, a charming area of narrow streets where immaculately presented geisha traditionally entertained wealthy patrons. Here we stop for lunch at a local restaurant specializing in regional Kaga cuisine. Next stop is Kenrokuen Garden, a sublime castle garden dating back to the 17th century and regarded as one of the three best gardens of Japan.
We end the day with a superb dinner of premium wagyu teppanyaki.
Day 6: Kanazawa
Another day in Kanazawa exploring its food culture. Today, we visit a gold leaf museum where we have the chance to make your own lacquerware plate gilded with gold leaf, typical of the style used in Kanazawa. Afternoon tea is at Musee de Ash, a cafe run by one of Japan’s most famous pastry chefs, to sample his signature cakes.
Kanazawa region is also well-known for its sake-making. It originally developed because of the pristine quality of its waters and sweet rice. We visit one of the traditional sake breweries in Kanazawa where we learn about the production of Japan’s famous rice-based wine.
The evening is an opportunity to try Kanazawa's another specialty, sushi.
Day 7: Noto Peninsula
The delightfully rural Noto Peninsula, on Japan’s scenic north-western coast, is our destination today. On the way, we visit a local soy sauce brewery, run by the same family for four generations, to learn how this fundamental Japanese staple is made.
The scenic coastal road takes us to our next stop – lunch. Located in the middle of remote rice paddies, our Michelin-starred restaurant is run by a couple of inventive young chefs from Tokyo who wanted to showcase the abundant produce available on this fertile peninsula.
Wakura Onsen is our final destination today, a hot springs resort on the peaceful Nanao Bay.
Accommodation tonight is a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn), where you can experience an authentic kaiseki banquet and a soak in a hot-spring onsen bath with scenic views across the beautiful bay. Restored and relaxed, we think you’ll soon fall asleep on the comfortable futon bedding in your traditional tatami-mat room. Japanese ryokan hospitality at its very best!
Day 8: Noto Peninsula and Kanazawa
After an authentic Japanese-style breakfast at your ryokan – a nutritious, protein-rich mix of grilled fish, miso soup, tofu, rice and pickles, you will head to Wajima. Wajima is another peninsula town well-known for its morning market. Here local fisherwomen sell dried fish, other local produce and crafts.
JttE Unique Experience!
While we are in Wajima, we visit a family-run studio of distinctive Noto style lacquerware demonstrating the extraordinary standard of the local craftsmanship. Such elaborate tableware is an integral part of Japanese cuisine. It is certainly a treat to see the insight of the artisanship and walk through their museum-like private showroom.
Driving through rural and coastal local roads, we pause to admire an unusual terraced rice paddy perched on the side of a hill overlooking the sea. In the afternoon, we visit a salt extraction farm on the beach, producing premium sea salt using traditional methods.
We return by private minivan to Kanazawa where you can explore the city at your leisure.
Day 9: Shirakawa-go and Gujo Hachiman
We head to the UNESCO World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go. The village has the famous thatched-roof farmhouses known as gassho-zukuri (meaning “hands clasped together in prayer”). Their steeply-slanted roofs were built to withstand the region’s heavy snowfalls. We stop for a typical lunch of country-style buckwheat soba noodles in the village and continue to Gujo Hachiman by a private minivan.
Gujo Hachiman is a picturesque castle town surrounded by mountains and rivers. Gujo is also a largest producer of food models in Japan. While ambling through its old town, you will visit a food model manufacturer where you can learn the technique of making your own lifelike food models.
Another night at a Japanese style hotel and enjoy mountain cuisine tonight.
Day 10: Mino and Seki
In addition to Gujo, Mino and Seki are new additions to the Food Tour of Central Honshu. These cities are full of treasures not yet widely discovered by overseas visitors. Production of Mino Washi Japanese paper is believed to have started 1,300 years ago, and its quality and historical significance are recognised world wide. On the other hand Seki City is a large producer of cutting tools originating from its sword making tradition.
JttE Unique Experience
On this tour you have an opportunity to experience these traditional Japanese cultures. In particular, you will visit a local knife manufacturer to view how high quality Japanese knives are made. For those keen home chefs, today is also a great chance to purchase your special piece.
In the evening you will reach your final destination, Kyoto by shinkansen.
Day 11: Kyoto
Today we explore the premium tea-producing area of Uji, just south of Kyoto. A long established tea merchant invites us in to discuss the intricate process of cultivating Japanese green tea. We taste-test different tea varieties including premium matcha tea in a traditional tea ceremony.
Lunch today is shojin ryori, a particular style of sophisticated vegetarian cuisine traditionally served to Kyoto’s Buddhist monks. Based on simplicity and harmony, the dishes are prepared so that there is an appropriate balance of five different colours and flavours.
In the afternoon, we tour Kyoto's famous Nishiki Market looking at many unique Kyoto food items. As the day closes we attend a cooking class and make some classic Japanese dishes, siting down to enjoy the fruits of our labour!
Day 12: Osaka day trip
In the morning, we tour Suntory Yamazaki Whisky Distillery to learn about the long but little-known history of whisky-making in Japan and taste some of its premium single malts celebrated worldwide.
Then it’s off to explore Osaka, the bustling metropolis on Kyoto’s southern borders. We take a walking tour through Osaka’s lively entertainment district of Dotombori, famous for its historic canal and tasty street-food. We experience its trademark neons before heading back to Kyoto for a farewell dinner.
Tonight's dinner is one all our guests all talk about. It is Japanese Italian fusion cuisine at a restaurant opened by a young Japanese top chef trained in Italy. He creates a work of art using traditional Japanese ingredients and Italian techniques.
Day 13: Kyoto & Bon-Voyage
This morning, you check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2021 Food Tour of Central Honshu concludes.
You can return to Tokyo by train or air to fly home, or depart from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Perhaps you might like to linger in Japan for a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal 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.
Suggested Post Tour Extension
If you wish to stay on in Japan after your tour, there is a wealth of interesting places to visit and things to do. Many guests like to visit Hiroshima with the A-Bomb museum and the nearby exquisite island of Miyajima. Why not talk to the Journey to the East team about this option?
- 12 nights accommodation with daily breakfast
- Meals as specified in the itinerary above
- All transport (train, bus, taxi and private minibus) included in the group itinerary
- SUICA IC card pre-loaded with starter credit
- Airport meet and greet, and escorted transfer to your hotel on arrival
- Government licensed English-speaking tour guides
- Cultural activities and entry fees included in the group itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
Does not include:
- International or domestic airfare
- Transfer on the departure day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Visa (if required)
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
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