Ethereal, pure & mysterious. Immerse yourself in the complexity of Kyoto at her delicious best as she steps into the cosy heights of the ‘coolest’ season. Join this 10-day luxurious winter cuisine & culture tour hosted by food & travel writer Jane Lawson and fellow Japanophile Gerard Kambeck.
Fuyu is what we refer to as our ‘relaxing drive through the countryside for a breath of fresh air’ tour. It’s a little more relaxed than our zippy Zenbu Chiisai tour and includes plenty of day tripping to gorgeous destinations featuring traditional architecture, crafts, culture and foods – with intoxicating snow-covered vistas on route (fingers crossed!). This new tour is perfect for those wishing to soak up the beauty of Japan and its people plus see and taste as much of fascinating Kyoto and surrounds as possible – whilst also appreciating a little time on their own to relax and explore. Based in Japan’s cultural epicentre this deep travel experience offers more opportunity to meet and chat with the locals, experience a wide range of the best, authentic and creative Japanese cuisine and visit picturesque countryside and intriguing villages. Enjoy Japan at it’s wintry best, dressed in white. Open fires, winter cuisine, long walks and talks and plenty of relaxing fun.
Recommended for: Returning – or first time – visitors to Kyoto desiring a leisurely paced, deeply engaging and delicious cultural and culinary experience with two friendly and flexible Japanese-obsessed part-time locals by their side.
10 guests maximum. Please note the tour requires 6 guests to depart.
10 days/ 9 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 9 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 (geiko or 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.
(Welcome Drink + D)
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 also take a quick peek into a wonderful Depachika – or under department store food hall. We’ll enjoy a gorgeous lunch before spending time exploring the local vicinity including fabulous galleries, art, craft and antique stores. 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 to warm ourselves for a stroll through the atmospheric, lantern-lit alleyway of Pontocho.
After breakfast, we’ll take a breathtaking drive through deep mountain scenes and farming area in northern Kyoto. We’ll wander through a sleepy traditional thatched roof village, stop somewhere cosy for coffee and visit tiny artisan stores for handcrafted wood, pottery and hand-dyed fabrics before driving slightly east to meet the owners of a refurbished Minka (farmhouse) – now a richly atmospheric inn run by a charming couple and their irresistible hound. We’ll get to know them over a warming lunch in front of the hearth cooked by our host – a talented chef who makes all his own bread, pastries and chocolates…Afterwards, we’ll return to the foot of the mountains to visit a ceramic gallery run by an expert in the field and perhaps sip sake from centuries-old guinomi. Don’t know what that is? You need to come along. After a long day we’ll dine in the comfort of our very own hotel tonight.
This morning we’ll wander early through a beautiful garden in the Okazaki area before visiting a superb bookstore featuring illustrated tomes on Japan-centric subjects from design to food to fashion. We’ll attend a Japanese winter cooking lesson in a private, traditional dwelling before dining with our host who is so very knowledgeable about traditional and contemporary Japanese foods, fermentation and food culture. Afterwards we’ll stroll through the local shotengai (a covered shopping arcade built in the late 1800’s) where there will be time for wandering past old-school butchers, grocers and fishmongers – or spending time shopping for vintage kimono and local sake. There’s also happens to be some great coffee and award-winning gelato to be had… sure it’s winter but we don’t discriminate. We’ll have a little time for relaxation, perhaps sampling some Kyoto ume-shu (plum wine) together, before dinner at a private restaurant where only the freshest picks from the day’s market will be showcased – we never know what delicacies we’ll encounter at this welcoming venue and we don’t care because the food is always amazing and the hosts equally delightful. They also serve very high grade, delicious and addictive nihon-shu (sake), just quietly…
Yep, you’ve earned it – today is a full day at leisure for you to wander or retreat as you wish. Kyoto shares with us more temples, shrines and gardens than you can poke a stick at but is also full of photogenic laneways and hidden pockets. Take a walk through the streets of Gion or one of the other Geisha districts for gorgeous old tea houses and shops, roam the banks of the Kamogawa (river) – Kyoto city’s fluid heart or take in one of the many galleries or museums. Keen to glide beneath the red torii gate tunnels of Fushimi Inari Shrine? Luckily it’s very close to the hotel – just a short taxi or train ride – but go early to avoid the crowds. Perhaps you’d prefer to slow it right down and locate one of Kyoto’s relaxing cafes to read that book you haven’t been able to get to – or simply indulge in a Shiatsu (traditional massage), Hari (Acupuncture) or facial in the hotel’s spa – using your included treatment voucher. Be sure to ask your Zenbu hosts or the hotel concierge for any assistance you need in planning your day. And whatever you do, just make sure you are back in time for a fancy French-Japanese dinner.
Today we’ll be transported to the ancient capital city of Nara where we’ll spend the morning visiting the striking Kasuga shrine, feeding the free-roaming sacred deer in enormous Nara park and exploring the area. For lunch we’ll enjoy a pretty bento box of local specialties in a tea-house downtown. Perhaps we’ll sample some traditional wagashi (sweets) afterwards. We’ll then visit atmospheric Naramachi – known for its handsome architecture and old-world energy. There’s also a lengthy old shopping arcade lined with local crafts, vintage and antique trinkets, Nara pickles and the like… there are also some charming, free museums showcasing local history. We’ll have time to put your feet up for a little break (yes, of course, you can do that whilst sipping sundowners in the hotel bar) and freshen up before a fun Izakaya dinner – perhaps a little sake appreciation on the side? Izakaya are a place to eat whilst enjoying sake! The delicious local craft beer is pretty damn fine too…
Today we’ll take a morning stroll around attractive Arashiyama area in western Kyoto including the glorious bamboo forest, moon-crossing bridge and the sprawling garden around an old villa, once home to a black and white movie star– blessed with an incredible bird’s eye view over the city – we’ll also sip on verdant matcha tea. We’ll have a little free-time to peruse the local village stores – specialising in local crafts and bamboo products such as tableware and décor items – or warm up with a restorative dip in the foot onsen (hot-spring bath) at the station – make sure you check out the ‘Kimono print forest’ while you are there. 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. In the late afternoon we’ll return to the hotel where you are free to relax and enjoy the evening on your own – either soaking in your deep bathtub, watching a movie from hotel’s complimentary DVD selection and ordering room service or, if you are keen to explore the town on your own – just ask us for bar and restaurant recommendations and the concierge can book for you.
After an early breakfast this morning we’ll visit Kitano Tenmangu Shrine for the ‘Hatsu’ (first) flea, craft and antique market of the year – the atmosphere of this particular day is always filled with fresh energy and cheer for the year ahead. Kitano Tenmangu is also famous for plum blossoms and if fortune is smiling on us we might just spot a few trees starting to bloom. And if there’s snow on the open buds – all the more spectacular. We’ll be joined by a friend from the neighbourhood who is rather expert in scouring the markets for treasures – with his eye for quality and knowledge about traditional products, history and culture he’s sure to help us uncover some rewarding finds. We’ll lunch on the unusual-sounding, yet, superb coupling that is Japanese-Italian cuisine – umami to the max! Afterwards, we’ll visit a 4th-generation indigo artisan to learn a little about the process whilst we admire their 160-year-old house and stunning woven or shibori textiles. Warning – this stuff is to ‘dye’ for and it’s incredibly easy to spend a small fortune… Before dinner, there will be time to rest a little (and recover if you’ve gone wild with the credit card).
This morning we’ll visit a stunning example of Kyoto architecture by visiting the one time home and kiln of a popular folk artist and potter. It’s dark wood interiors styled as it was lived with earthy art, hand-carved furniture, textiles and fresh flowers is a joy to wander or to sit in and dream. After lunching on the finest tempura of seasonal seafood and Kyo-yasai (revered locally grown vegetables). we’ll travel south-west to visit a ‘well ahead of its time’ example of Japanese innovation in modern architecture. We’ll also attend a tour and tasting at the Suntory Whiskey distillery where you may like to purchase a little something to take home with you as a souvenir for the drinks cabinet. We’ll return to the hotel to freshen up for farewell drinks and our final ‘Fuyu’ dinner – a feast of the finest Wagyu (Japanese beef) cooked in front of us by a master of the grill who’s predisposition to crooning Elvis style into a bottle of beer does nothing to dent his immaculate kitchen skills.
Yes, there are usually a few glistening eyeballs on the last morning of tour (ok so maybe that’s just us…). We’re not required to check out until the early afternoon so if you don’t have other plans – perhaps enjoy a little sleep in before gathering with the group for breakfast – one last chance for hugs, deep bows, goodbyes and to exchange details with newly made friends. If you are staying longer in Kyoto or travelling onwards in Japan your hosts will be more than happy to make suggestions for making the most of your extended stay. Arigatou.
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.
Bookings are not confirmed until a 25% deposit has been made
** Members of the Zenbu Fuyu group will receive a detailed itinerary closer to departure however soon after payment Zenbu Tours will send you some helpful destination and travel information.
…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:
Luxury Japanese Cuisine & Culture Tours