Zenbu Wa-Mono Tour 2017

Zenbu Tours is offering two very special Luxury Cuisine & Culture Tours for early 2017


Hey Folks, it seems that most of our lovely clients who are interested in this tour are keen for it to happen in 2018 rather than 2017 so we’ll be postponing this tour until then – if you would like to be kept in the loop for the announcement of the new dates then please email Jane directly at janelawsonfood@bigpond.com.au.


In the meantime we have just announced 2 NEW tours for 2017 – a second Zenbu Zen Tour  and a gorgeous Spring tour – please see HERE for details! 

Thank you!



(bookings now closed)



Zenbu Zen 2 – availability 

Zenbu Haru (spring tour) – availability 

We are super excited about our second tour for 2017  -the inaugural Zenbu Wa-Mono ! This tour offers a breathtaking, fun and cultural traipse from the elegant city of Kyoto north-east  through remote countryside and the alpine regions of Takayama and Gokayama  to the western coastal regions of Kanazawa and the rugged Noto Peninsula and back again to our luxurious base in Kyoto – seeking out handmade Japanese crafts, arts, textiles, local culinary specialties along the way – inevitably we’ll uncover some unexpected treasures too!

The group size is slightly larger than we normally offer (around 10  – and an absolute maximum of 16 guests) but in 2017, for the first time in Zenbu Zen history (ok so that’s only really about 4 years…), our tours feature two hosts! Food and travel writer Jane Lawson will be co-hosting with her partner and fellow Japanophile Gerard – which will allow for even more flexibility with meals and experiences. Their combined knowledge of, and love for, all things Japanese is one of the secrets behind this tour being so layered and varied. Our good friends in far-flung towns and villages are the piece de resistance – their intimate local know-how and connections  are going to make this tour ROCK !   While we include many exceptional meals on Zenbu Wa-Mono – we have also provided the option of doing your own thing on a handful of evenings – but of course we will also offer tempting optional dinners for those who prefer not to lift a finger when they are on holidays.

We are certain you will not find another Japanese tour quite like this… Come with us? 


Recommended for:

Aesthetes and Omnivores with an appreciation for both tactile traditions and contemporary sway And creatives or creators seeking inspiration and beauty…  Or simply those who’ve sampled Japanese city life (and found it pretty damn cool!) and are seeking an even more connected experience of Japan  – exploring further afield,  meeting local inaka (country) folk and soaking in Japan’s rural beauty.

(Oh.. and a desire to snaffle up some unique Japanese style homeware, arts, crafts, ingredients and trinkets along the way would be beneficial .. )


 IMG_2270EARLYBIRD special! Yep that’s right   – be one of the first 6 people to book onto this tour and pay your deposit before 15 July 2016 and we’ll thank you for being so decisive, proactive (and yes, terribly intelligent and fabulous) by deducting $350 from your final payment!




16 days/ 15 nights
24 Jan – 08 Feb 2017
Price  AUD $14,755
(Twin share  AUD $14, 355  pp)
 Accommodation :   8 nights Hyatt Regency Hotel – Kyoto /  1 night  Hoshokaku Ryokan  (traditional inn) – Takayama/ 3 nights Nikko Hotel  – Kanazawa /  3 nights Fujita Hotel – Fukui

*This tour requires a minimum of 10 guests to run and takes a maximum of 16 guests




IMG_9780Day 1. Tuesday 24 January

We shall kick off our tour in style this evening with a welcome drink in the bar of the stunning Hyatt Regency Kyoto. 

Afterwards we’ll move into the elegant Touzan Restaurant for our first meal together and your introduction to traditional Kyoto home-style dishes or Obanzai featuring local ingredients including pristine Kyo-yasai (revered Kyoto vegetables). IMG_0665


Tonight not only provides everyone  the perfect opportunity to get to know your hosts and each other a little but also to become acquainted with some fascinating Japanese customs and culture as you begin your Zenbu Wa-Mono experience.

(Welcome Drink + D)




IMG_1328Day 2. Wednesday 25 January

After a sumptuous buffet breakfast in the Grill Restaurant overlooking the hotel’s tranquil Japanese garden we’ll make an early departure to the splendiferous Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market to search for treasures, trinkets, crafts, textiles, Kimono, handmade jewellery and accessories.  

We’ll also take a peek at the adjacent Geisha quarter before dropping off our goodies at the hotel and being delivered to our lunch destination.

IMG_1348Afterwards you are free to roam for a couple of hours or join Jane as she visits some of her favourite gallery stores showcasing local artists’ home-centric wares of ceramic, glass and metals and hand-made fabrics with a focus on natural materials  and colours 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.

We’ll have an early dinner (yes, we know you’ll be a little weary after an early start!) at one of the gorgeous restaurants close by. 




7c5ae-img_4933Day 3. Thursday 26 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 stroll 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 unique artisan objects are made and what they are used for.  We’ll also drop in to a fabulous local design gallery shop then  browse through one of the most handsome bookstores in Kyoto before enjoying lunch together  

6ba5a-img_6052-copyAfterwards we’ll visit 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 shaded clothes and shibori fabric.. don’t say you weren’t warned!)  or feel free to wander alone through the surrounding streets of Kyoto’s attractive old textile area. 

Tonight an optional Dinner will be offered  – details closer to time.

(B, L)  (opt D +$)




Day 4. Friday  27 January  

 After breakfast 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, ceramics and foodstuffs. 





After breaking for a short but spell-binding 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 pickles –   or simply to put your feet up back at the hotel.

In the late afternoon we’ll offer an optional group activity  – to meet privately with a young geisha in training  – sipping sake together in a local teahouse as we learn about her life and watch her perform traditional dance before going on to dinner together – more details closer to departure. 

(B,L) (opt D +$)



IMG_0818Day 5. Saturday 28 January

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

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 or visit Nijo Castle and nearby Ninja house or try your hand at Shibori. In the west is Arashiyama and its gorgeous bamboo forest or you might like to head north of the city grid to charming Ginkakuji temple and stroll along the philosopher’s path.

8b14a-img_64252b-2bcopyThere are plenty of photogenic laneways and hidden pockets to discover – but you might simply choose to relax in one of Kyoto’s atmospheric cafes with a good book or loll around the hotel so you can make the most of your Riraku Spa Voucher!

The choices are endless but whatever you do just be back in time for  our dinner in a very special private restaurant.. 

(our suitcases will be sent ahead to Kanazawa today so we don’t have to lug them on the train tomorrow – make sure you pack an overnight bag for our mountain Ryokan stay in beautiful Takayama!)





IMG_4597Day 6. Sunday 29 January

After a leisurely breakfast this morning we’ll hop on the Bullet train to Nagoya where we’ll transfer to another special train with wide viewing windows for allowing us to take in this breathtaking journey through the Gifu Alpine region – rest assured we’ll enjoy a delicious Bento box lunch on route  – a must on any train journey in Japan!  

And perhaps a wee drop of warming Japanese whiskey  and a few local sweeties might be appropriate…

IMG_0968We’ll reach picturesque Takayama (famous for Ryokan/traditional inns and hotsprings) just after lunch. After checking in to our blissful Ryokan we’ll have a little free time to wander the quaint village  or take a relaxing soak in the hotel’s own hotsprings before a wonderful multi-course Kaiseki dinner prepared by the ryokan’s chef.  Tonight you’ll sleep deep – breathing in the mountain air and the subtle yet evocative scent of tatami.






176c7-img_3542Day 7. Monday 30 January

After a special Japanese breakfast we’ll rug up for a short walk to the morning markets where we’ll have the chance to meet some cheery locals and discover the local prefecture’s food and craft specialities such as handmade Miso, shichimi (7 pepper spice mix) ,  marbled Beef, river fish,  folk-crafts including sweet Takayama dolls and carved wood products – from furniture to decorative items.  We also might visit one of the charming museums or heritage houses before having some free time for lunch and shoppingTakayama boasts some wonderful craftspeople and there are many gorgeous homewares to spend your yen on! The preserved old streets of the merchant quarter, an atmospheric 300 year old Shrine,  and many small, quiet temples surrounded by pine trees also provide the perfect opportunity to simply wander and take it all in. 

IMG_1169In  the late afternoon we’ll travel by train to our next destination – elegant Kanazawa where you will have the evening  to yourselves to relax  – order room service or grab a casual dinner at one of the many choices offered by the rather glamorous train station just across the road from the hotel.




IMG_3804 copyDay 8.  Tuesday 31 January

After breakfast this morning we’ll take a visit to Kanazawa’s bustling Omicho fish-market (a great place to sample sashimi so fresh it’s practically swimming!) before heading to one of Japan’s most highly treasured gardens – the sprawling and divine – Kenrokuen. We’ll lunch on local specialities before strolling through the handsome laneways of Higashichaya (geisha quarter)– dipping in and out of shops selling stunning local sweets,  beautiful homewares made of bamboo, lacquer, gold leaf and glass, incense, tea or gorgeous accessories for your stylish self.

 IMG_1181In the latter part of the afternoon  you are free to rest, visit the Samurai district – or come and spend a while inside the fascinating glass encased museum of 21st Century Art – an absolute must see for the visually inclined. We’ll enjoy a fun and casual izakaya dinner tonight. 





aff24-img_8136Day 9. Wednesday 01 Feb

We’ll be zipping off early today for a long, scenic drive along the rugged western coastline on route to the tip of the  Noto Peninsula – an area rarely visited by foreign tourists.  At the Wajima morning market we’ll see friendly obaachan (grannies) spruiking their wares and we’ll inevitably get to fondle some of the smooth and luxurious lacquerware so famous in this region. Some might even make its way into your suitcase…no ?




On route to  a delectable lunch of seasonal Noto specialities  we’ll take a relaxing drive through farming land,  ricefields and snow dusted forest.  After lunch we’ll  visit a quaint village  known for it’s Shotengai (old-school shopping street )- here we’ll find handmade goods such as candles and kombu (seaweed) products and take a visit to a rustic shoyu (soy sauce) factory – you might even get to squeeze some of your own!  You won’t be forgiven for snoozing on our return to Kanazawa. Tonight is yours at leisure –  however an optional dinner will be offered a little closer to time. 

(B,L) (opt D +$)




72841-img_3034Day 10. Thursday 02 February 

After a well-earned sleep-in this morning  we’ll say farewell to Kanazawa and head inland to  explore the world heritage listed farmhouses of Gokayama -a remote mountain region known for its gassho zukkuri (thatched roof buildings ) named for their appearance resembling hands pressed together in prayer.

IMG_3275 copySome of the houses, around 250-400 years old,  are still used as residences while others have been turned into museums, accommodation, art and craft workshops and restaurants.We’ll stay in the area for lunch and perhaps visit a museum honouring the unique local music and instruments  –  before making our way to the deep inaka (countryside) of Fukui.  The evening is yours for putting your feet up! And if you are feeling peckish there are plenty of options close by for dinner or in the hotel itself.






IMG_1392Day 11. Friday 03 February 

Fuku wa uchi oni wa soto! Loosely translating as ‘In with luck and happiness  – out with the demons/ negative energy!  This is our chant for today! And a Happy ‘Setsubun’ to you ! The 3rd of February marks the official change in the seasons as we move from winter to spring in Japan.

Today we’ll meet up with our good friend, Karate master, talented musican and local expert Ricky-san – in who’s very capable hands we shall be over the next couple of days as he introduces the very best of his adopted town and deep Inaka (countryside).  

IMG_0771 - CopyWe might start this auspicious day with a short lesson in Zazen (seated meditation) by a local monk before visiting an esteemed knife maker who will talk us through the process from swords to knives and no you won’t be able to resist… naturally we’ll be keeping an eye out for local crafts and foodstuffs as we make our way between venues.  We’ll stop for a lunch of local delicacies – perhaps Fukui style Soba noodles  or wild boar hotpot...  but not before we’ve eaten our special Setsubun Sushi  – an essential ritual to ensure the year ahead moves in a healthy, prosperous direction!  And.. if we are all very well-behaved our sensei may allow us a sneak peek into his Karate and Kendo dojo  where his students might just demonstrate for us… a rare honour and amazing opportunity for an insight into the martial arts culture of Japan which can starts from a very young age. Tonight we’ll enjoy a marvellous dinner together – country-style  ! 




88d2a-img_1532-cr2Day 12. Saturday 4 February

After breakfast we’ll drive west to the former castle town of Echizen.   Not only is this province believed to be the birthplace of washi (traditional handmade paper) but it is particularly famous for ceramics – Echizen yaki. We’ll visit an open-air pottery park and ceramics museum and afterwards lunch on the lauded Echizen Crab – gourmets travel from all over Japan to eat this sweet crustacean  in the winter months. Lucky us! After a leisurely stroll through the striking old town we’ll return to Fukui.




Tonight is yours to do with as you please however we’ll be offering a fun and relaxed optional dinner with a bit of live music to follow – the perfect opportunity to rub shoulders with the locals. More details closer to time. 

(B,L) (opt D +$)






IMG_2925Day 13. Sunday 05 February 

With so much activity packed into the last few days you’ll no doubt be pleased to learn that the morning is yours to lay in with a good book or wander freely in the crisp country air  – perhaps with your camera (or if you’ve indulged the night before you might just  need to sleep it off! ) . Just take it easy and we’ll reconnect after lunch when we’ll return to Kyoto via train.



IMG_3815 for zen ladies tourWe are sure you’ll have no trouble slipping back onto the lap of absolute luxury on return to the beautiful Hyatt Regency where your luggage will be waiting in your room.  You’ll have the remainder of the afternoon for further relaxing and pampering.   You might like to return to the wonderful Riraku spa for a massage, facial or accupuncture or unwind with a free in-house movie. And if a mighty fine martini floats your boat – make sure you find yourself a comfy lounge chair in the corner of the Touzan Bar (and order a couple for us too!)





IMG_0207Day 14. Monday 06 February 

You are free to continue resting and luxuriating with another sleep in this morning or if your energy has been renewed –  we’ll stroll to a small nearby museum – once the home of a famous potter and folk-artist and pop into an adjacent ceramic gallery before slipping through the back laneways of lower Gion to the exquisite Kenninji temple.

We’ll then leave you alone to  step back in time in the heart of Gion (Kyoto’s main geisha quarter). From there the afternoon is yours for lunching, shopping or perhaps take a short train ride to sacred Fushimi Inari shrine and its spectacular red torii gate tunnels.

We’ll be offering a Optional HIGHLIGHT DINNER tonight – more details closer to departure.

(B) (opt D+$)




IMG_0887 - CopyDay 15 .Tuesday 07 February

This morning we’ll take a quick stroll through the mesmerising Nishiki food Market (or Kyoto’s kitchen as the local’s call it ) before taking a short drive  to sleepy, rural Ohara in northern Kyoto to visit the serenely beautiful Sanzen-in temple – one of the most peaceful spaces and gardens in Japan.

We’ll take some time meditating on the sunny deck  (practicing your newly learnt zazen skills!) and reflecting upon our journey together.IMG_1721 

We’ll stroll through the sprawling moss-green gardens and back down the hill flanked by a quiet stream on one side and craft and pickle vendors on the other. We’ll return to Kyoto for lunch then you are free for the rest of the afternoon – however, your hosts will be at your disposal should you need a hand to help you track down that elusive address or certain trinket you so desire to pack into your luggage before you leave this enchanting town. 

Our Farewell dinner tonight  is being held our hotel so all you need to do is  kick back and relax for our last, fun evening together. 






IMG_0684Day 16. Wednesday 08 February

The tour will come to a close after breakfast and Sayonara’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.  

5ff36-img_5770If you are leaving later today why not take one last un-hurried opportunity to drink in Kyoto town’s magical atmosphere – it’s not hard to do – mere seconds from the hotel is the breathtaking Sanjusangendo temple,  the Kyoto National museum is situated directly across the road – and on the 8th of each month a small market is held at Toyokuni shrine – very close to the museum!


Until we meet again.. ja mata ne! 



The Zenbu Wa-Mono Tour INCLUDES:


8 nights luxury accommodation (and VIP treatment) at the stunning Hyatt Regency Kyoto , 1 night in a traditional inn (Hoshokaku Ryokan) in Takayama, 3 nights at the excellent Nikko hotel in Kanazawa and 3 nights at Fukui’s no. 1 hotel – the Fujita – including taxes

IMG_1675Food and Drink

15 full buffet breakfasts, 10 lunches and 7 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 sampling etc.

*5 optional dinners will be offered but will incur an extra cost – from mid range to fine-dining

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



b675b-img_5506-copySpa 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 mostly private luxury buses/train and occasional taxis

Entrance fees and activitiesaf31d-img_5088-copy-copy-copy-copy

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

All local guide and host fees and all activity costs as per itinerary including all of the following and so much more:

  • A stroll through the geisha quarters in both Kyoto and Kanzawa•  Open air pottery
    park in Echizen•  Walk and talk tour of Nishiki market  •  a true local experience in rural Fukui•  Tea Ceremony • a ride on the bullet train•  a guided tour of the thatched roof houses of world heritage listed Gokayama•  Private Zazen Meditation instruction and talk by Buddhist Monk • Omicho fish market• Visit to an Indigo artisan•  Visit to Kitano Tenmangu flea and antique market •Walking tour of Historical Higashiyama area area• visit to a folkcraft museum • day trip to the remote and rugged Noto peninsula• A stroll around the antiques district•   visits to Jane’s favourite design and craft stores •Japanese Whiskey sampling•  serene Sanzen-in •  •  traditional crafts museum• rustic soy sauce factory• knife maker • the stunning Kenrokuen garden• Wajima markets……



Plus !   Insider knowledge and a peek into Jane’s head and heart to find out why she loves Japan so!  


oh and there might be a few little surprises along the way….




IMG_1708Please 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  except where noted in itinerary

Bookings 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 24 October 2016.

Members of the Zenbu Wa-Mono 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.


The 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 (10) 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)

a8f1f-img_5651• 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 and sesame is used frequently. 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.

On this tour there is likely to be snow in certain regions – please be aware that appropriate footwear and warm clothes will be essential.

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! But more on that closer to time…


Zenbu Tour clients are saying ….

The Media is saying….





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






%d bloggers like this: