We are going to take a break from Kansai Tour in 2017. However, we will travel back to Kansai in the future or if you would like to plan a private tour. So, please let us know if you are interested.
- Learn about sake from the world’s leading expert, John Gauntner, in an intimate class setting. Maximum group size is limited to twelve people.
- Explore the area to visit three breweries. Each brewery introduces you to different aspects of the brewing tradition.
- Sample the distinctive cuisines in three nearby regions-Kyoto, Nara, and Shiga-along with their local sake. Luxuriate in the elaborate Kyoto style, appreciate a subtle dinner of vegetables unique to Nara, and savor dishes of winter game and funazushi in Shiga.
- A small, traditional yuba maker will invite us to join them in making this light and versatile soy food before we enjoy it as part of a simple shojin ryori meal served at a temple for monks and devotees.
- Take in a special opportunity to learn about sake vessels with Robert Yellin, Japanese pottery specialist and the author of “Ode to Japanese Pottery-Sake Cups and Flasks.” Robert will take us into the pottery studios of the Shigaraki region he knows so well.
- Experience the esoteric Buddhist spiritual tradition of Japan, by participating in the Goma fire ritual at the foot of sacred Mt. Hiei. In Nara, visit the Great Buddha at Todai-ji, and see the fine collection of Buddhist statues at Kofukuji Temple National Treasure Museum.
Itinerary – 5 days
Day 1 (Monday) Fushimi, Kyoto
Members will travel on their own in the morning and meet at the Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto to begin our tour in the afternoon. The hotel is conveniently located at Kyoto Station. The tour begins with a lecture by John Gauntner to prepare you for our brewery visits. We make our first brewery visit with John at the oldest sake brewery in the scenic and historic Fujimi district of Kyoto. Masuda Tokubee Shoten, the producer of Tsuki no Katsura was founded in 1675. Close the day at a local izakaya, or sake bar, with Kyoto-style cuisine and Tsuki no Katsura.
Hotel: Hotel Newy Hankyu Kyoto
Meals: Dinner with sake
Day 2 (Tuesday) Kinomoto, Shiga
Take a Shinkansen Bullet Train and change to a local train bound for Kinomoto on the northern shore of Lake Biwa. Visit the producer of Shichi Hon Yari. Their history goes back to the 16th century. Kinomoto is a historic town that once flourished as major shukubamachi, or waystation offering food and accommodation to travelers from the Japan Sea coast provinces to Kyoto or Edo. Explore the quiet neighborhood on foot and see beautiful old merchant houses from the Edo period that still function today. Enjoy Shiga winter delicacies with Shichi Hon Yari: nare-sushi or original form of sushi, and locally hunted game only available during the winter.
Hotel: Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto
Meals: Breakfast; lunch with sake
Day 3 (Wednesday) Nara
Today is devoted to Nara, the ancient capital and the center of Japanese Buddhism from the 8th century. Hop on a short train ride from Kyoto to Nara to first visit the producer of Harushika in the heart of old town of Naramachi. After the tour and tasting, enjoy lunch at their adjoining historic Imanishike Shoin, former residence of officials from Kofukuji Temple. Visit the Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple, then see the finest collection of Buddhist statues at Kofukuji National Treasure Hall. Explore the alleys of Naramachi and wander the old warehouses and machiya (traditional lattice front houses) converted into shops and cafes. Enjoy a characteristic Nara dinner with locally grown Yamato vegetables and Harushika.
Hotel: Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto
Meals: Breakfast; lunch; dinner and sake
Day 4 (Thursday) Shigaraki, Shiga
Drive through the mountains to visit the Shigaraki region with Robert Yellin, Japanese ceramics specialist and the Author of “Ode to Japanese Pottery-Sake Cups and Flasks.” Shigaraki is one of the ancient centers of pottery producing domestic wares. At Traditional Crafts Center of Shigaraki, Robert gives you the overview of the style of the region. In the afternoon, visit artist studios selected by him.
Hotel: Hotel: Hotel Newy Hankyu Kyoto
Meals: Breakfast, lunch
Day 5 (Friday) Otsu, Shiga
Today’s excursion is around Mount Hiei, the sacred mountain and the holy site for Tendai Buddhists. Start the day by visiting Hiei Yuba and try it yourself to find out how this versatile vegetarian food is made and how the freshest yuba tastes. Visit Ritsuin Temple to participate in the sacred Goma fire ritual. Simple vegetarian shojin ryori with yuba is served at the temple while you have a chance to hear one monk’s long and intriguing quest for enlightenment. The final visit of the day is the Enryakuji Temple complex nestled in a deep cedar forest. Return to Kyoto Station in the late afternoon to continue your own onward travel plans.
Meals: Breakfast; lunch
To be updated
The tour price is based on a group of 8 and may change for a smaller group size.
- Sake lecture by sake expert, John Gauntner.
- Three special tours and tasting at sake breweries. In addition, a private visit to a yuba producer is planned.
- One-day excursion to Shigaraki with Japanese ceramic specialist, Robert Yellin.
- Accommodations for 4 nights based on double occupancy at Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto.
- 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 2 dinners. Dinners include selected sake from the breweries we visit.
- Admission to all temples and museums on the tour.
- All transportation during the tour starting Day 1 through Day 5. Travel to Kyoto on Day 1 and continuing to your next destination from Kyoto Station are not included.
- A qualified tour leader who is an Advanced Sake Professional and a certified English Bilingual Interpretive Guide provides translation and informative commentary throughout the trip.
Domestic Transportation After Your Arrival in Japan
Your tour begins at Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto at Kyoto Station.
To access Kyoto, it is best to fly to Kansai International Airport (KIX) if you fly from overseas. Kyoto is approximately 75 to 85 minutes from KIX by limousine bus or by train.
See the access information at KIX Access site.
For your convenience, we will of course coordinate your domestic transportation from Tokyo or other cities. Please see Optional Tours for Kansai for transportation and additional accommodation packages.
For those planning to use JR Pass for more extended travel, please contact us for details.
Additional domestic travel arrangements and consulting are available by Michi Travel Japan. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.saketours.com