Celebrate the beauty of Kyoto in bloom & blush during this exclusive 15-day cuisine & culture tour hosted by food & travel writer Jane Lawson and fellow Japanophile Gerard Kambeck.

Zenbu Tours Japan Food Luxury Culture Travel Popular Best Kyoto Spring Tour


ZENBU HARU 2018: Kyoto Food & Culture Tour

Blooming, Fragrant & Delicious

The Zenbu Haru Kyoto Food Tour is not your average Japanese spring tour….  for one we are carefully side-stepping the jostling tourist madness of peak sakura (cherry blossom) season and instead immersing ourselves in Kyoto’s divine late spring colours and fragrance as the weather begins to warm up  – enticing a wider range of flowers to show their pretty faces. Think Iris, Azalea, Water Lily, Wisteria and roses – possibly early lotus if we’re lucky! Young, vibrant green Ginko leaves breezily wave at passersby as they acknowledge the on-coming summer and lesser known maples glow in shades of red which are rarely seen outside the autumn months.

Secondly – while we’ll certainly witness a variety of vibrant gardens, green spaces and serene mountain vistas they more-so form a majestic backdrop to the greater cultural experience and our culinary enjoyment!




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Jane Lawson  is the author of  ‘Zenbu Zen, finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto’, ‘Yoshoku’,  ‘A little taste of Japan’ and the recently released ‘Tokyo Style Guide’ all published by Murdoch Books. Jane’s articles on Japanese cuisine, culture and travel can be found in many print and online publications including SBS Food, 9MSN Kitchen, Escape (Sunday newspaper Travel Section), Delicious Magazine, The Australian Newspaper, Luxury Travel Magazine, Qantas Travel Insider Magazine, Miele Magazine and the like.  You can also hear her yabbering on about her love for Japan over the airwaves on a regular basis!

Co-hosting will be her partner in crime and life  – Gerard Kambeck – Japanese contemporary and popular culture buff, Oenologist and ramen aficionado! (and yes, they met whilst both were living in Japan !)







  • 15 days/ 14 nights
  • 08 – 22 May 2018
  • Price $18,200 per person (Twin share  AUD $17,700  pp)
  • Accommodation: Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel

* High Season

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



Day 1. Tuesday 08 May

IMG_8787We 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 14 nights.

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Afterwards 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.





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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 Drinks & D)




Day 2. Wednesday 09 May

IMG_1842 copyAfter a sumptuous breakfast overlooking a tranquil Japanese courtyard garden your hosts will walk and talk you through the bountiful 
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 wondrous new foods to sample! If hand-crafted knives and kitchen utensils are your thing be sure to bring along some yen as we will visit a store famous for traditional cookware.


We’ll  spend some time exploring the local vicinity including  visiting an excellent design store, one of our favourite gallery stores, a few antique shops and perhaps the awesome Depachika (underground foodhall) of one of Kyoto’s best Department stores – of course stopping for lunch in between.

IMG_3035There will be a little time back at the hotel for ‘putting your feet up’ (code for sipping martini’s in the hotel’s handsome Touzan bar) before dinner in a private restaurant – an experience to remember!






Day 3. Thursday 10 May

IMG_0675We’ll start the day with a gentle wander through the cobblestoned and smooth wooden laneways  of  historical Higashiyama (Eastern Mountain) area popping into shops lined with traditional arts, crafts, sweets and pickles.

06536-img_8552We’ll break for a short but mesmerising Tea Ceremony (with a bi-lingual  local who’s fluent in English)  before  visiting a small, tucked away temple in the area, once home to a key cultural figure, before walking along the quiet backstreets to our tempura lunch of seasonal seafood and local vegetables.

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In the afternoon we’ll spend some time in Gion – Kyoto’s most famous Geisha quarter   – including a visit to the sublime Kenninji temple and its zen rock garden .  We’ll have a little time to rest at the hotel before our relaxed Izakaya dinner.




Day 4. Friday 11 May

b675b-img_5506-copyAfter breakfast we’ll venture to the striking Heian shrine –  built in the late 1800’s in  celebration  of Kyoto’s  (once known as Heian-Kyo – or city of eternal peace) 1100th year as Japan’s capital. The sprawling stroll garden is brimming with over 200 plant species many of which will flower in May. Simply stunning. 73937-img_4542 Afterwards we’ll visit  a splendid museum of traditional crafts discovering how some of Japan’s most beautiful and artisan objects are made and what they are used for. We’ll take a peek into a couple of excellent gallery stores and lunch in an elegantly restored cafe space .





We’ll spend a little time browsing through a stylish  book store before making our way to a traditional teahouse for a very special, private meeting  with a Maiko san (Geisha in training) who will perform traditional dance and  chat with us about her life – as we sip sake and shochu.  

We’ll walk it  off on the way to our  dinner nearby where we’ll enjoy a relaxed chicken-on-a-stick  dinner at the finest yakitori-ya you can find in Kyoto town!






Day 5. Saturday 12 May

IMG_4666 copyToday is all yours – a full day at leisure

Kyoto shares with us more temples, shrines and gardens than you can poke a stick at but there are many photogenic laneways and hidden pockets to discover too.

IMG_4129 copyGently 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.



IMG_9117You 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 spectacular Japanese-French meal.

(B, D)





Day 6. Sunday 13 May


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 and grounding 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 – and take a scenic
16386-img_6767stroll through farming land
  in the valley before being making our way to a leisurely Sunday lunch where we’ll dine on the unusual-sounding, yet, superb coupling that is Japanese-Italian cuisineumami to the max!.






In the late afternoon we shall we meander (waddle) along the contemplative tree-lined Path of Philosophy before leaving you to your own devices for the evening.





Day 7. Monday 14 May

97b56-img_4927Our 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.


We’ll enjoy lunch nearby before strolling through an old-school shotengai (shopping strip)  – where the locals have been purchasing everyday household needs for many decades -on route to the antiques district and  Higashi Gion, a picturesque north eastern pocket the famous Geisha quarter – great people watching and photo opportunities (and a couple of gorgeous design stores too!).


The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure  to continue exploring or return to the hotel for a wee nap before we sample some of Japan’s finest whiskey  (or perhaps some aromatic plum wine) prior to a divine Wagyu (Japanese Beef) dinner !

(B,L, Whiskey/Plum wine, D)



Day 8. Tuesday 15 May

25a8a-img_6034-copyThe morning is yours for a sleep in….

OR join us earlybirds 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
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While we are in the northern part of the city  we may be fortunate enough to spot some of the preparations for the AOI (wisteria) festival parade. We’ll drop our goodies back to our hotel before lunching nearby.

The remainder of the afternoon is yours at leisure until we meet up again for dinner.








Day 9. Wednesday 16 May

IMG_1644 copyToday is another full day at leisure for you to wander as you wish.

Why not visit nearby Nara (an ancient capital) – for her quaint ‘old town’,  giant statue of buddha (daibutsu), the lantern-lined Kasuga shrine and to witness the9251c-img_4341 sacred deer run free! Don’t forget to buy your special deer cookies to feed them with – otherwise they’ll raid your pockets!  Or take a short trip to Uji in Kyoto’s south – the setting for  classic Japanese novel The Tale of Genji – boasting the magnificent  Byodoin Temple area,  and quality, fragrant green tea.

IMG_8619Perhaps simply indulge in another Shiatsu (traditional massage)Hari (Acupuncture) or  facial in the hotel’s spa ?

We’ll share our experiences over a relaxed and convenient dinner tonight -in our very own hotel!




Day 10. Thursday 17 May

IMG_2872 copyAfter breakfast we’ll visit the nearby neighbourhood of Fushimi where will glide through the famous vermillian tunnels formed by thousands of torii gates at the sacred Fushimi Inari shrine. We’ll have a little time to peek into the local stalls selling souvenirs and fox face cookies before heading back into the heart of the city.


We’ll walk through the all important Yasaka shrine on route to the lovely Maruyama Park where we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch of seasonal goodies. Afterwards we might stop in a lovely cafe or for something sweet and while away the rest of the afternoon shopping for pickles, intoxicating incense and traditional sweets.




cc4df-img_6129-copy For those who are interested,  on return to the hotel we will make a short detour to one of the best places in town to buy camera equipment, quirky Japanese toys and figurines, fun (‘only in Japan’) phone cases and the like (those who wish to linger on their own are welcome to) before perhaps dropping in on Kyoto station for a peek at it’s incredible structure and one fantastic view over the rooftops of Kyoto. There will be a short break before dinner.

(B,L, D)



Day 11. Friday 18 May

IMG_1121 copyToday, with a renowned ceramics expert by our side, we’ll take a day-trip to the spectacular and architecturally astoundingMiho museum in neighbouring Shiga prefecture. bc8d2-img_1455-cr2

After lunch we’ll visit Shigaraki  – one of Japan’s original ceramics villages (also responsible for local mascot Tanuki san… ) where you’ll have the chance to meet some of the local potters  (and perhaps snaffle yourself a  piece of ceramic art or two… ) before returning to Kyoto.

IMG_0665Dinner 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.




Day 12. Saturday 19 May

IMG_5359 copyToday 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 around an old villa, once home  to a Japanese black and white movie star– 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

The morning’s exercise promises to help us work up an appetite for leisurely lunching 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.




IMG_5348 copyLate 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 before a light dinner.




Day 13. Sunday 20 May

IMG_1113 copyToday we will celebrate spring 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  talk us through the  foods and rituals connected to the  season before we enjoy lunch together.

6d5d6-img_1983In the afternoon, if we ask her nicely, she might also show us a few of her favourite artisan craft and/or food businesses. This promises to be a memorable, connected experience.

We’ll return to downtown Kyoto for a casual dinner.





Day 14. Monday 21 May

51deb-img_7994After breakfast this morning our first stop is a truly covetable, traditional dark wooded Kyoto house, once the home & studio of one of Kyoto’s famous mingei (folkart) potters – now a wonderful museum. You’ll want to stay here forever…

5cf32-img_9580But we have other plans! Next we’ll head uptown to a few excellent little shops including a famous senbei (rice cracker) store, a modern bamboo shop and a local fashion designer who sells everything from contemporary tabi (split toe socks) to cool carry bags to long flowy Kimono-inspired jackets…trust me – male or female  – you’ll be wanting a little bit of this Kyoto action for swanning around in back home!

We’ll grab a quick lunch before you are let loose in some rather extended shopping arcades – the perfect place to pick up some last minute gifts for friends at home  (or for yourself..)

Just be back in time for our fancy dinner tonight...  (and a farewell drink of course!)



Day 15. Tuesday 22 May

IMG_2284 copyThe 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_1209 copyIf 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.                                            


  • Accommodation – 14 nights luxury accommodation (and VIP treatment) at the stunning Hyatt Regency Kyoto including tax
  • Hosts – 2 experienced and passionate hosts
  • Food and Drink – 14 full buffet breakfasts at the Hotel,  11 lunches and 12 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, sake and shochu with Maiko,  Japanese Whiskey tasting etc. **Please note:no need to allow for tipping in Japan as it is not part of the culture.
  • 1 x voucher to the exclusive Riraku Spa at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
  • Transport – All ground transport for the duration of the tour (ie. travel to, from and between destinations/activities included in the itinerary)  including private bus, taxis and train.
  • 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 the following and more

Walk and talk tour of Nishiki market and a local food hall Depachika; Excursion to the amazing Miho museum and Shigaraki pottery village with local ceramics expert; Tea Ceremony; Folkcraft (potter’s house) museum; Walking tour of Historical Higashiyama area; Leisurely stroll around the wonderful Heian Shrine garden in bloom; Walking tour through Gion (Geisha quarter); Visit to Tezukurii handmade market; Visit to private home of traditional food and culture expert with talk on seasonal spring cuisine and celebrations; A walk along Pontocho; Sushi and sashimi demonstration; Visit to Yasaka shrine and picnic in pretty Maruyama park; A stroll around the antiques district and a visit to several of Jane’s favourite design and craft stores; Private performance and chat with a trainee Geisha; A trip to Fushimi Inari shrine and its famous red gate tunnels; A visit to Ohara area including the serene Sanzen-in and walk through scenic farming land; Introduction to some great shops; Visit to Kyoto station and electronics store; 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 and Gerard’s  heads and hearts to find out why they 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



Bookings for this tour are now open.

Jane and Gerard are 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. Jane Lawson will introduce you to Dai-san who will send you the booking terms and conditions and handle payment.

  • Bookings are not confirmed until a 25% deposit has been made.
  • Full payment is required by 08 February 2018

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





  • 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. A tour participant waiver must also be signed before travel.
  • 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
  • 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.

We’d love to share beautiful Kyoto with you next Spring



japan food tours - tokyo and kyoto

Experience blissful Kyoto and electric Tokyo on this invigorating 15-day luxury tour.

15 days/ 14 nights
24 January – 07 February 2018

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