Zenbu Zen Tour 2017 (II)


But never fear – our next available tour is in May 2017

Find out about the wonderful


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ZENBU ZEN  (II) (bookings now closed!)

The popular and intimate 12 Day ZENBU ZEN Tour  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.

Please note that the itinerary varies slightly from the Early January Zenbu Zen Tour. 

Recommended for :

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

Hosted by :

Japanophile Food and Travel writer Jane Lawson 



12 days/ 11 nights
24 January  – 04 February 2017
Price  AUD $11, 999 pp
(Twin share  AUD $11,599 pp)
Accommodation : Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel

*This tour requires a minimum of 6 guests to run and takes a maximum of 8 guests


IMG_1915Day 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 – 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.

(Welcome Drink & D)


IMG_1348Day 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 antiques, treasures, trinkets, crafts, textiles, Kimono, handmade jewellery, accessories and curios.   

IMG_0902 copyIf there’s time we’ll also take a peek into the adjacent Geisha quarter before dropping off our goodies at the hotel and being delivered to our elegant lunch destination.

Afterwards follow 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 izakaya dinner nearby (yes, we know you’ll be a little weary after an early start and all those brilliant purchases!) 




IMG_0887 - CopyDay 3. Thursday 26 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  an excellent 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’ (vegetables) in Gion before wandering the atmospheric laneways of this most famous Geisha quarter as well as picturesque eastern Gion. 

Late afternoon we’ll visit a traditional teahouse for an exclusive private meeting and intoxicating chat with a Maiko san (Geisha in training) over local sake and shochu  before walking it off on the way to our  dinner nearby where we’ll enjoy some of the best grilled chicken-on-a-stick (yakitori) you can find in Kyoto town!




Day 4.  Friday 27 January4d5c7-img_9363

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 and foodstuffs.


IMG_0675After 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, handmade sweets or pickles –   or simply relax back at the hotel prior to a special dinner at a Private Restaurant – with perhaps a little music on the side…

(B,L, D)


f2310-img_4788Day 5. Saturday 28 January

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

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.


Of 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. 





Day 6.  Sunday 29 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.

c40ba-img_6048-copyWe’ll browse through a stunning bookstore before making our way to our leisurely Sunday lunch where we’ll dine on the unusual-sounding, yet, superb coupling that is Japanese-Italian cuisine – umami to the max!.

 We’ll take an afternoon stroll along the contemplative Path of Philosophy before some down time (aka snooze) before dinner.





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Day 7. Monday 30 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…



Returning downtown in the afternoon you’ll have some free time to wander or relax before we sample some of  Japan’s top Whiskey (or perhaps sip on aromatic, sweet plum wine ) before dinner featuring the finest wagyu (Japanese beef).   So very zen.


66f0c-img_3258Day 8. Tuesday 31 January

Today we take a relaxing drive 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 before winding our way back down the mountain for lunch.

IMG_2925In the afternoon we’ll visit  a stunning traditional dark wooded Kyoto house, once the home & studio of one of Kyoto’s famous mingei (folkart) potters – now a wonderful museum before strolling back to our hotel.

Dinner is on your own tonight giving you the opportunity to order in room service  and pop on a free in-house dvd! Of course if you feel like getting out and about  Jane or the hotel concierge will be happy to recommend a variety of restaurants.





51a1e-img_4401Day 9. Wednesday 01 February

Another full day at leisure for you to do as you wish  –  why not visit nearby Nara (an ancient capital) – for her quaint ‘old town’,  giant statue of buddha, the lantern lined Kasuga shrine and to witness sacred deer run free!


IMG_0756Or perhaps take a stroll through the sacred tunnels formed by thousands of vermillian torii gates at  Fushimi Inari shrine   – a short cab ride from the hotel. Or simply indulge in another Shiatsu (traditional massage)Hari (Acupuncture) or  facial in the hotel’s spa ?
We’ll look forward to hearing all about your very own experiences at dinner tonight!

(B, D)

c9f13-img_1562Day 10. Thursday 02 February

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 leisurelylunching 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.

Late afternoon will be yours for soaking in your deep bath, or getting through a few more pages of that book you haven’t had time for or simply ‘putting your feet up at the hotel’ (*er, that means we think we’ll probably find you developing your local sake knowledge or sipping sundowner martinis in the the Touzan bar…..) .  That’s the good news, and the really good news is that we’ll enjoy a relaxed dinner at Trattoria Sette tonight in our very own hotel –  so  you don’t even have to leave the building!




IMG_1795Day 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 will mark the occasion with a visit to the home of our charming friend  Mayumi san  – a truly traditional cook with a wealth of information on Japanese cuisine and culture. She’ll  explain the rituals, meanings and foods connected to the  annual setsubun celebrations before we enjoy lunch together.  In the afternoon, if we ask her nicely, she might also show us a few of her favourite artisan craft and/or food businesses. Last year it snowed when we visited her pretty town so here’s hoping for a little flutter. This promises a memorable, connected experience.

We’ll return back to central Kyoto for dinner.



3da03-img_4951Day 12. Saturday 04 February 

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 host will be available at the hotel for any last-minute assistance and advice if you are staying on in Japan.  


cd4d9-img_65832b-2bcopyIf 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 and the Kyoto National museum is situated directly across the road.




Sayonara. Until we meet again.




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

IMG_3815 for zen ladies tourEntrance 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 •  Folkcraft (potter’s house) museum •  Walking tour of Historical Higashiyama area • Private Zazen Meditation instruction and talk by Buddhist Monk • Walking tour of Gion (Geisha quarter) •  Visit to Kitano Tenmangu Flea and Antique market • Visit to private home of traditional food and culture expert with talk on Setsubun • 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 and wonderful nearby bookstore /cafe• 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….

IMG_1765Please 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_2128Bookings 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  31 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_3833-1-1The 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 (6) 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-ish 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

IMG_7518• 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_0720Zenbu Tour clients are saying ….


The Media is saying….




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

PS – if you are interested in visiting Kyoto in Spring with us – then take a look at our








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