Incredible Food Experiences in Japan
Japanese culture is synonymous with amazing food, and the country’s cuisine is a central element to an amazing trip. What makes discovering and tasting the incredible cuisine even better is that, unlike some cultures, whose star dishes have been replicated relatively well across the world, nothing can come close to trying freshly sliced sashimi from a restaurant next to Tsukiji Market, or sampling sushi that has been created by a chef who has studied the exact science of how to cook grains of rice for four years. Yes, the Japanese take their food extremely seriously, which is why it has managed to remain perfectly undiluted for so generations. We love giving our clients an insight into Japanese food and the ceremony that surrounds it and can arrange different experiences that allow them to go behind the scenes and sample what we believe to be some of the finest food in the entire world.
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET, TOKYO
Tsukiji may be a popular tourist destination, but seeing the frenetic workings of the world’s largest fish market is definitely a Tokyo highlight. Our Destination Experts can arrange for you to experience the market and to learn about this remarkable place first-hand with specialist explanation from one of our favourite private guides. Starting in the temple next to the market, where the fisherman pray, you will then be led into the outer market to see rock shrines dedicated to shrimp and other fish. Your guide will take you deeper into the inner market, where you’ll be able to see the workers cutting up the highly-prized huge tuna worth tens of thousands of pounds, and learn about the variety of wholesalers who work there. Of course, the highlight is tasting the freshest sashimi and sushi, which you will feast on for lunch at one of the tiny restaurants that flank the market.
PRIVATE COOKING LESSONS
While you can learn so much about a culture through tasting its food, there’s also a lot of insight to be gained from cooking it. In Kyoto, we can arrange for an extremely exclusive private cooking lesson, focusing on tempura and rolled sushi, at the private home of an expert chef. This is a fantastic way to learn about local life and customs, and you’ll pick up some useful skills to bring home with you. One of the most fascinating elements of Japanese cuisine is its strict adherence to seasonality. On a trip to Kanazawa, Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell prepared and sampled freshly caught snow crabs, which are strictly available in the winter months. And sometimes certain herbs and plants are only served for a week, so whatever time of year you choose to travel, you can ensure a unique foodie experience.
We can also arrange private cooking lessons in Tokyo at fantastic restaurants such as Tamasushi, where you will learn to make a sushi lunch while clad in chef whites, under the encouraging instruction of some of the capital’s best chefs.
Rice is not just vital to sushi, but also to sake – Japan’s national drink. There are over 1,600 producers of sake in Japan, and the majority are small-scale producers, which means there are always new varieties to discover everywhere from high-end bars to rustic hole-in-the-wall’s. An enjoyable way to spend an afternoon is at a sake brewery, where you can see the journey from fermented rice all the way through to spirit. Follow this with a tasting session, where a sake sommelier can guide you through a range of different sakes, along with local drinking customs – such as the younger guest serving their elder first. You will do well to remember these lessons though, as sake can be very potent.
TEA PICKING IN RURAL KYOTO
Tea has an almost mystical importance in Japan and has done ever since it became the drink of choice for the religious classes as far back as the 9th century. While the experience of tea picking can feel a bit forced elsewhere in Asia, there are few other countries in the world where tea is as central to the way of life as in Japan.
We take a fresh approach to this age-old activity, by bringing our clients to visit a little-known organic tea farm outside Kyoto. Accompanied by a specialist guide, guests can walk around the undulating tea fields, tea picking with friendly workers, while the guide can translate the workers’ stories and often their jokes! As our clients learn about the various teas, we set up a delicious lunch for them, using tea as one of the ingredients in the menu, overlooking the glorious topiary of tea plants and Mount Jubu beyond.