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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!

Apr
2
Apr 6

Spring Tour 2017

NEW: (2017 itinerary will be sent upon request)

Features

  • Travel beautiful rural Japan during cherry blossom season.  For flexibility and to avoid heavy traffic, we have our own car service for 3 full days (Monday to Wednesday).
  • Taste the umami-loaded regional Aka-miso dishes while visiting one of the oldest Miso breweries from the 14th century.
  • Let us 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.
  • We will visit Ohmi Hachiman, the equivalent of Bruges in Japan.  Formerly a rich 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.
  • We will 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.
  • We will 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 alone.

 

NEW: Check out Itinerary! (Updated on 1/19/2016)

Day 1:  Sunday 4/2/2017

We will meet at the designated point at Nagoya Station in the morning.  [You are suggested to ship your luggage directly to the Isaji Residence to allow the whole day without a heavy luggage. Our staff will help you arrange]  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.

  • Accommodation: Isaji Residence in Seki, Gifu                                                    
  • Transportation costs all included in the tour fee after the 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

Day 2:   Monday 4/3/2017

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 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 the Lake Biwa and 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 wander 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 3:  Tuesday 4/4/2017

We will spend a 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 "middle of nowhere" on the map, but to the well-known restaurants among the Japanese epicureans. Yanagiya restaurant offers not "farm to table" concept but "Mountain to table". We will find out what the season and nature can offer that day. It will be a memorable meal for sure. After the lunch, we'll spend a late afternoon strolling old district of Tajimi, Oribe-streets, where you can find chic tableware stores to antique stores and galleries that showcase Mino-pottery. We have a casual dinner near the residence where we recommend ordering "Yuzu-ramen". 

  • 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 4:  Wednesday 4/5/2016

We start our day visiting small sake brewery known for producing aged sake for the last few decades. The owner is a true pioneer for the aged sake, and he can't help talking about it as he is so passionate. After the morning aged sake tasting, we're ready to visit the 1,500 years 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 to pay 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: Thursday 4/6/2016

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

  • Cooking Class & Brunch: Included
  • Seki Knife Shops Visit (Upon request): No fee will be added. If you have time, shop more! 
  • Transportation costs for your next destination: Not included

 

Oct
13
Oct 17

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

NEW: Check out Itinerary! (Updated on 2/23/2016. 2017 Itinerary will be coming soon)

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
  • Learn about and taste the amazing local foods in Mino & Hida Regions
  • Visit several nationally-acclaimed Mino Pottery Barnes & Museums

NEW: Check out Itinerary! (Updated on 2/23/2016)

Day 1:  Friday 10/13/2017

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 10/14/2017

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 10/15/2017

We’ll take the highway (2 hours) and head 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. After lunch, we'll head over to the city of Takayama for the Autumn Festival. Eleven floats will be pulled by locals to gather in front of  Hachiman Shrine. You'll see all the festival foods on the street as well as local kids running around in their costumes. (Blog-Shirakawago,Takayama)

Day 4:  Monday 10/16/2017

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 5: Tuesday 10/17/2017

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.

 

Oct
20
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

  • Optional: Thursday, 10/13 - Walking tour of Kappabashi, Tokyo: A wholesale district of tableware & cookware

  • Optional: Thursday, 10/13 - Tokyo Izakaya Tour: Series of Japanese pub-style delicious bites and drinks

  • Optional: Thursday, 10/13 - Tsukiji Fish Market Morning Tour

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.