5 luxury food experiences in Japan

Japanese cuisine is revered the world over – it’s not difficult to see why. There are informal yatai (street food stalls) selling yakitori (skewered chicken) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), high-end establishments with delicate kaiseki multi-course meals, and sushi made by master itamae (sushi masters)… and that’s not even starting on those hearty bowls of ramen and gently spiced tonkatsu curries.

It’s safe to say, you won’t go hungry in Japan, but while you’re never far from a good meal, there are some foodie experiences that are particularly special. Here are five of our favourites.

1. Kaiseki cooking with a Michelin star chef

Where better to take a cookery class that in the city with the most Michelin stars in the world? Learn the basics of kaiseki with the help of a top chef in Tokyo. These multi-course meals, made up of lots of picture perfect, seasonal small dishes, are often served in high-end restaurants and traditional ryokan (Japanese inns). With an explanation of the dinner etiquette and culinary history, it’s also a (delicious) lesson in Japanese culture.

2. Evening with a sake expert

Good meals taste a little better with a complementary drink, but where to start with Japan’s extensive sake repertoire? An evening with an expert will help you distinguish the average from the exceptional. Learn about the history and the production process, and spend an evening sipping samples from delicate sake cups to find a favourite. Order a bottle before you depart – arriving home to find it waiting will ease those post-holiday blues.

3. Oysters and Chablis on Miyajima

With Itsukushima shrine’s “floating” vermilion torii gate, the striking five-storied Toyokuni pagoda, and the sacred Mount Misen in the distance, a trip to the island of Miyajima is a must when visiting Japan. Once you’ve photographed the torii gate, strolled around the market, and met a friendly deer or two, fill up on some local fare. Miyajima is famous for oysters, so take a seat, pour a chilled glass of Chablis, and tuck in whilst watching the sun set over the lapping waves of the Seto Inland Sea below.

4. Make Japanese confectionery with a pâtissier

Those harbouring a sweet tooth should look no further than a class in the art of wagashi. These Japanese sweets are colourful and intricate little works of art with designs that reflect the seasons. While it may seem unlikely looking at them, it is possible to create your own masterpieces in a top-notch Tokyo confectionery shop under the (watchful) eye of the resident pâtissier. At the end of the class, you’ll sit down to try your creation with a cup of tea, as is customary – a custard cream will never look the same again.

5. Kobe beef

The highly revered wagyu beef can be found under various guises outside Japan, but we can guarantee it won’t taste as good as the real deal in the city of Kobe. Kobe beef, produced from Tajima cattle in Hyōgo Prefecture, is legendary for its tender, marbled appearance and rich, melt in the mouth flavour. With a registered trademark and rigorous quality checks, it is unique to this area. When in the city, make a reservation at the best beef restaurant you can find; whether you go for steak, teppenyaki, or sashimi, it’s worth every penny.

Alastair Donnelly is Director at InsideAsia Tours.

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