We are going to take a break from Okayama Tour in 2015. However, we will travel back to Akita 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 and visit four breweries during the brewing season. The brewers and rice growers will share their philosophies and approaches with the group during the tours and at the meals.
- Taste sake just-pressed for the season right at the source and with meals. And, there’s a rare opportunity to actually get dirty and plow a rice field.
- Sample the best of both seafood from the rich Seto Inland Sea and winter delicacies of the mountainous region of Okayama.
- You will sample different styles of seafood: casual self-served oysters in a shack, elegant sushi served with works of Bizen artists, and perfect slices of fish prepared as part of a solemn ritual once performed only for Emperors.
- The closing meal of the tour is at the Japanese-style inn on a riverside deep in the mountains–simple rice and fish cooked over firewood in an open kitchen.
Itinerary – 5 days
Day 1 Okayama, Okayama
Travel on your own to Okayama via JR or fly from Haneda to Okayama with the group in the morning. The flight is not included in the tour cost.
Visit the first sake brewery, Shiragiku, and begin the tour with a lecture by John Gauntner to prepare you for our brewery visits. Here at the brewery, an Omachi rice grower will share his story about this sake rice known for its deep savory flavor and grown only in Okayama. Shiragiku Brewery is located in Takahashi, which is by the river and once prospered as a center of commerce and transport. Today, the area still remains a center for Kagura dance troupes who dedicate their depictions of the legends of creation of Japan to gods. Finish the day with a private performance of Kagura dance by Bichu Kagura Dance Troupes and dinner with sake.
Hotel: Hotel Granvia Okayama
Meals: Lunch; banquet-style dinner with sake and Kagura dance
Day 2 Asakuchi, Okayama
Today is filled with rare treats. Visit Marumoto Brewery, the producer of Chikurin, for a tour and a tasting. The old, traditional kura (brewery building) was designated as a Tangible Cultural Asset and is stunning example of traditional white stucco and black tile roof architecture. The owner and master brewer, Mr. Marumoto, grows his own rice on several dozen small rice fields in front of the brewery, which is very rare in the sake world.Today’s lunch is at a local pop-up oyster joint by the port where you cook your own oysters on a sizzling griddle. In the afternoon, work in the rice fields and plow the soil to prep for the spring planting season. Dinner is a rare treat at a local restaurant. We observe the Shiki-Hocho knife ceremony before the dinner. Shiki-Hocho started as a special imperial fish preparation in the 8th century with the knife and chopsticks without touching the fish. Today, only a few specially trained chefs are allowed to perform this ritual.
Hotel: Hotel Granvia Okayama
Meals: Breakfast; lunch; banquet-style dinner with sake and Shiki-Hocho knife ceremony
Day 3 Bizen, Okayama
Today is dedicated to learning about local art and craftsmanship of Okayama. First stop is at the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum to see the actual art of swordsmith and sword decoration. The area continues to thrive as one of the five leading sword making regions since Heian Period (8th century~). Even today, each craftsman dedicates over one year to create one sword. Then, you will immerse yourself with Bizen pottery through an introduction to the style by an American potter. Savor sake lunch with Bizen-ware. Try your hands at making your own guinomi sake cup with potters. Your piece will be shipped to your home after firing. Of course, you will have time to explore the streets dotted with galleries. In the evening, we will take it easy and you will have time to explore the town of Okayama on your own.
Hotel: Hotel Granvia Okayama
Meals: Breakfast; lunch;
Day 4 Kurashiki and Yubara Onsen, Okayama
Visit Miyamoto Brewery, producer of Kiwami Hijiri and who brew sake, beer and make shochu. Meet the young brewers who work very hard to keep the brewing tradition. After that, visit the old merchant quarter of Kurashiki with fine examples of 17th century black-and-white walled houses, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi . Ohara Museum of Art is one of the first museums in Japan dedicated to Western art, but also with a great collection of Mingei and contemporary Japanese art. After exploring the beautiful town and the museum on your own, you will be ready to relax at Yubara Onsen hot springs deep in the snow-covered mountains by the river.
Meals: Breakfast; dinner with sake
Hotel：Hakkei Japanese style inn and onsen hot springs
Meals: Breakfast; lunch; dinner with sake
Day 5 Katsuyama, Okayama
Visit a beautiful Edo period town of Katsuyama for the last brewery on the tour, Tsuji Honten. Meet the first woman toji master brewer in Okayama who takes a new approach to her family business with her brother. At this historic brewery, you will glimpse a brewery who has supported art from the past until today. After lunch at the brewery, explore the quaint town with locally designed noren cloths hanging in front of historic houses with stucco walls and red tiles. Return to Okayama Airport or JR Okayama Station in the late afternoon to continue your own onward travel plans.
Meals: Breakfast; lunch
Please contact us.
- Sake lecture by sake expert, John Gauntner and a tour with him for the first brewery visit.
- Four special tours and tastings at sake breweries.
- Accommodations for 4 nights based on double occupancy: 3 nights at x and 1 night at ryokan Japanese style inn with hot springs.
- 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 3 dinners. Dinners include selected sake from the breweries we visit.
- Museums, activities and entertainments: guinomi sake cup making, private Kagura performance and Shiki-Hocho knife ceremony, admissions to the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum and Ohara Museum of Art.
- All transportation during the tour starting January 27th through 31st. Travel to Okayama on January 27th and continuing to your next destination from JR Okayama Station on January 31st 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 JR Okayama Station or Okayama Airport.
To access Okayama, you can take JR Shinkansen or flight from Haneda.
For your convenience, we will of course coordinate your domestic transportation from Tokyo or other cities. Please see Optional Tours for Okayama for transportation and additional accommodation packages.
For those planning to use JR Pass for more extended travel, please contact us for details.
Optional Tours for Okayama
Please see other travel destinations before and after the Niigata tour.
> Other Travel Destinations
Additional domestic travel arrangements and consulting are available by Michi Travel Japan. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.