March 2015: Culinary Tour to Japan with Hiroko

Posted on Nov 4, 2014 in Hiroko's Blog

Join me to experience Japan – food, arts, culture, society,… – in March 2015. The complete travel information is available. If you are interested in joining the tour, please contact me. I will send you more information.
2015 Culinary Tour to Japan with Hiroko

Curiosity, learning about and sampling the local cuisines is always an important part of any visit to a foreign country. Food is an integral part of the social, cultural and historical aspect of the county. Visiting local food market, sampling unique food items and chatting with the vendors (well, it often happens with an exchange of just a few words, laughter and gestures). Touring a hundreds of years old specialty food manufacturer not only teaches us about the product that the factory makes but also conveys an understanding of the history and human fabric of the region that has been supporting the particular food production for so many years. Food opens up new worlds and new ideas to us. With this in mind I am repeating a rare and very special tour to Japan in 2015 – The Once in a Lifetime Culinary Tour of Japan.

I was born in Japan and immersed in its food culture until I moved to America in middle age 16 years ago. Though I now work in the food business in America, my cultural and culinary roots remain in my home country. I continue to keep very strong contact with people in all areas of Japanese food world – farmers, artisan producer, restaurants, traditional cooking implement makers and cooking schools. My friends and colleagues are in so many varied parts of the food business all across the country. During this tour I would love to show you a carefully selected sampling of the best aspects of Japanese culinary culture and at the same time introduce you to my country during the beautiful season of cherry blossoms and early spring. I can assure you of an experience you will always treasure.

As a principal feature of this tour I will immerse you in the diverse and distinctive aspects of Japanese culture, history, society and arts. Every day you will experience such highlights. Just to name a few, we visit several local food markets in different areas of the country, including a world famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. My dear friend, a professional tuna dealer in the market, will take personally us and show us all areas of the market, most not accessible to tourists. The visit includes an 8 AM sushi breakfast in the market together with the market dealers enjoying dinner after coming off their very early morning work; a cooking class taught by my colleague, the third generation owner of the venerable Yanagihara Cooking School; a shopping excursion to the culinary equipment district for classic cooking knives and other unique useful kitchen equipment; a visit to a sake brewery founded in 1673 (this brewery is not open to public), guided by my friend, the vice president of the company; a visit to a Zen temple to practice of meditation, calligraphy, tea ceremony followed at the temple by a shojin ryori vegetarian meal. Additional highlights of the tour include visits to a must-see world famous old temples, shrines and gardens; a visit to a renowned World Heritage Village deep in the beautiful mountainous countryside. All accommodations have been carefully chosen for quality and location in each visiting city. We spend our final night at a Relais & Chateau Japanese Inn, where you can totally relax by strolling around one of the most famous pottery and hot spring town in Ishikawa Prefecture. Spa massage offered at the Inn will bring you to a state of total relaxation, as well. During the entire tour you will see Japan the way the Japanese do – from a bullet train, local line train window and marvelous Tokyo subway system. The tour offers all levels of Japanese dining from casual, but uniquely Japanese, to a formal multi-course kaiseki meal.

Please join me to experience Japan from the inside. Below is the detailed itinerary. Sign us for the tour as soon as possible, since I will take no more than 13 enthusiasts with me this time. The tour begins and ends in Japan. The participants are free to make their own travel arrangements to Japan that may include an extended stay in Japan or onward travel to other Asian destinations. The tour begins on March 21, 2013 – the first day on which we meet at our hotel in Tokyo for a relaxing, informal dinner – and ends on March 31, 2013.



Japan Time

March 21 (Saturday)
Arrive Narita or Haneda airports in Japan. Take the Narita Express train to Tokyo Station and a taxi to the hotel or a taxi direct from Haneda. Detailed instruction will be given to you. Meet at our hotel in central Tokyo and enjoy our first dinner at casual yakitori dinner at Hinaiya Ginza, a short walk from the hotel. We stay at Japan’s famous Imperial Hotel, in its original incarnation the first Western-style hotel in the Japan. Its history alone, is fascinating
Hotel for 3 nights at

March 22 (Sunday)
Tokyo sights, sounds and tastes explored by subway:

We will be traveling Tokyo on foot by one of the world, most efficient subway systems. Visit the food court at Mitsukoshi Department Store; Asakusa temple neighborhood and Tokyo style tempura lunch; Kappabashi cooking equipment district; a Japanese cooking class taught by instructor Naoyuki Yanagihara, the third generation owner/teacher at the highly regarded Yanagihara Cooking School; we will enjoy what we have made at the class for dinner. We will sleep early for the next day Tsukiji Fish Market visit.

March 23 (Monday)
More Tokyo sights, sounds and tastes

6 TsukijiTsukiji Fish Market – world’s largest and busiest; a friend of mine a tuna dealer at the market will join us to show us around the market, including tuna tasting; sushi breakfast in the market; visit to a Hama Rikyu Royal Gardens and Meiji Shrine. After okonomiyaki lunch we will visit a museum. Japanese seasonal dinner at an old friend’s highly regarded Michelin star restaurant. Private coach and taxi will take you to everyplace.

March 24 (Tuesday)
To Kyoto by Shinkansen bullet train [Baggage will be shipped to Kyoto]

2 Tsukiji (2)Take a Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto passing Mt. Fuji on the way – magnificent view if it’s clear; classic Kyoto sightseeing: the Golden Pavilion, Ryoanji Temple, Kiyomizu Temple; dinner at a Kyoto cuisine Japanese restaurant.

Hotel for 3 nights at
March 25 (Wednesday)
The heart of Kyoto cuisine:

Nishiki Central Food Market; Yuba shop; a highlight of the day is a visit to a traditional sake brewery, Tamano Hikari; another friend of mine, the vice president of the company, will personally lead the tour of the brewery; dinner at Kura, which takes only 1 group of diners a day – Kyoto-style dining is served in a 400 year-old structure.

March 26 (Thursday)
Continuing a traditional artisan craft

gardenVisits to two venerable Zen temples and practice meditation and calligraphy, and the classic Japanese tea ceremony; vegetarian lunch prepared by the temple monks will follow; the cherry blossoms should be in bloom; for dinner we will enjoy a traditional Kyoto formal multi-course Kaiseki meal at Gion Maruyama where you may see geisha or young maiko, geisha in training
March 27 (Friday)
Depart Kyoto for Gokayama in Western Japan by train

See rural Japan like the Japanese do – from a train window while enjoying an ekiben – a train station lunchbox; Join our tofu making activity; Stay and dinner – typical bounteous multi-course country inn dinner at a Japanese inn; after dinner we will enjoy a local folk music and dance show donned in yukawa; you may get a chance to be dressed in one hundred years old dance costumes
Hotel 1 night at


March 28 (Saturday)
Depart Gokayama for Kanazawa;

Kura surrounding heathVisit Ainokura Gassho Zukuri, a 200 year old UNESCO World Heritage Site village comprised of homes – many still privately occupied –with steeply pitched thatch roofs to deal with the region’s huge snowfall, then drive to Kanazawa city, which was the region governed by the second most powerful feudal lord in the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Edo period (1600-1868). We will visit 400-year old historic Higashi-chaya district; enjoy the tea house “Shima”; renowned Kenrokuen Park (cherry blossoms); Our dinner tonight is real Japanese wagyu beef at a steak house.

Hotel 1 night at

March 29 (Sunday)
Depart Kanazawa for Yamashiro Onsen, Kaga District

Leave for Yamashiro Onsen hot spring village by local train ; Yamashiro Onsen is one of the four hot spring towns in the Kaga Onsen district. A traveling monk found the water on his way to Mount Hakusan 1300 years ago. The water is known for its ability to relieve muscle and joint pains and aid digestion problems; no bathing suit needed at a Japanese onsen. Yamashiro is also known for the high quality, robust color and print patterns of Kutaniyaki pottery. There are kilns dating from Edo period. Tonight we stay at very special inn. It is member of Relais & Château. After checking in we will stroll the village, visit a Kutaniyaki kiln or relax at Inn’s superb Spa facility. Each room is equipped with own onsen bath. There is no better way to conclude our adventurous and activity-full journey. We will have a memorable dinner at the inn. Hotel 1 night at


March 30 (Monday)

Depart Yamashiro Onsen by train for Tokyo for a last relaxed stay

Leave Yamashiro Onsen station by train for Kaga Onsen and Maibara and there transfer to the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo. We will have a farewell dinner at an exclusive club restaurant.

Hotel 1 night at


March 31 (Tuesday)

Breakfast at the hotel and depart for your own destination. Hiroko is available all day for you to assist.
Hiroko Shimbo
Hiroko’s Kitchen, LLC