Zenbu Zen Tour 2017

IMG_1728  Zenbu Tours is offering three very special Luxury Cuisine & Culture Tours for 2017
Zenbu Zen (below),  ZENBU ZEN II ,  and our new ZENBU HARU SPRING TOUR!



 ZENBU ZEN (2 spots left!) 


First up is the popular and intimate 12 Day ZENBU ZEN Tour  which focuses on superbly serene and fascinating Kyoto – Japan’s cultural epicentre.  Leisurely paced to allow one to absorb the city’s calming energy whilst exploring  and indulging in as many of Kyoto’s traditions, treasures and tastes as possible  – Zenbu Zen offers the perfect holiday scenario for the traveller who wishes to connect with the new, embrace the ancient and relax in between.  Encircled by mountains, Kyoto in winter is a sight to behold and at its most peaceful. An in-depth and layered introduction to the very best of Japanese cuisine  and culture.

Recommended for:

First time  or returning visitors to Japan wishing for an immersive, cultural and culinary experience with friendly, Japanese-obsessed ‘part-time locals’ by their side!




12 days/ 11 nights
8 – 19 Jan 2017
Price  AUD $11, 995  pp
(Twin share  AUD $11,599 pp)
Accommodation : Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel

*This tour requires a minimum of 7 guests to run and takes a maximum of 10 guests



IMG_1915Day 1. Sunday 08 January

We shall kick off our 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 11 nights.

IMG_0688 - CopyAfterwards we’ll watch a mesmerising sashimi & sushi  demonstration by the Hyatt’s skilful chefs before moving into the elegant Touzan Restaurant for our first meal together and your introduction to traditional Kyoto home-style dishes or Obanzai. Tonight not only provides with the perfect opportunity to get to know your hosts and each other a little but also to become acquainted with fascinating Japanese customs and culture as you begin your Kyoto experience.



IMG_1632Day 2. Monday 09 January

After a sumptuous buffet breakfast in the Grill Restaurant overlooking the hotel’s tranquil Japanese garden  we’ll walk through the lower part of the  historical Higashiyama (Eastern Mountain) area – visiting 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 a casual lunch in the area before continuing on through well-preserved traditional streets, Maruyama Kouen (park) and Kyoto’s important Yasaka Jinja (shrine). Afterwards there will be a little time for shopping for exquisite incense or handmade sweets or IMG_0675pickles –   or simply to put your feet up back at the hotel prior to a special dinner at a Private Restaurant – with perhaps a little music on the side…




IMG_0887 - CopyDay 3. Tuesday 10 January

This morning Jane will 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 (Kyo-yasai) and many other local delicacies – and of course there will be plenty of wonderous new foods to sample! If beautiful hand-crafted knives are your thing be sure to bring along some yen as we will visit a store famous not only  for knives but other traditional cookware and utensils. We’ll  spend a short time exploring the local vicinity including  a fabulous design store and perhaps the wonderful Depachika ( underground foodhall) of one of Kyoto’s best Department stores.

06536-img_8552We shall lunch on the finest tempura of seasonal seafood and Kyo-yasai in Gion before wandering the atmospheric laneways of this most famous Geisha quarter. Late afternoon we’ll visit a traditional teahouse for an exclusive private meeting and chat with a Maiko san (Geisha in training) over local sake and shochu  before walking it off on the way to our  Izakaya dinner nearby. 






IMG_0771 - Copy

Day 4.  Wednesday 11 January

After breakfast we will travel  in our private bus 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 nearby restaurant highly renowned for superb Shojin Ryori (Buddhist Vegan cuisine) – their food is enough to turn a carnivore into a vegetarian!  Well, almost…



IMG_0902 copyReturning downtown in the afternoon you’ll have some free time to wander or relax – or follow Jane as she visits a few of her favourite gallery and craft stores,  a handmade paper shop and maybe an antique store or two…  Before dinner, which will  include some of Kyoto’s most delectable chicken-on-a-stick (yakitori),  we’ll enjoy a sampling of some of  Japan’s top Whiskey or perhaps a plum wine flavoured with aromatic shiso leaves?


(B,L, D)




IMG_1765Day 5. Thursday  12 January

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

Why not take the opportunity to practice your newly learned Zazen meditation on a sunny temple deck. Kyoto shares with us more temples and shrines than you can poke a stick at.  Gently take your time to discover a little of Kyoto on your own – roam along the Kamogawa (river) the fluid heart of Kyoto city, take in a gallery or museum, try your hand at Shibori, visit Nijo Castle and nearby Ninja house –  or simply relax in one of Kyoto’s wonderful cafes with a good book.

c6040-img_8722Of course there are plenty of photogenic laneways to explore and hidden pockets to discover. You might just wish to stay close to the hotel so you can make the most of your Riraku Spa Voucher!?  
Whatever you do just be back in time for an early evening stroll along lantern-lit Pontocho  on route to a wonderful Japanese-French meal. 






IMG_1738Day 6.  Friday 13 January

Today we’ll take a morning stroll around scenic Arashiyama area in western Kyoto including the lushly green bamboo forest, moon-crossing bridge and a spectacular, sprawling garden – blessed with an incredible bird’s eye view over the city.  If there’s time we’ll walk further west into the Saga Toriimoto area past local craft stores specialising in bamboo products…. or perhaps just relax over a coffee in Arashiyama village


24c2a-img_3002The 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 only in Kyoto experience.  The late afternoon and entire evening will be yours for resting or exploring – perhaps venture out to find a local bar or restaurant on your own (we’ll have plenty of recommendations of course!) or get better acquainted with your beautiful room by taking a long soak in the deep bath and ordering in room service to enjoy whilst watching one of the free in-house DVD’s. 




7c5ae-img_4933Day 7. Saturday 14 January

Our first stop after breakfast this morning will be one of our favourite, lesser known temples for quiet contemplation – there will be time to wander alone in the impressive garden before we walk through the backstreets of a quiet residential neighbourhood on route to a magnificent traditional craft museum discovering how some of Japan’s most beautiful and artisan objects are made and what they are used for.  

We’ll enjoy an elegant lunch in a gorgeous space nearby before browsing through an equally stunning bookstore. You’ll be free to do your own thing for the afternoon ( perhaps visiting the nearby Heian Shrine) or follow your hosts as they stroll by handicraft stores, through an old-school Shotengai (shopping arcade) where the locals shop for fresh ingredients and daily needs and onto the perfect spot to finish our day’s visually entertaining activities  –  one truly photogenic pocket of the city.  We’ll return to the hotel for a short *rest before our dinner featuring the finest wagyu (Japanese beef).  98069-img_7057

(*er, that means we think we’ll probably find you developing your local sake knowledge and/or sipping sundowner martinis as sundowners in the the Touzan bar…..)





c40ba-img_6048-copyDay 8. Sunday 15 January

The morning is yours for a sleep in…. or join us earlybirds after a quick breakfast as we take off  in our private bus to explore the famous Tezukuri (Handmade) Craft Market – packed with stalls selling an eclectic mix of quality handicrafts, foodstuffs and artsy bibs ‘n bobs – traditional tea bowls, contemporary jewellery,  pretty things made from traditional textiles,  bamboo utensils, clothes by local designers,  ceramics, antiques, wooden boxes to keep your newly acquired trinkets  -and even prettily packaged chocolates or coffee 

IMG_1795We’ll return to the  hotel to  drop off our goodies and pick up any late risers before being delivered to our  leisurely Sunday lunch where we’ll dine on the unusual-sounding, yet, superb coupling that is Japanese-Italian cuisineumami to the max!.   Feel free to join us for an afternoon stroll along the contemplative Path of Philosophy or explore on your own until we meet up again for a light dinner. 






Day 9. Monday 16 January

Another full day of leisure for you to enjoy as you wish.  Another Shiatsu (traditional massage)Hari (Acupuncture) or a facial in the hotel’s spa perhaps?


Or you might feel inspired to stroll through the tunnels formed by thousands of red torii gates at the spiritual Fushimi Inari shrine  or take a short trip to Uji in the south – the setting for  classic Japanese novel The Tale of Genji – boasting the magnificent Byodoin Temple area,  and quality, fragrant green tea – if it’s  Matcha flavoured sweets, soba or ice cream you are hankering for – you are guaranteed to find it here! Just be back in time for our Dinner tonight please !

(B, D)




51a1e-img_4401Day 10. Tuesday 17 January 

Today we’ll have a choice of activities:

Jane will be hosting a shopping trip to Naramachi – the old town area in the ancient capital city of Nara –  known for its handsome architecture and old world energy -we’ll hunt down local crafts plus vintage and antique trinkets for last minute gifts for family and friends ( or maybe yourself ?) and lunch at a charming restaurant featuring meats and vegetables freshly plucked from the surrounding mountains.  

e8bac-img_8382Gerard will take those more interested in buying camera equipment, toys and electronics to a couple of Kyoto’s huge tech-centric stores  before a hearty ramen and gyoza lunch and a zip around the architecturally astounding Kyoto Station building-  checking out the expansive view from the top!

Perhaps we’ll sample a little more of that Japanese Whiskey tonight before we head out to our fancy dinner!




IMG_1722Day 11. Wednesday 18 January 

We’ll take a relaxing drive this morning to sleepy Ohara in Kyoto’s northern mountains through farming area famous for supplying some of the city’s finest restaurants.  Our first stop will be spiritual Sanzen-in (temple) and its serene surrounds. 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 ,  taking a closer peek into some small  farms of the rural area before winding our way back down the mountain to lunch.


IMG_0897 copy      Afterwards we’ll have the option of visiting a 150 year old home of a family of 4th generation Indigo dyers  to learn about the fascinating process … ( plus I might add that they sell some very hard to resist indigo clothes and shibori fabric.. don’t say you weren’t warned!)  Or take a walk around the surrounding streets of the attractive Nishijin textile area. As we’ll have a private bus for the day you also have the option of being dropped downtown or to the hotel to rest. 

After a long day the good news is – we don’t have to go anywhere tonight as our Farewell dinner is being held our hotel so just kick back and relax for our last, fun evening together. 



3661a-img_5046Day 12. Thursday 19 January 

The tour will come to a close after breakfast  and goodbye’s this morning. The day is at your leisure until your departure homewards or onwards. Your hosts will be available at the hotel for any last-minute assistance and advice if you are staying on in Japan.  


IMG_2925If you are leaving later today why not take one last un-hurried opportunity to soak up Kyoto town’s magical atmosphere – it’s not hard to do – only seconds from the hotel is the breathtaking Sanjusangendo temple, the Kyoto National museum is situated directly across the road and just a short stroll up the street will place you at the door of an inspiring Mingei (folkcraft) Museum  – once the home of a famous potter.  



Sayonara. Until we meet again.



3da03-img_4951The ZENBU ZEN TOUR INCLUDES:


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

Food and Drink

11 full buffet breakfasts at the Hotel, 8 lunches and  10 dinners in a range of Jane’s favourite eateries from seasonal homestyle to the exotic and sublime (restaurant details will be provided just prior to departure). Beverages only as mentioned in the itinerary eg.  welcome drink, Japanese Whiskey tasting etc.

**Please note:  no need to allow for tipping in Japan as it is not part of the culture.

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 private bus/mini bus, train 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 including all of the following and more:

  • Walk and talk tour of Nishiki market and a local food hall Depachika  •  Tea Ceremony • Day trip to ancient Nara •  Walking tour of Historical Higashiyama area • Private Zazen Meditation instruction and talk by Buddhist Monk • Walking tour of Gion (Geisha quarter).  Visit to an Indigo artisan•  Visit to Tezukuri (handmade craft) market • A walk along Pontocho• Sushi and sashimi demonstration • A stroll around the antiques district and a visit to several of Jane’s favourite design and craft stores •Private meeting with a trainee Geisha• A visit to Ohara area including the serene Sanzen-in • Japanese Whiskey tasting• Walking tour through the Bamboo forest area and visit magnificent villa and gardens with view• Visit to a traditional crafts museum• A walk along the Philosopher’s path.

Plus !   Insider knowledge and a peek into Jane’s head and heart to find out why she loves Kyoto so!  oh and there might be a few little surprises along the way….

Please note the following are NOT INCLUDED as part of the tour package:

  • Airfare and airport transfers
  • Travel Insurance
  • Activities/meals and transport in your Leisure/Free time
  • Drinks throughout the tour, except where noted in itinerary


IMG_0684Bookings for this tour are now open.

Jane is working together with the very lovely and helpful Dai-san from Pitt Travel/Japan Package 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  if you have any queries regarding the tour content or to express your interest in booking and she will introduce you to Dai san who will send you the booking terms and conditions and handle payment.

Jane: janelawsonfood@bigpond.com.au

Dai san: pitt@pitt-travel.com.au   or   dai@japanpackage.com.au

Dai’s phone number is +61 2 9267 0010.

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

Full payment is required by 8 October 2016.

Members of the Zenbu Zen 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.


IMG_9719The not so small print  – Please Read!

• All participants must be 18 years or over

• Zenbu Tours reserves the right to cancel the tour if the minimum number of participants (7) is not met. However, we will not cancel a tour less than 60 days before departure unless unforseen disaster occurs!

• It is essential that all tour participants provide proof of a valid passport & travel insurance by forwarding pertinent details to Dai san at Pitt Travel prior to departure

• All tour participants should feel comfortable with some longish days with lots of walking (– including stairs/steep inclines and uneven surfaces at times)

• There may be a couple of occasions when you will be required to sit on the floor for one to two hours  – please let us know well in advance of departure if this is not possible for you and we will do our best to find a solution.

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

• While Zenbu Tours endeavours to adhere to our itineraries as closely as possible once published it is sometimes it is necessary to shuffle things around very slightly depending on availability of certain activities and restaurants which cannot be booked until closer to time of tour departure or are unavailable for unforseen reasons  – we ask for your understanding in this matter.

Booking deposit and final payments are non-refundable unless the tour is cancelled by the operator. Respectable insurers will cover you if you need to cancel due to a personal emergency – but please always check with them before you  purchase your cover  – which you should do as soon as you decide to travel.

• 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 – 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.



IMG_2128Exciting NEWS!

For the first time in 2017 each tour will be accompanied by 2 hosts. Our regular host –  food and travel writer Jane Lawson will be joined by her partner Gerard Kambeck whom she met  in 2011 when they were both living in the Kansai region of Japan – she in Kyoto writing her book Zenbu Zen and he teaching in Kobe.  Gerard’s extensive background in wine and teaching was the perfect pairing for Jane’s career in food and words and  together their love for Japan (and its grub and booze) is completely infectious!  Their combined and varied knowledge and eclectic interests means Zenbu Tours can now offer even more options when it comes to activities, meals and enthusiastic banter!


IMG_0720Zenbu Tour clients are saying ….

The Media is saying….







We’d love to share beautiful Kyoto with you this winter



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