Apologies this tour is now


The good news is -there’s still space available on
 Zenbu Zen & Zenbu Bunka


Autumn Cuisine and Culture Tour of Kyoto

15 days/14 nights 

23 November -07 December 2015

AUD $15,650 p/p or $15,250 twin/double p/p

(maximum of 8 places available)


Experience beautiful Kyoto in the midst of an autumnal glow. Golden Ginko and deep red Maple points burst through shades and shadows of burnished orange, rust and chocolate. As the surrounding mountains and gardens transition into the cooler months the spectacular evolution of the scenery is dearer to many Japanese than the briefly blossoming Sakura of springtime.

Seasonal cuisine is a key component of this 15 day aesthetic journey filled with culture, art, history, social observations and a wee spot of shopping for hand-crafted ceramics and paper, antiques – from lacquerware to fabrics, intoxicating incense, teas and objects of contemporary Japanese design.

Traditional dance, Japan’s best whiskey, strolling through bamboo groves, zazen meditation, galleries, a visit to one of the world’s most architecturally stunning museums, chatting with a Maiko-san over sake and day trips to remote villages engaging with the locals are all part of the make-up of this inspirational feast for the senses.

This tour is hosted by  Food and Travel writer and Japanophile Jane Lawson author of Zenbu Zen – Finding Food, Culture and Balance in Kyoto by Murdoch Books.

There are a maximum of 8 places on this tour and it requires 6 guests to run.



IMG_0688 - CopyMonday 23 November 2015

We’ll kick off the tour in style this evening with a welcome drink in the bar of the stunning Hyatt Regency Kyoto – our home away from home for the next 14 nights. Afterwards we’ll witness a sashimi and sushi demonstration by the Hyatt’s skilful chefs before moving into the hotel’s elegant Touzan Restaurant for our first meal together. No prizes for guessing the first course.


IMG_1083Tuesday 24 November 2015

After a sumptuous buffet breakfast in The Grill overlooking a tranquil Japanese courtyard garden we will be joined by a local guide for a walking tour of historical Higashiyama (Eastern Mountain) area. We will visit one of Kyoto’s most popular temples – Kiyomizu Dera and adjacent cobblestone lanes lined with local crafts and foodstuffs.  After breaking for a short but mesmerising Tea Ceremony we’ll enjoy lunch in the area before continuing on through well-preserved traditional streets, stepping back in time with a stroll through Gion – Kyoto’s most famous Geisha quarter. There will be a little free time before dinner.

IMG_1328Wednesday 25 November 2015

The morning is yours to lay in, read a book or perhaps pop in to Sanjusangendo temple conveniently situated right next-door to the hotel. Or…. join me for an early departure to the famous Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market to search for antique treasures and trinkets. We’ll also take a peek at the adjacent Geisha quarter. We’ll drop off our goodies at the hotel before being delivered to our lunch destination. Afterwards you are free to roam for a couple of hours or come along with me as I visit a couple of my favourite gallery stores showcasing local artists’ home-centric wares of ceramic, glass and metals and hand-made fabrics with a focus on Indigo, natural materials and fascinating Boro. The quaint local district is also known for its antiques and artisan wares – from paper to tea and sake to calligraphy brushes. Perhaps we’ll stop somewhere gorgeous for a drink on route to our Yakitori dinner – expertly grilled chicken bits on sticks! And a few other specialties of the house.

IMG_2376Thursday 26 November 2015

Today we will be transported to a remote village in the neighbouring prefecture to meet our wonderful host who’ll guide us through her historic town. We’ll meet the locals, enjoy a nutritious home–style lunch with a variety of regional dishes and take tea and sweets in a traditional Japanese home. Naturally there will be time for purchases to be made…. before returning to Kyoto for dinner. A special experience in the Japanese countryside.


 Friday 27 November 2015 

After a few busy days it is time for relaxing with a full day at your leisure.

Why not pamper yourself in the Hyatt’s wonderful Riraku Spa or gently discover more of Kyoto’s personality. There are more temples and shrines than you can poke a stick at, plenty of photogenic laneways to explore and hidden pockets to discover. Roam along the Kamo River the fluid heart of Kyoto city, take in a gallery or museum, visit Nijo Castle or simply relax in one of Kyoto’s wonderful cafes. We’ll meet up again for dinner.

SIMG_0771 - Copyaturday 28 November 2015

After breakfast we will travel to a peaceful Zen temple complex for a short lesson in Zazen (seated Zen Buddhist meditation) and chat about Buddhist philosophy, life and the universe with one fascinatingly modern monk.  We shall lunch at a restaurant highly renowned for superb Shojin Ryori (Buddhist Vegetarian cuisine).

The afternoon is yours to follow your nose  – or join me visiting a modern incense store and a sprawling underground food hall to gaze into the cabinets that house jewel-like Wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionary) and lacquered senbei (rice crackers) and resist the urge to purchase every beautifully packaged item in the store. We’ll enjoy a little free time in the lengthy undercover arcades before tucking into a dinner of crisp, golden Tonkatsu – showcasing the best of Kyoto’s sweet, sweet pig!

IMG_9677Sunday 29 November 2015

An early morning start will see us driving to sleepy Ohara in Kyoto’s northern mountains through farming area famous for supplying some of the city’s finest restaurants.  On route, we’ll take a brief stop at the farmers’ market before arriving at spiritual Sanzen-in (temple) and its serene garden. We’ll wander back down the hill via a pleasant lane flanked by a stream on one side and folk-craft and pickle vendors on the other before heading to lunch.  There will be a little free time for rest before dinner.

IMG_1634Monday 30 November 2015

This morning we’ll call in to a peaceful, lesser known temple (one of my favourites for quiet retreat) and its small but well-designed garden before attending a private Nihon Buyoh (traditional Japanese dance) performance by the only foreigner in Kyoto to be accepted into its closed and intriguing world. Afterwards she’ll join our group for a saunter through her quaint suburb, popping into its truly excellent bookstore and then together we’ll enjoy a casual lunch chatting about Kyoto life. The afternoon is yours at leisure before dinner – or join me for a look-see at charming Nishijin – Kyoto’s original textile weaving district. It may have the feeling of old-time Japan but it is dotted with buzzing modern creatives’ hives – from paper and print makers to glass blowers and beyond.

IMG_2236Tuesday 01 December 2015

The day is yours at leisure until our late afternoon visit to a rustic teahouse to meet, chat and share a few laughs with an enchanting young Maiko-san (Geisha in training) over a little sake and shochu… an absolutely delightful experience.  Once we farewell our gracious hosts we shall amble along the atmospheric, lantern-lit Pontocho alley before grilling our own Yakiniku dinner featuring delicious Wagyu.

IMG_0885 - CopyWednesday 02 December 2015
This morning I’ll walk and talk you through the wonderful Nishiki-koji food market, known to the locals as Kyoto daidokoro or Kyoto’s kitchen. Expect an eye-popping assortment of supremely fresh seafood, meats, pickles, tofu, miso, Kyoto’s renowned vegetable varieties and many other local delicacies. If beautiful hand-crafted knives are your thing be sure to bring along some yen as we will visit a store famous for knives, traditional cookware and utensils. We shall lunch locally then the afternoon is free to explore this vibrant vicinity on your own or come along with me to a few of my favourite design stores. We’ll all meet up again for dinner.

IMG_1909Thursday 03 December 2015

Today we’ll  take a morning stroll around scenic Arashiyama area, including the bamboo forest, moon-crossing bridge and a spectacular garden with an incredible bird’s eye view over Kyoto. The morning’s exercise promises to help us work up an appetite for dining on some of Kyoto’s most creative Kaiseki fare – bring a sense of curiosity and an open mind for this stunning experience. The afternoon will be yours for resting or exploring until we meet up for dinner.

Friday 04 December 2015


Another full day of leisure for you to enjoy as you wish. More Shiatsu, Acupuncture or a facial in the hotel’s spa perhaps? You might feel inspired to take a short trip to spirit dense Fushimi Inari Shrine – famous not only for its picturesque red torii gate tunnels but as a place to wish for good fortune in business. Also nearby is  Uji , the setting for  classic Japanese novel The Tale of Genji boasts the magnificent Byodoin Temple area,  and quality, fragrant green tea – if Matcha flavoured sweets, soba or ice cream you are hankering for – you are guaranteed to find it here!

Tonight you are also at leisure – perhaps soak in a deep yuzu-scented bath, order room service and put your feet up with one of the free hotel movies? Or you might just be in the mood to get out amongst the ‘end of week’ vibe in the city centre – discovering pocket-sized bars and restaurants or exercising your lungs with a spot of Karaoke. Of course you could simply choose to picnic by the river for all the moon-gazing and fresh air you can handle!

IMG_4846Saturday 05 December 2015

We’ll continue the comfortable pace today by floating around the gorgeous gardens of the Heian Jingu (shrine) and a brief stop at the Kyoto Handicraft centre  – a good all round place to pick up last-minute gifts (even if it is a stunning woodblock print for yourself!) before a casual lunch.  You then have free-time to visit the nearby enclave of museums and art galleries  The start to the Philosophers’ path is close by if you feel like a walk along the tree-lined canal contemplating your last few days in Kyoto – or you can tag along with me as we meander to our heart’s content through the Okazaki area, soaking up the last of the autumn colours of the mountain range that nuzzles this part of town. We’ll all meet up for a special dinner tonight.

 IMG_1328Sun 06 December 2015

For our last full day together we will be joined by a highly esteemed Japanese ceramics expert who will accompany us to the architecturally breathtaking and culturally significant Miho museum. After lunch we’ll travel to nearby Shigaraki, one of the oldest ceramic producing centres in Japan where we will be introduced to a few talented potters and learn about their work and the history of the town.  No doubt purchases will be made so save a little room in your luggage!

Our farewell dinner will be held at Trattoria Sette – the excellent Italian eatery in our very own hotel  – so very popular with the locals. A fun, casual and relaxing way to end our journey together – celebrating new connections and experiences.



Monday 07 December 2015

Make the most of our final day with a sleep-in and leisurely breakfast before we say farewell to Kyoto town and each other. The day is yours until your departure homewards or onwards – why not take one last unhurried chance to soak up Kyoto town’s magical atmosphere – perhaps finding a sunny temple deck for quiet contemplation.  Sayonara. Until we meet again.

Important information

The tour price relates to land cost only and is inclusive of the following:


14 nights luxury accommodation (and VIP treatment) at the stunning Hyatt Regency Kyoto including tax

Food and Drink

14 breakfasts,  10 lunches and 13 dinners in a range of Jane’s favourite eateries from the simple to the sublime (restaurant details will be provided just prior to departure).Beverages only as mentioned in the itinerary eg.  welcome drink, sake with Maiko, tea at tea ceremony (unless Jane is drunk and feeling generous!)

Spa Voucher

1 x voucher to the exclusive Riraku Spa at the Hyatt Regency Hotel


All ground transport for the duration of the tour (ie. travel to, from and between destinations/activities included in the itinerary)  including coach, mini bus and taxis

Entrance fees and activities

All temple, shrine, museum, gallery entrance fees as per itinerary

All guide and host fees and all activity costs as per itinerary eg:   Tour with local guide through historically significant Higashiyama area and Gion • Private Nihon Buyoh performance and talk about life in Kyoto • 2 Full day tours to remote villages in the Japanese countryside including a visit to the Miho museum and Shigaraki ceramics village • Tea Ceremony • Walk and talk tour of Nishiki market and local food hall • Visit to Kitano Tenmangu Flea market and local Geisha quarter • Sushi and sashimi demonstration • Zazen instruction, Buddhist philosophy talk and guided tour through private temple •  A chat with Maiko over sake/shochu • A walk around Arashiyama area, the bamboo forest and famous Villa/Garden • A stroll around the antiques district and a visit to several of Jane’s favourite design and craft stores • A visit to Ohara area including the farmers’ market and Sanzen-in • All temple,  shrine and garden entry fees as per itinerary • Japanese Whiskey sampling • Insider knowledge and a peek inside Jane’s head and heart and why she loves Kyoto so!

IMG_9961Plus a few surprises along the way….

Bookings are now open for this tour. 

Jane is working together with the very lovely and helpful Dai-san from Pitt Travel in Sydney who will handle your booking. He is also able to assist you with flights, transfers and travel insurance.

Please contact Jane Lawson directly (janelawsonfood@bigpond.com.au) if you have any queries regarding the tour content or to express your interest in booking and she will introduce you to Dai san (pitt@pitt-travel.com.au) who will send you the booking terms and conditions and handle payment.   His phone number is +61 2 9267 0010.

• Bookings are not confirmed until a 25% deposit has been made

Full payment is required by 01 September 2015.

• To reiterate – flights and airport transfers are not included in the tour cost.

• All meals, transport and activities in your free/leisure time, and all drinks throughout the tour, except where noted in itinerary, are at your own cost.

• Travel insurance is essential and at your own cost.

• Members of the Zenbu Aki group will receive a detailed itinerary closer to departure time however between payment and departure Jane will also send out some helpful information about local customs, what to expect weather wise and similar topics.

• We reserve the right to cancel the tour if the minimum number of participants (6) is not met. However, we will not cancel a tour less than 45 days before departure unless unforseen disaster occurs!

• All tour participants must provide proof of a valid passport & travel insurance

• All tour participants should feel comfortable with long days and lots of walking – including stairs/inclines and uneven surfaces at times

• All participants are advised to bring along relevant Doctor’s prescriptions if carrying strong / important medication

• We sadly cannot recommend this tour to people with severe dining restrictions and sensitivities. This tour has been designed for those wishing to experience a wide variety of authentic foodstuffs. Many savoury dishes in Japan contain Dashi -a stock made from dried fish. If you have a concern about a certain food (eg due to severe allergy or for religious or ethical reasons), please speak with Jane and we will do our best to work around it.

• While Zenbu Tours endeavours to stick to our itineraries as closely as possible once published it is sometimes it is necessary to shuffle things around very slightly as life inevitably happens around us.  Thank you for your understanding should this occur.


For a peek inside our tours here’s a few images from Zenbu Zen Jan 2015

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