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810 S Spring St. #1204
Los Angeles, CA, 90014
United States

Tour Calendar

On this personal tour for eight adventurous food lovers, Yoko will take you on a journey to explore historical festivals, community events and locally acclaimed restaurants. She created the tour to share the best parts of rural Japan during its best season.  Most importantly, you will know what every one of her friends knows: Wherever Yoko goes, tasty morsels will follow!

Oct
20
to Oct 24

Wine, Sake & Whiskey: The Spirit(s) of Koshu

Features

  • Visits to some of the best wineries in Japan's premier wine country, Katsunuma

  • Sake Tastings at 5 breweries in Lake Suwa, Nagono.

  • Hakushu Whisky Distillery Tour and Tasting at the bar where you can find the rare collections of Suntory whiskey.

  • Cooking lessons focused on regional dishes at Yoko's friend's house in Kofu (Soup Noodles & More)

  • Temple Retreat (one day): Witness the evening service with chants echoing in Kuonji Temple

  • Yuba (bean curd skin) course dinner & Selected best local dishes served every day

  • Short hikes along a beautiful stream, around the lake and through a vineyard are included everyday

Itinerary - 5 Days

We'll be walking 3 to 5 miles every day. Please wear comfortable shoes.

Our DETAILED ITINERARY is HERE. It includes all the web links to the places we're planning to visit. Places of interest* indicates the places we would love to take you. However, we may not cover all the places as we do not want to rush from one place to another. We value the flexibility to make spontaneous decisions based on the group's interest and desires while traveling. The places are listed to give you a general sense of what you can expect on the tour.

Day 1

Friday 10/20/2017

Shinjuku, Tokyo - Katsunuma, Yamanashi

We'll walk through Katsunuma's beautiful terrain and vineyards. Some of the best wineries are located here: From a small family vineyard to one of the oldest vineyards that shared their knowledge of how to make "sur lee" wine with all the other wine makers in Katsunuma. to bottom up the industry. This white wine was once thought the perfect way to embody and heighten the flavor of the Koshu grape, the indigenous grape of Japan. It's your chance to try a Japanese wine that's so very rare to come across abroad. 

  • Lunch: Included in the tour fee and served with 3 glasses of wine (tasting portion)
  • Transportation: Included (Public transportation & Taxi)
  • Winery tour and tastings: 1 tasting is included
  • Dinner: Included in the tour fee. Torihei (Yakitori) and one more bar/diner
  • Accommodation: Yumura Hotel at Yumura Hot Springs in Kofu, Yamanashi

 

  Day 2

 Saturday 10/21/2017

Lake Suwa, Nagono

The city of Lake Suwa has 5 sake breweries within a 1/2 mile street. Instead of bar hopping, we'll go sake brewery hopping! As a bonus, we will never get tired from walking since we can sit and rest our feet in the hot springs at various locations. 

  • Breakfast at Hotel: Included
  • Transportation: Included (Public transportation & Taxi)
  • Lunch: Included in the tour fee
  • Sake Tasting fees: Included at 2 sake breweries.
  • Dinner: Included. Popular local Japanese-Chinese restaurant
  • Accommodations: Yumura Hotel at Yumura Hot Springs in Kofu, Yamanashi

Day 3

Sunday 10/22/2017

Mt.Minobui, Yamanashi

You'll be surprised to see the temple community at one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the area which was established in the late 13th century. We would like to invite you to climb up the 287-step stairs, named the "stairs of enlightenment", that will lead to a beautiful pagoda. Once you climb up to the top, you may be greeted by the chants of hundreds of monks echoing throughout. It's impossible not to appreciate the serenity of this remote site far removed from any distractions. 

  • Brunch: Homemade regional dishes at Yoko's friend's house. We'll be cooking!
  • Transportation: Included (Public Transportation & Taxi)
  • Lunch: Not included in the tour. We will suggest restautants or other places to get food in Minobu.
  • Exploration of Kuonji Temple & Mount Minobu : Cable car fee included
  • Dinner: Included in the tour fee. Yuba Kaiseki Dinner (Shojin/Vegan)
  • Accommodation: Shukubo, Temple hostel at Mt.Minobu

Day 4

Monday 10/23/2017

Kawaguchiko & Hokuto, Yamanashi

One of the sites that visitors can't miss seeing in Yamanashi is Lake Kawaguchiko. There are many places in this prefecture you can observe Mt.Fuji. However, we love the view from Lake Kawaguchiko the best. That's why we're taking you there even though it's a bit of a detour before heading to Hakushu distillery. At Hakushu, you can enjoy spending time in the forest and sampling the whiskey of you dreams.

  • Breakfast: Included at the temple
  • Transportation: We'll have a private car and a driver all day
  • Kimono Museum entrance fee: Included.
  • Cafe at Lake: Not included. Please buy what you like at the cafe/bakery
  • Lunch: Included, eel restaurant
  • Hakushu Whiskey Distillery Tour Fee: Included
  • Dinner: TBD
  • Accommodation: Yumura Hotel at Yumura Hot Springs in Kofu, Yamanashi

Day 5

Tuesday 10/24/2017

We'll take care of you until we return to Tokyo. Let us know how we can assist you so that you can reach your next destination smoothly. 

  • Breakfast: Included at the hotel
  • Transportation: Included until we arrive at Shinjuku station.

 

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Dec
19
to Dec 22

Hokuriku Seafood Feast Tour

Winter in Toyama Bay is known for producing an abundance and variety of wild fish.  It’s a season truly made for seafood lovers: Fresh crab meat sashimi, fatty yellowtail, and Kobako-crab just to name a few.  On this five-day tour, you will discover the sublime pleasures - food, architecture, craftsmanship, and history - for which this region is rightly famous.

Tour Features

  • As part of the "Seafood Feast Tour" our featured meals include: Wajima morning market's grilled fish breakfast, well-known Himi Seaport's best seafood supper at a Japanese inn, a local Italian restaurant, a farm-to-table French restaurant, and the breath-taking Kaga Kaiseki cuisine.

  • We will explore the rich regional history of craftsmanship: Wajima lacquer and gold leaf in Ishikawa. Glassware and Suzu tin work in Toyama. Discover beautiful tableware and sake serving sets that make great souvenirs that you can buy for yourself or as a special gift.

  • Noto Peninsula is known for its cold winters and the sake production group called "Noto Toji". They are considered one of the best sake brewers in Japan and employ seasonal workers who migrate to work at the sake brewery. Yoko will explain more about this old traditional system while you enjoy the local sake.

  • Visits to modern architecture works on the tour include the Toyama glass museum and library by Kengo Kuma and The 21st Century Museum by Kazuyo Sejima. The historical architecture we will learn about include: The national treasure Zuiryuji-Temple from Edo period to the Michelin one star awarded Nomura residence and its beautiful garden.

Itinerary - 5 Days

Day 1

Tuesday 12/19/2017(Toyama, Toyama)

We will meet at JR Toyama station at 10 am. From there, Yoko will guide you to a farm-to-table French restaurant for lunch followed by a trip to the glass museum, shops, and observatory in the city of Toyama.  We will end the day at the local's favorite bar town.

  • Lunch: French L'Evo (Included)

  • Transportation: Included (Public transportation)

  • Toyama Glass Museum, Observatory Tower, (Included)

  • Dinner: Robatayaki in Shintomi-cho (Included)

  • Accommodation: Tokyu Excel Hotel (Included)

 

Day 2

Wednesday 12/20/2017(Takaoka & Himi, Toyama)

We will start with a morning walk at Zuiryuji-Temple and then enjoy Toyama's Kito Koto Sushi lunch. ("Kito kito" is how locals describe the very fresh seafood in Toyama). Afterwards we'll take a local train that runs along the Toyama Bay overlooking the famous Tateyama mountains across the ocean. We'll get off at the final station, Himi, the famous seaport town where we will stroll among the local fish markets and hot springs before treating ourselves to a seafood feast dinner.

  • Breakfast: (Not Included)

  • Transportation: Public transportation (Included)

  • Lunch: Sushi Kin (Included)

  • Dinner: Himi Seaport fisherman's supper at Gyokei (Included)

  • Accommodations: Takaoka Station Hotel (Included)

 

Day 3

Thursday 12/21/2017(Kanazawa, Ishikawa)

Kanazawa has been the capital of art and culture in this region for the last 400 years. As the pride of Kanazawans, the city upholds the highest standard of fashion, art (including the culinary arts) and architecture, which attracts Japanese tourists as well as tourists from abroad. The old town and the modern buildings are located in the central city and are all within walking distance of each other. This means our day will be filled with vigorous walks. When we get tired, we will have no trouble finding a tea house or cafe.  We will end the day with Kaga Kaiseki cuisine which will absolutely be the highlight meal of this tour.

  • Breakfast: (Not included)

  • Transportation: Included (Public Transportation)

  • Lunch: At Ohmi-Cho Market (Not included in the tour)

  • Nomura Residence & The 21st Century Museum (Included)

  • Dinner: Kaga Kaiseki Dinner (Included)

  • Accommodation: Daiwa Hotel (Included)

 

Day 4

Friday 12/22/2017(Wajima, Ishikawa)

Wajima is located at the Northern tip of Noto Peninsula:  It’s well-known for its morning market, beautiful scenery along the sea coast, and beautiful hand-made lacquer that locals have been using from generation to generation through regular repainting.  We’ll get to experience using the wajima-lacquer tablewares firsthand when we dine.

  • Breakfast: (Not included)

  • Transportation: Public transportation and Taxi (Included)

  • Lunch: Washoku Tsushima (Included)

  • Wajima Lacquer Museum & Scenic drive around peninsula, Salt-making field (Included)

  • Dinner: Italian Ayuto (Included)

  • Accommodation: Minshuku Wakasan (Included)

 

Day 5

Saturday 12/23/2017 (Wajima-Kanazawa, Ishikawa)

We'll stroll along one of the three most well-known morning markets in Japan: Wajima Asaichi, where you can buy both fresh and dried seafood and have it grilled over charcoal onsite. It’ll be one of the most memorable meals you'll have on this tour. There are also some lovely Wajima lacquer stores on this street. Shop and dine to your heart’s content until we head back to Kanazawa.

  • Breakfast: Buy your own favorite fish to grill (Not Included)

  • Transportation: Included until we arrive in Kanazawa JR Station

 

Additional Notes: We'll be walking 3 to 5 miles every day. Please wear comfortable shoes.

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Apr
7
to Apr 15

Spring Tour 2018

NEW: 2018 itinerary will be sent upon request. We split the tour into two parts for 2018 Spring.  Tour 1: From April 7th to 11th, Tour 2: April 11th to April 15th. You can join both or just half of the tour.

Features

  • Travel beautiful rural Japan during cherry blossom season.  For flexibility and to avoid heavy traffic, we have our own car service for 4 consecutive days for the first tour and the first day of the second part of the tour.

  • Taste the umami-loaded regional Aka-miso dishes while visiting one of the oldest Miso breweries from the 14th century.

  • Inhale the aromas of a “sweets sanctuary”. La Collina is a year-old facility where we will see the craftwork of and taste Wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets and cakes.

  • Explore Ohmi Hachiman, the equivalent of Bruges in Japan.  Formerly a wealthy merchants’ town in the 17th Century, beautiful canals link Lake Biwa, the castle and the old town.  The architecture presents photogenic sceneries around every corner.

  • Visit the nationally-acclaimed Mino Pottery Barn and Kitchen Knife store.  It’s an essential visit to truly experience the biggest and greatest industry of this region.

  • Attend the 383rd Inuyama Matsuri, a seasonal night festival at the old castle town of Inuyama where we’ll see 13 lantern-decorated floats pulled by manpower.

Day 1:  Saturday 4/7/2018 (Okazaki/Inuyama)  [Tour Part 1]

We will meet at the designated point at Nagoya Station in the morning.  [We recommend you to ship your luggage directly to the Isaji Residence to allow for traveling the whole without heavy luggage. Our staff will help you to arrange this]  From Nagoya station, we’ll take a half hour train to Okazaki, where we will learn the process for making the fragrant red miso called “Haccho-Miso.”  Nagoya and its surrounding area used to be called Mikawa-Owari; this is the origin of regionally-famous red miso dishes like miso katsu, miso udon and doteni.  In fact, today is the day for tasting the cuisine Nagoya is known for.  We’ll head to Inuyama’s old town district and stroll through the lantern-hung floats on display throughout town. (As it often rains over this festival weekend, we'll be flexible and may visit the festival the next day.)

  • Accommodation: Isaji Residence in Seki, Gifu                                                    

  • Transportation costs all included in the tour fee after Nagoya Station

  • Lunch - Several small plates will be purchased for tasting. (You may purchase more street foods at the Sakura Festival)

  • Dinner at Isaji Residence: Included

  • Other costs: Ship your luggage directly to the Isaji residence the previous night or the morning of departure.

 

Day 2:  Sunday 4/8/2018 (Magome - Tajimi, Gifu) [Tour Part 1]

We will spend the morning in Magome, strolling a historical road surrounded by well-preserved hostels and shops from the 18th century.  This road is known as “Nakasendo” and passes through a mountainous area called Kiso, where high-quality wooden products are still made by hand.  If you’re looking to buy any Japanese wooden cookware and tableware, this is the place to shop. For lunch, we are driving to the "middle of nowhere" on the map which hides some restaurants that are well-known among Japanese epicureans. Yanagiya restaurant offers not a "farm-to -table" concept but rather a "Mountain-to-table". We will find out what the season and nature will offer that day. It will be a memorable meal for sure. After lunch, we'll spend the late afternoon strolling the old district of Tajimi, Oribe-streets, where you can find chic tableware stores, antique stores and galleries that showcase Mino-pottery. We will have a casual dinner near our residence where we recommend ordering "Yuzu-ramen". (We may go to Inuyama for the night festival depending on the weather)

  • Accommodation: Isaji Residence in Seki, Gifu.                                                     

  • Transportation costs all included in the tour fee.

  • Breakfast: Included

  • Lunch at Yanagiya: Included (Drink is not included)

  • Dinner: Included (Drink is not included)

 

Day 3:   Monday 4/9/2018 (Ohmihachiman & Hikone, Shiga) [Tour Part 1]

Lake Biwa and its surrounding towns have as old and rich a history as Kyoto.  Today we’ll drive a little over an hour to visit two towns in Shiga prefecture, Hikone and Omi-Hachiman. We’ll approach the Hikone castle from the old town district, through water-filled fortification where you'll see a beautiful reflection of cherry blossoms. We'll walk up to the castle where you can look down at Lake Biwa and its surrounding towns. You'll see why this lake has been called "Umi-Ocean in Japanese" by the locals.  Then we’ll drive down to Omi-Hachiman to enjoy the canal boat ride and the bento box prepared with local specialties. After strolling the old town and wandering along canals, we head to “La Collina” to observe wagashi-making and of course tasting some if you can.  After having a dinner in Shiga, we'll head back to Gifu.

  • Accommodation: Isaji Residence in Seki, Gifu.                                                     

  • Transportation costs all included in the tour fee.

  • Breakfast & Lunch: Included,  (Before taking a boat ride, buy your own drink from a vending machine)

  • Boat riding at Omi-Hachiman: Included in the tour

  • Dinner Restaurant TBA: Included, Drink is not included and will be charged separately.

 

Day 4:  Tuesday 4/10/2018 Gifu, Gifu [Tour Part 1]

We start our day visiting small sake brewery known for producing aged sake for the last few decades. The owner is a true pioneer when it comes to aged sake, and he can't help talking about it with passion. After the morning aged sake tasting, we'll be ready to visit the 1,500 year old cherry trees. If we are lucky, we will see the full bloom of Usuzumi Zakura, one of the three oldest cherry trees in Japan. There is another temple, nearly as old as the cherry tree, worth paying a visit: Kegonji. After strolling old town and the park in Gifu city, dinner will be served at a beautiful old steakhouse.  Expect to have one of the best teppanyaki experiences you can imagine.

  • Accommodation: Isaji Residence in Seki, Gifu.                                                     

  • Transportation costs all included in the tour.

  • Breakfast & Lunch: Included. The lunch box will be a light meal. You are encouraged to try the food vendors at the Cherry blossom festival

  • Dinner at Senryu Steak House: Included  (Drink is not included and will be charged separately)

 

Day 5: Wednesday 4/12/2018  (Hida, Gifu - Noto, Ishikawa)  [Tour Part 1: End after breakfast]

 

[Tour Part 2]  Hokuriku

Tour Features

  • Our featured meals include: Wajima morning market's grilled fish breakfast, well-known Himi Seaport's best seafood supper at a Japanese inn, a farm-to-table French restaurant, and the breath-taking Kaga Kaiseki cuisine.

  • We will explore the rich regional history of craftsmanship: Wajima lacquer in Ishikawa. Glassware in Toyama. Discover beautiful tableware and sake serving sets that make great souvenirs that you can buy for yourself or as a special gift.

  • Visits to modern architecture works on the tour include the Toyama glass museum and library by Kengo Kuma and The 21st Century Museum by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. The historical architecture we will learn about include: The national treasure Zuiryuji-Temple from Edo period to the Michelin one star awarded Nomura residence and its beautiful garden.

 

Day 5:  Wednesday 4/12/2018 (Hida, Gifu - Noto, Ishikawa) [Tour Part 2]

Taking just a small travel bag, we’ll depart for the Hida/Hokuriku region for 4 days. We’ll be starting off from the furthest point we can reach, Wajima City at the tip of the Noto Peninsula. On the way there, we'll stop by the Unesco World Heritage site Shirakawa-go village and then have an unforgettable lunch at L'evo, the farm-to-table French restaurant that serves its food on  dishware created by local artists. Once we arrive at Wajima, best known for its morning market and  Wajima lacquer, we will explore the shops and museums.

  • Accommodation: Japanese Inn at Wajima City, Ishikawa                         

  • Transportation costs: All included in the tour.

  • Breakfast: Included.

  • Lunch at L'evo: Included. (Drink is not included and will be charged separately)

  • Dinner at Tsushima: Included  (Drink is not included and will be charged separately)

 

Day 6: Thursday 4/13/2018 (Wajima - Kanazawa, Ishikawa) [Tour Part 2]

After enjoying breakfast at Wajima morning market where you will buy your own seafood and have it cooked over charcoal, we'll head to the city of Kanagawa. Kanagawa has a rich history of food and culture as it was ruled by the wealthy Lord Maeda clan for centuries during the Edo period (17th to mid 19th C). Considered the cultural hub of the Hokuriku region, there are many sites to see including Samurai house,  beautiful Japanese garden, and the contemporary museum.  The regional cuisine is called Kaga Ryouri. It is much like Kaiseki cuisine embracing regional vegetables and seafood with a breath-taking presentation.

  • Accommodation: Daiwa Hotel in Kanazawa city, Ishikawa                         

  • Transportation costs all included in the tour.

  • Breakfast: Not Included. Please buy your own at the morning market.

  • Lunch at Ohmicho-Market: Not Included. There are many choices in this market from sushi to regional dishes. You can snack on many small dishes from each vendor, too.

  • Dinner at Kaiseki Restaurant: Included  (Drink is not included and will be charged separately)

 

Day 7: Friday 4/14/2018  Kanazawa - Toyama [Tour Part 2]

After breakfast in Kanazawa, we'll be heading to Toyama, one of the most renowned fishery ports located along the shore of Toyama. We'll enjoy sushi lunch and seafood tempura for dinner. Between meals, we'll walk to Zuiryuji Zen Buddhism temple built in the early 17th century which is now recognized as a national treasure. We will also visit the glass museum in Toyama as the city is known for its glasswork. You will probably find lots to buy in this region as there are numerous great local designers and craftsmen.

  • Accommodation: Excel Tokyu Hotel, Toyama                       

  • Transportation costs all included in the tour.

  • Breakfast: Not Included.

  • Lunch at Sushi Kin: Included. (Drink is not included and will be charged separately)

  • Dinner at Tempura Takano: Included.  (Drink is not included and will be charged separately)

 

Day 8: Saturday 4/14/2018   [Tour Part 2]

Leaving Toyama after breakfast, we'll be spending a day in Takayama at its Spring festival. If we’re lucky, we may get to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom.  If not, the festival is always still gorgeous with festive foods.

  • Accommodation: Isaji Residence in Seki, Gifu.                                          

  • Transportation costs all included in the tour.

  • Breakfast: Not Included.

  • Lunch: Not Included. 

  • Dinner: Included.  (Drink is not included and will be charged separately)

 

Day 9: Sunday 4/15/2018 [Tour Part 2]

After breakfast, we’ll help you depart for your next destination. We can arrange for your suitcases and souvenir boxes to be delivered directly to the airport.

  • Breakfast: Included

  • Seki Knife Shops Visit (Upon request): No fee will be added. Because Seki is known for its long history of making swords and knives, it would be a shame to miss out!

  • There is also the Mino Hanamikoshi Festival.

  • Transportation costs for your next destination: Not included

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Oct
5
to Oct 10

Festivals, Feasts & Fishing: An Insider’s Culinary Tour of Gifu

Features

  • Explore the Seki Knife Festival & Mino Paper Lantern Night Walk
  • Go on a Nagara River Ukai Boat ride - Ancient night time fishing by cormorant Master
  • Attend the Takayam Autumn Festival & Shirakawa Village, a World Heritage Site
  • Half day in Toyama. Enjoy the seafood from Japanese ocean both lunch and dinner!
  • Learn about and taste the amazing local foods in Mino & Hida Regions
  • Visit several nationally-acclaimed Mino Pottery Barnes & Museums

 

Day 1:  Friday 10/05/2018 (Nagoya-Seki)

We'll meet at the designated meeting point in Nagoya Station. After a refreshing soba lunch, Yoko will take you to the local markets where you'll be introduced to regional and seasonal produce. We'll then prepare a few light appetizer dishes accompanied by some bottles of sake to bring for the Ukai boat ride (about an hour). Dinner will take place at Iwasa where you’ll enjoy the locally renowned Ayu fish course at the cormorant birds’ fishing master's house. (Check out Hana & Seungbae's blog where they share what their experience was like in 2015. Please find out more here!)

Day 2:   Saturday 10/06/2018 (Seki & Mino)

The very first day of the Knife festival. We'll start the day by eating at the local cafe, where we can have breakfast for the price of a coffee. After breakfast, enjoy some free time and explore the center of the city where more than 20 knife makers work at the markets and a number of knife-related performances and exhibitions take place. At night, we'll take a train to Mino City (20-minutes) for a paper lantern light festival. (Read more on Hana & Seungbae's blog)

Day 3:  Sunday 10/07/2018 (Tajimi, Inuyama & Gifu)

Explore the Mino Pottery Barns & Festival: Mino yaki is the most widely used dishware in Japan. Thousands of years of history created the vast and profound community of manufacturers and supporting pottery and ceramic artists. We’ll follow up with a visit to Inuyama Castle, the oldest existing wooden structure of its kind, and a Kaiseki Dinner in Gifu City. (Find out more on Hana & Seungbae's blog post)

Day 4:  Monday 10/08/2018 (Shirakawago & Toyama)

We’ll take two days trip to Hida region by taking the highway up to North to the Japanese folklore village, Shirakawago, in the morning. This world heritage site is a small community where neighbors help each other to change their naturally-made roofs every 30 to 40 years. We'll take a pleasant walk from one side of the village to the top of the hill where we can look over the entire village.  (Blog-Shirakawago,Takayama) Then we'll drive further to get the city of Toyama by noon. Toyama is known for having one of the best seaports for the fishery.  It's our seafood feast day! After the dinner, we'll head back to Gifu and stay over at the hotel near JR Takayama station.

Day 5:  Tuesday 10/09/2018 (Takayama)

We woke up in Takayama on the first day of Fall Festival. Let's start walking old town while it's still quiet. We will have a whole day to enjoy the city and the festival. There are lots to see, and lots of street vendors will entice you. Enjoy your day till we're heading back to Seki. 

Day 6: Wednesday 10/10/2018 (Seki)

After breakfast, we'll help you depart for your next destination. We can arrange for your suitcase or boxes of souvenir to be directly delivered to the Airport.

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