There’s plenty of reasons to love Japan, and not least of all for their food!
Known for the freshest ingredients, subtle flavour combinations, seasonal focus, and exquisite presentation, The food of Japan has always played a distinctive and central role in the country’s culture. Even now, it’s instantly recognisable and globally beloved. In 2013, Japan’s iconic cuisine was recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, the only other country besides France to receive this accolade.
While you may be familiar with tempura, sushi, ramen, and the like, here are a few food tours featuring lesser-known Japanese culinary treasures we think you should get to know.
Be introduced to these amazing culinary inventions through tours from Walk Japan, a pioneer in guided walking tours to the nation. Carefully curated, all their tours are adventures exploring not just the sights of Japan, but the breadth and depth of authentic Japanese cuisine, from sushi and tempura, to delicious farmhouse fare and rare morsels found in each region, town or village.
Boutique sakes complement every evening meal and no two are ever the same. Get to know the ancient drink through tours across breweries throughout Japan, such as the Oita Hot Spring Trail, Kunisaki Retreat and Nakasendo Way. Here you can learn about how this drink, Japan’s libation to the gods (Your Name, anyone?), is meticulously created and sample the master brewer’s best grades. Learn how to pair sake with your meals and you’ll never look back.
Wasabi green mustard is a distinctive and essential ingredient in Japanese cooking. You’re probably accustomed to seeing it alongside your sushi, but did you know that there’s a very high chance you’ve never tasted real wasabi? Most of the green paste that accompanies your sushi is reconstituted horseradish powder, while the real wasabi is an incredibly complex, sweet yet spicy paste obtained from grating fresh Japanese mustard bulbs.
The Izu Peninsula, which is overlooked by Mt. Fuji, produces Japan’s and consequently the world’s finest wasabi. Customers on Walk Japan’s Izu Geo Trail come across plots hidden in the forest, where wasabi is cultivated in the sparkling spring waters that flow copiously from Izu’s mountains. During many meals, they also prepare their own wasabi to enjoy with the plentiful fish caught each day in the seas surrounding the peninsula.
Miso is fermented soy bean paste, a widely used ingredient in Japanese cooking. The seemingly humble ingredient has gained interest from culinary enthusiasts around the world for both its umami flavoursomeness and health-giving properties. A feature of almost all meals on a Walk Japan tour, on the Kunisaki & Yufuin Walk customers visit a local shop, a listed original wooden structure, where miso has been produced in the traditional way by hand using local ingredients and water from a well on the premises since 1900.
4. Onsen-cooked Meals
When visiting Japan, a trip to the hot springs (or onsen) will make for a quintessentially Japanese experience that you’ll never forget. Mineral-rich water and natural heat that stems from the core of the Earth basically means that a soak in the naturally-occuring hot springs will rejuvenate both body and soul.
The Oita Hot Spring Trail complements its theme of onsen hotsprings with meals created from the ingredients from seas, fields, forests and mountains found in this particularly bountiful region of Japan. At Beppu, this tour also includes steam-cooked dishes that actually harness the hot water of the natural onsen here to cook the food to perfection.
5. Izakaya Fare
Like so many of Walk Japan’s tours, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage is largely a rural experience. However, it also takes the opportunity to journey through Osaka’s energetic urban food scene, where the company’s expert Tour Leaders ensure a wonderful experience of a well-loved izakaya restaurant.
What’s an izakaya, you ask? Basically, it’s a traditional Japanese pub or bar, focusing on serving up delicious homely fare to complement your favourite alcoholic tipple– whether it be beer, sake, shochu, or more. Here the atmosphere is often rambunctious and the dishes plentiful in variety. These include staples that have helped make Japan’s food scene a global sensation such as sashimi, kushiyaki grilled meats and vegetables, karaage fried chicken, edamame beans, okonomiyaki savoury pancakes and yakisoba fried noodles as well as many lesser-known but no less tasty delicacies.
Walk Japan, the pioneer in guided walking tours to the nation, takes customers on journeys across Japan’s beautifully diverse landscapes into its rich culture and delectable gastronomy. Described by National Geographic as “one of the 200 Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”, the company leads the way in providing the most fulfilling and enjoyable tours available in Japan.
Detailed information about all of Walk Japan’s tours can be found on their website and on the Walk Japan Facebook page. Custom, private tours tailored to your particular interests and requirements can also be arranged.