Intensely fascinating & delectable: experience the best of Kyoto’s cuisine & culinary culture during this invigorating, 7-day luxury tour hosted by renowned food & travel writer Jane Lawson and fellow Japanophile (& ‘international beverage enthusiast’) Gerard Kambeck.
Our first tour for 2019, is our brand-spanking-new 7-day Zenbu Chiisai: Kyoto Food & Culture Tour – little sister to our regular 12-day, more leisurely Zenbu Zen Tour which is taking a break in 2019. Chiisai is a hungry lass who’s in a bit short on time and isn’t too bothered about downing tools and putting her feet up for too long – she really likes to pack it in! This new tour is perfect for those with a busy schedule looking for a small but utterly decadent slice of Japanese food and culture, or those who have experienced the joys of Japan before and need to feed their addiction with a culinary top up. Perhaps you are looking for a foodie tour to tag onto one end of a ski trip? Based in fascinating Kyoto – Japan’s cultural epicentre – this short-but-sweet tour is all about the best of Japanese food, food culture, traditional and contemporary architecture, design and style and amazing local shopping experiences.
Recommended for: First time or returning visitors to Japan – short on time but desiring an engaging and delicious cultural and culinary experience of Kyoto with two friendly, Japanese-obsessed ‘part-time locals’ by their side!
10 guests maximum. Please note the tour requires 6 guests to depart.
7 days/ 6 nights fully-escorted tour
Luxury accommodation at the Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel
All meals except 1 dinner (so you can catch your breath!)
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 6 nights. 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, seasonal Japanese fare. We’ll enjoy a variety of obanzai (Kyoto homestyle) dishes popular around the new year. And if we are lucky we might just get to spend a little time with a maiko-san (geisha in training). 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.*If you have arrived earlier in the day – why not take advantage of your included voucher for a Riraku Spa treatment to prepare you for the journey ahead.
This morning, after a sumptuous buffet breakfast in the Grill Restaurant overlooking the hotel’s tranquil Japanese garden, Jane and Gerard 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 wondrous 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 some time exploring the local vicinity including fabulous design and gallery stores, handmade paper shops, a famous Kyoto tea store, antique and textile specialists, and the wonderful depachika (underground food hall) of one of Kyoto’s best Department store. We’ll enjoy a gorgeous lunch along the way – exploring the joyous combination of Japanese and French flavours and techniques.There will be just enough time in the afternoon to return to the hotel with our goodies and freshen up for our yakitori dinner – where we’ll get to taste some of the best chicken on a stick in town! And perhaps sample a little sake? Afterwards, we’ll take a stroll through the atmospheric, lantern-lit alleyway of Pontocho.
After breakfast, we’ll walk through the lower part of the historical Higashiyama (Eastern Mountain) area – dotted with temples and shrines and lined with local crafts, teahouses and foodstuffs. After breaking for a short but mesmerising Tea Ceremony we’ll continue on through well-preserved traditional streets, Maruyama Kouen (park) and Kyoto’s important Yasaka Jinja (shrine). For lunch, we’ll enjoy the finest tempura of seasonal seafood and Kyo-yasai in Gion. After lunch, we’ll visit a magical temple and stroll Kyoto’s most famous Geisha district. There will be a little time for shopping for exquisite incense or handmade sweets or pickles. There will also be time to freshen up before we enjoy dinner at a private restaurant – perhaps with a little music on the side… Our chef tonight will trawl the morning food markets to source the finest, locally grown produce of the day before whipping it into whatever her heart desires…. it is always a beautiful mystery as to what delights we’ll find on the plate when we dine at this unique venue – but we don’t care because it is always superb!
This morning we’ll make our way to a wholesome kitchen just north of the main city grid where we’ll meet one very fine cook and instructor of authentic Japanese cuisine. She’ll introduce us to the joys of Japanese winter cookery – think nutritious hotpots, slow-simmered dishes, pickled seasonal vegetables – she might even teach us how to make our own miso! We’ll enjoy lunch together before stretching our legs as we take a short walk to the nearby shotengai (an old-school shopping arcade providing daily needs) where we might stop for coffee and cake and there will be a little time to snaffle a well-priced vintage kimono or some local sake or whiskey. Please join us for a pre-dinner tipple, and perhaps a nibble on locally made snackettes before we make our way uptown for dinner. We’ll enjoy a sumptuous and creative dinner of the finest Wagyu (Japanese beef) exquisitely prepared a variety of ways by a gyu-niku and grill master.
We’ll take a relaxing drive this morning to sleepy Ohara, in Kyoto’s northern mountains, through a farming area famous for supplying some of the city’s finest restaurants. We might stop briefly at the local farmers’ market before we arrive at our destination – 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. We’ll be delivered to our wonderful Sunday lunch where we’ll dine on the unusual-sounding, yet, superb coupling that is Japanese-Italian cuisine – umami to the max! In the afternoon we’ll take a stroll around the historic local area – perhaps visiting a local traditional crafts museum, a couple of excellent design stores and a wonderful bookshop. You are free to continue to wander or return to the hotel to make use of your Spa Treatment Voucher! (Book early to avoid disappointment). This afternoon is the perfect time to relax and enjoy the spa experience as dinner will be at your leisure tonight (to allow you to take a breath and find your hunger again after today’s lunch!). If you’d like to use your voucher on another day – you can simply enjoy a free evening in your beautiful hotel room – perhaps a soak in your deep tub, order an in-room massage or room service and watch a movie from the hotel’s complimentary DVD collection with a glass of wine. Of course if you’re on an absolute foodie mission you may like to adventure out tonight – we’re happy to help you with restaurant recommendations and the concierge can book for you. There are some cool bars around town you might like to check out too.
After breakfast, we’ll drive west to scenic Arashiyama in western Kyoto where we’ll see the moon-crossing bridge, walk through the lushly green bamboo forest, and visit spectacular, sprawling garden around an old villa – blessed with an incredible bird’s eye view over the city. If there’s time we’ll walk deeper into the forest past local craft stores specialising in bamboo products…. or grab a coffee in the village and meander in and out of cute boutiques and souvenir stores. 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. We’d advise you against having that extra house-baked croissant at breakfast this morning… oh go on then. We know they’re irresistible. In the late afternoon we’ll make a short visit to the architecturally stunning Kyoto station building – perhaps you’d like to do some last-minute shopping for camera goods, electronics and foodie souvenirs while we are in the area – we’ll point you in all the right directions? We’ll have a sayonara drink together tonight before our farewell dinner at our hotel.
(B,L,Farewell Drink +D)
After a quick, early breakfast we’ll take off in our private bus to explore the famous Tezukuri (handmade) Craft Market – packed with stalls selling an eclectic mix of quality crafts, foodstuffs and artsy bits’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. We’ll return to the hotel in time to pack last minute purchases (or bundle them up to post back!) before checkout, a quick lunch, and final goodbyes as the tour comes to a close. If you are leaving later today why not take the opportunity to use your spa voucher if you haven’t already – or 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.
(B, L) Sayonara. Until we meet again!
Are now open.
Jane and Gerard are working together with our very lovely and helpful travel agent – Dai-san from Pitt Travel in Sydney. We’ll introduce you as soon as you express an interest in booking as he’ll handle your booking and payment – providing documentation with Terms and Conditions. He is also able to assist you with flights, transfers and travel insurance.
** Members of the Zenbu Chiisai group will receive a detailed itinerary closer to departure however soon after payment Zenbu Tours will send you some helpful destination and travel information.
Please note the following are not included as part of the tour package:
Luxury Japanese Cuisine & Culture Tours