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The deep origins of Japanese cuisine and artisan traditions (10 DAYS)

The Hokuriku region is situated at the geographic and cultural crossroads of central Japan, with diverse traditions that have developed over centuries of trade and cultural exchange. The region is also one of the best areas to explore the origins of Japanese culture as a whole—the region’s archaeological sites have revealed that some traditions can be traced back to prehistoric times—while the local cuisine still preserves the original forms of modern-day favourites such as the sushi. This tour will focus on Fukui Prefecture in the southern Hokuriku region and adjoining areas. You will experience the diverse and unusual regional food traditions, visit private workshops to observe the amazing skills of artisans first-hand, and delve into the true origins of Japanese culture beyond the superficial. [N.B.  As the food traditions covered in this tour heavily focuses on seafood, tour participants MUST be able to tolerate (and enjoy) seafood.]


Day 1—NAGAHAMA HISTORIC TOWN: Meet at JR Kyōto Station in the morning and travel Nagahama (Shiga Prefecture) on the shores of Lake Biwa. Enjoy an afternoon stroll through the atmospheric old town quarter of Nagahama, with its characteristic black-walled townhouse and cellar-house architecture. At dinner time, try the distinctive Lake Biwa cuisine—including the Funazushi, a slow-fermented fish dish believed to be the original form of sushi. Accommodation at a small boutique hotel within the old town quarter with a choice of Western-style bedrooms or a renovated traditional Japanese townhouse with futon bedding.


Day 2—LAKE BIWA & WAKASA MEDIEVAL VILLAGE: During the morning, depart Nagahama for a ferry crossing of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Break the journey with a stop-over on Chikubu Island, a mysterious forested island with a Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine clinging to its steep slopes. Continue your journey into the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture. In the afternoon, enjoy a relaxing amble in a medieval village on an ancient trade route that was critical to the development of Kyōto’s renowned culinary traditions. Sample the Wakasa kuzu (kudzu) cuisine for lunch, prepared with the medicinal starch of the Pueraria vine. Accommodation at a minshuku in a historic house run by the village community.


Days 3 to 5—WAKASA COASTAL FOOD TRADITIONS, COUNTRY TEMPLES & PREHISTORY: On Day 3, continue your journey to Obama, a major fishing port of the Wakasa region and a wonder-world of seafood cuisine. Explore the link between region’s food traditions and history, and its role in the development of Japanese cuisine. Learn a local recipe at a short cooking class. Take a stroll through the quiet backstreets where old merchant houses remind you of Obama’s heyday as a trading port. Start Day 4 with a morning walk to the town fish market to see an astounding variety of regional seafood products, and perhaps pick up your breakfast. Travel to the countryside east of Obama for an afternoon of easy cycling, to visit ancient temples and shrines that have a deep connection with Japan’s history of spirituality. On Day 5, enjoy a breakfast cruise on peaceful coastal lakes, followed by a visit to a Jōmon archaeological museum to discover the deep connection between the region’s prehistory and the Japanese culture as a whole. Enjoy a lunch of the region’s celebrated wildcatch eel cuisine. Travel to a coastal village in the late afternoon for a seafood feast dinner. Accommodation on Days 3 and 4 at mid-range hotels, on Day 5 at a small village minshuku.


Day 6: WAKASA COASTAL VILLAGE & SABAE RURAL TOWN EXPERIENCE: In the morning, visit a small village workshop specialising in Heshiko to learn about how this traditional fermented seafood—recently attracting interest for its health-giving probiotic qualities—is made. After an early lunch, depart for a rural town in the Sabae area of Echizen region in northern Fukui Prefecture, famous for the Echizen lacquerware tradition. Arrive at your accommodation in the mid-afternoon, a rustic minshuku in a historic house at the town’s edge. Enjoy a relaxing soak at the modern town onsen facility nearby (please note that only shared public onsen baths are offered and no private baths are available at this facility). Return to your accommodation to experience a candle-lit tea ceremony dinner—a medieval tradition rarely experienced by tourists that gave rise to the famous Kaiseki (Japanese degustation) dining style.


Day 7—ECHIZEN LACQUERWARE WORKSHOPS & TAKEFU TRADITIONAL PAPER VILLAGE: Spend the morning visiting lacquerware artisans in town, where the quiet façades belie a flurry of activity within individual family-run workshops. Observe the different stages involved in manufacturing the lacquerware, and marvel at the artisan’s creations in small private galleries. After a simple lunch of home-grown produce at a town café, travel to the nearby regional centre of Takefu. Visit a traditional paper making village on the town outskirts. Observe at an artisan workshop how the delicately textured paper is handcrafted from the coarse fibres of the paper mulberry and paper daphne (Edgeworthia) bark. Be captivated by some of the amazing and imaginative applications of traditional paper to artworks, fashion and household items. Accommodation at a mid-range hotel near the historic quarter of town.


Days 8—ECHIZEN POTTERY VILLAGE & KUROBE HISTORIC HOUSE STAY: Travel to the Echizen Pottery Village in the morning, where you can learn all about one of the oldest continuing ceramics traditions in Japan, and shop for your own unique piece of the tradition. Enjoy a lunch of Echizen Oroshi-soba (buckwheat noodles with grated daikon radish topping) or another local speciality before travelling to Kurobe on the coast of Toyama Prefecture. Arrive at your accommodation in the evening—a community-maintained, historic house in a picturesque village overlooking the coastal plains. During your stay, absorb the atmosphere of an authentic late 18th-century manor of a wealthy local farming family.


Day 9—KUROBE ARTISAN FOOD WORKSHOPS & KANAZAWA KAGA CUISINE DINNER: In the morning, travel to the coastal district of Kurobe to experience the diverse traditional food industries of the Sea of Japan coast. Take personally guided tours through a family-run kamaboko (steamed fish cake) workshop, where the humble fish mince takes on an art form, a konbu merchant’s shop that processes the cold-water seaweed on site to produce a bewildering array of products for all culinary uses, and a small, family-operated gourmet miso and shoyu factory that prides itself on using safe, locally produced ingredients. Enjoy a lunch of fresh seafood at the local fishermens’ cooperative, or snack on grilled skewered fish straight off the coals at a village fish shop. Travel to Kanazawa in the evening. For dinner, enjoy the refined tastes of Kaga cuisine that reflects the history of Kanazawa as a major cultural centre. Accommodation at a mid-range city hotel.

Day 10—KANAZAWA: The tour concludes in Kanazawa upon checking out of your hotel in the morning. Own arrangements for your onward journey, or stay on to explore the world-renowned sights of historic Kanazawa. 



  • Regional foods

  • Traditional crafts

  • History and prehistory

  • Villages

  • Temples and shrines



  • 3 nights in mid-range city hotels with Western-style beds

  • 3 nights in minshukus (Japanese B&B) with Japanese-style futon bedding in village/rural town settings—requires use of shared public onsen bath on 1 night

  • 1 night in an upper mid-range tourist-style hotel with Western-style beds in a lakeside setting

  • 1 night in a mid-range boutique hotel with either Western-style beds or Japanese-style futon bedding in a town setting

  • 1 night in a historic traditional Japanese house (community operated) with Japanese-style futon bedding in a village setting


DEPARTURE DATE: Saturday 12 May 2018; itinerary subject to change depending on, but not limited to, accommodation availability, transport timetabling and weather conditions.






COST: from AUD $4400­ per person (4–5 persons); from AUD $5000 per person (3 persons); from AUD $5500 per person (2 persons); POA for 1 person.


FINAL PAYMENT DATE: Thursday 12 April 2018



  • Full tour planning and guiding—10 days

  • Accommodation—9 nights

  • Breakfast—8 days

  • Lunch—9 days

  • Dinner—9 days

  • Ground transport (rail, bus, taxi)—9 days, departing from Kyōto, returning to Kanazawa

  • Admissions and fees for all attractions and activities listed in itinerary

  • Relevant information material


PHYSICAL FITNESS REQUIREMENT—MODERATE: all days of the tour involve periods of walking on mostly surfaced roads and footpaths on gentle to moderate gradients. Participants must be able to walk for up to 10 km per day, and continuously for up to 3 km at a time, on gentle to moderate gradients. There may be short sections of steep, uneven or slippery terrain, including stone steps. On Day 4, half a day of cycling is required on mostly gentle terrain, using bicycles without gears or motorised assistance and covering a total distance of up to 12 km. The itinerary may be modified for lower levels of fitness or mobility—please note, however, that additional costs may be incurred.


CULTURAL TOLERANCE REQUIREMENT—HIGH: Given the tour theme, most meals will feature traditional Japanese food including unusual seafood specialities that many may find challenging. Many meals will be traditional Japanese style served as a set menu, with non-Japanese food options unavailable. Accommodation on at least 4 nights feature Japanese-style futon bedding. The accommodation on Day 6 and Day 8 are in traditional Japanese houses with sleeping quarters separated by paper screens that are not soundproof or locked. The accommodation on Day 6 also requires you to use the shared public onsen baths in the village, with no private bathing facilities available. Japanese-style accommodation on Day 2 and Day 5 also do not have locked doors to the sleeping quarters.

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