Tour three top breweries, Zaku, Gensaka, and Kuroushi, and feast on an array of local specialties. We’ll sample Matsusaka beef barbecue, creamy Matoya oysters, and a tuna dinner in Katsuura, where more tuna is landed than anywhere else in Japan. Since Wakayama is also at the vanguard of tuna aquaculture, we’ll sample bluefin tuna sashimi right where it is farmed. Since Wakayama is also at the vanguard of tuna aquaculture, we’ll sample tuna sashimi right where it is farmed.
We’ll travel deep into the mountains and meet a Binchotan maker. (Binchotan is a Japanese charcoal prized by many chefs around the world.) Here we will see his kiln, and have a BBQ lunch along a section of the famous Kumano Kodo. We’ll also visit Shinto shrines in Ise, Kumano and Nachi, marvel at the dynamic rocky coastlines and serene mountain forests, and unwind for four nights at various onsen.
Tour Destination: Mie/Wakayama
Dates & Duration: Sunday Feb 16th through Friday Feb 21th, 2020
5 nights 5 days. Starting on Feb 16th at a hotel at JR Nagoya Station finishing on Feb 21st at JR Kainan Station in Wakayama.
Group size: Minimum 10 guests/Maximum 14 guests
Tour Cost: 390,000 JPY Double Occupancy. 425,000 JPY Single Occupancy.
Breakfasts: 5 Lunches: 4 Dinners: 3
Dinners include selected sake from the breweries we visit and from other breweries in the region.
• Visit to 3 sake breweries.
• Accommodations for 5 nights.
• 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 3 dinners. Dinners and some lunches include selected sake from the breweries we visit.
• Activities and entertainments mentioned in the itinerary.
• All transportation during the tour starting Feb 17th through 21st. Travel to Nagoya on Feb. 16 and continuing to your next destination from JR Kainan Station in Wakayama on Feb 21 are not included.
• A qualified tour leader who is an Advanced Sake Professional provides translation and informative commentary throughout the trip.
• Luggage handling for one suitcase of standard 26 inch size or smaller & total weight 25kg (55lb) or less: (67cm / 26 inches x 45cm / 18 inches x 25cm / 10 inches).
Visit three top artisanal breweries. Award-winning Zaku, located on the ancient pilgrimage route from Kyoto to Ise shrine, brews in the handmade, small-batch tradition. Gensaka, run by the sixth-generation of a family, keeps the focus on umami-forward brews made with local varieties, notably an heirloom strain it has revived called Isenishiki. Kuroushi or “Black Bull” brewery in Wakayama has gained fame for its earthy, full-bodied sake made with omachi rice, the oldest pure variety of rice in Japan. (These sake tours will be shorter and less intensive than our other tours, but like the others, will feature the best sake of the region.)
Sample the Mie/Wakayama region’s wealth of delicious foods—perfect accompaniments to its rich brews: well-marbled Matsusaka wagyu beef from the native Japanese black cattle, creamy Matoya oysters, and an abundance of local bluefin tuna from the pioneering sustainable aquaculture center of the country. Plus delicious barbecue over Wakayama’s revered binchotan oak charcoal!
Four nights at an onsen hot springs inn.
A visit with traditional ama women pearl divers as well as artisan makers of Ise-katagami paper stencils. This local traditional art, used in textile dyeing, has been designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan.
Enjoy the beautiful sights of Ise-Shima National Park, with its island-dotted coastline, the scenic Kumano Kodo World Heritage pilgrimage route, and the dynamic coastline and deep mountain forests of Wakayama.
Arrive at JR Nagoya Station. Our hotel is a few-minutes walk from the station. Enjoy an optional izakaya outing in the evening.
Hotel: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Nagoya Taikodori
We’ll travel to Mie via chartered bus. The day will include a morning visit to Shimizu Seisaburo Shoten, the producer of Zaku sake. After a brief sake tasting, we’ll learn about Ise katagami paper stencils, which date back to the eighth century, and were traditionally used for dyeing textiles such as kimono silks and cottons. The city of Suzuka, where Zaku is located, was and still is the center of this exquisite craft. For lunch we’ll all become grill masters for a DIY yakiniku (grilled beef) barbecue of the local wagyu, Matsusaka beef. Costlier than Kobe beef, Matsusaka is prized for its exceptional marbling. Next, a visit to Ise Shrine, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu and one of the holiest Shinto sites in Japan. Dinner will feature a local delicacy: creamy Matoya oysters prepared in multiple delicious ways—fresh, roasted, fried, and more!
Hotel: Hotel & Resorts Ise-Shima
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner with sake
We’ll visit a cultured pearl farm in the lovely coastal town of Shima. Try your hand at opening an Akoya oyster to find your own pearl to take home. Our next stop will be at an “ama hut,” a restaurant run by the famed seafood and pearl divers of Mie. Traditionally, Ama huts were places for ama to rest between dives. We’ll enjoy a light snack while ama speak to our group about their lives and work. Lunch will be at a rustic, beautiful thatched-roof country restaurant specializing seasonal kaiseki. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the sake brewery Gensaka, makers of delicious and robust sake. Dinner tonight will be on your own. Choose from several restaurants inside our hotel, or opt for an izakaya.
Hotel: Hotel & Resorts Ise-Shima
Meals: Breakfast, lunch with sake,
We’ll travel from Mie to Wakayama on a chartered bus, stopping for lunch and an exploration of the beautiful World Heritage Onigajo (“the devil’s castle) site. Here, we’ll enjoy superb ocean views and craggy shores, and visit ancient Hananoiwaya Shrine, site of a towering sacred rock. We resume our travel through the densely wooded, powerful Kii mountains, along the pilgrimage route known as the Kumano Kodo. After checking into our hot springs inn, featuring numerous cave hot springs with beautiful ocean views, we’ll head for the famed tuna town of Nachi Katsuura. Here, we’ll enjoy a tuna-centric izakaya dinner.
Hotel: Hotel Urashima Resort & Spa/Onsen
Meals: Breakfast, dinner with sake
The tuna theme will continue with a visit to the tuna market, where, from the second-floor viewing area, we’ll observe the giant fish being brought to market by boat. If possible, we’ll enter the wholesale section for close-up views of the tuna. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we’ll visit the first commercial tuna farm in Japan, developed by leading aquaculture research center Kinki University. We’ll take a boat ride to the bluefin tuna pen, arriving just in time for the morning feeding. We’ll also get a taste of the highest quality farmed tuna, followed by a lunch of either seafood. En route to our hotel in Kawayu Onsen, we’ll catch a glimpse of the majestic 133 meter-high Nachi Falls. We’ll check into our ryokan in time for a relaxing hot spring soak in onsen hot spring bath on the Kumano River. Don’t forget your bathing suit!
Hotel: Hotel Fujiya
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner with sake
Today’s itinerary includes a stop at Kumano Taisha Shrine, an example of the mix of Buddhist and Shinto influences found in the Kumano region. After a stroll along the enchanting, ancient Kumano Kodo pilgrimage path, we’ll visit the artisan maker of Wakayama’s famed Binchotan charcoal. Prized by top chefs around the world, this oak wood charcoal dates back the 17th-century Edo period. We’ll savor a barbecue lunch enhanced by the “binchotan effect,” which heightens the natural flavor of the food that is grilled on it. Next, we head to a tasting at Kuroushi sake brewery and a visit to its sake museum. Our tour concludes at the JR Kainan Station. Travel time to Osaka: one hour. Or, you can explore Wakayama further on your own, visiting Wakayama City, Shirahama or Koyasan. Those wishing to walk more of the Kumano Kodo may want to depart after lunch in the Kumano Taisha Shrine area.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch with sake
Cost: 390,000 JPY Double Occupancy. 425,000 JPY Single Occupancy.
Please contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place on this tour.
Sake Breweries, Open-air hot springs, Oysters, geothermal vegetable cooking, Sendo boatman cruise
John Gauntner Lecture, sake breweries, Japanese Pottery, Goma fire ritual, yuba making, shojin ryori, nare-shushi
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