In recent years, we’ve become fascinated by the culinary traditions of our ancestors, evident in the many books and television series that have entered our homes. From Rick Stein’s celebrated cooking programs to more modern series, such as Chef’s Table, there is little doubt that we’re fascinated by food.
As a result, there is a high demand for culinary-focused holidays. A type of holiday that needs expertise and precision, luxury travel specialists at OROKO Travel are experts in tailoring culinary holidays around the world.
Without a doubt, Japan is one of the top destinations for culinary holidays. Having captured the hearts of foodies around the world, it is renowned for its sushi masters and ramen maestros. Divided into prefectures, each of its regions are home to a sensationally unique and bold culinary heritage. So, let’s take a culinary journey through Japan.
Have it all in Tokyo
Where all regions bring together their offerings in the celebrated restaurants and historic food markets, experience a truly magnificent insight into Japanese culinary identity in Tokyo. It boasts a selection of brilliant eateries of all kinds, from hole-in-the-wall ramen bars and hidden izakaya to exclusive sushi bars and next level fine-dining. With so much choice on offer, Tokyo allows you to tick all types of dishes off the list: ramen, katsu, soba, sushi, yakitori and tempura, a renowned Japanese cooking technique which was introduced by the Portuguese in Nagasaki in the 16th-century.
So, where does OROKO come in? Well, Tokyo is hard to navigate, and English isn’t widely spoken. OROKO tailor all holidays to Japan with English-speaking guides who will recommend lesser-known spots that only locals frequent, giving you the best opportunity to experience the best of Japanese cuisine. OROKO will also provide portable WiFi devices so that you never get lost, PASMO passes, maps and recommendations, as well as in-depth welcome orientations to give you the best start to your holiday.
OROKO recommend starting or finishing your luxury Japan holiday in Tokyo, spending at least three nights to get the best experience. Your dedicated travel specialist will arrange privately guided food tours and can also organise fun experiences like sushi making classes and tea ceremonies.
Experiencing Kaiseki in Kyoto and Hakone
Sit down to discover the centuries-old haute cuisine of kaiseki with the concept of omotenashi (hospitality) at its core. Firstly, let us set the scene. Often served in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, guests are seated at a chabudai table. The host, dressed in a traditional kimono, arrives with beautifully delicate and aesthetically pleasing dishes. From start to finish, enjoy nine, carefully selected courses served in a specific sequence that dates back to 16th-century tea ceremonies. A highly-organised dining tradition, kaiseki is the ultimate expression of Japanese cuisine. It defines the core principals of Japanese cooking: celebrating and respecting their native lands and the seasons.
Though Kyoto is said to be the birthplace of kaiseki, this magnificent experience can be enjoyed throughout Japan. OROKO has partnerships with some of the finest accommodations that specialise in kaiseki, Hakone Gora Byakudan being a particular favourite. Emilie Lynam, Marketing Manager at OROKO Travel, has very fond memories of staying in this traditional ryokan; “A particular highlight of our honeymoon in Japan was staying in Hakone Gora Byakudan. We loved the natural spring onsen, the traditional costume given to us on arrival and of course, the magnificent kaiseki meal. Each course was incredibly delicate and flavourful, a real expression of art.”
Make a kaiseki experience part of your luxury holiday by incorporating a stay in a traditional ryokan. OROKO recommend tailoring your holiday to start in futuristic Tokyo before escaping to mountainous Hakone for your kaiseki and hot spring onsen experience. From there, explore ancient Kyoto before finishing in the bright lights of Osaka.
Hokkaido: The ramen capital
Though it may have only recently become one of the most popular fast-food dishes in the world, the culinary history of ramen goes back a long time. After WWII, Japan was experiencing huge poverty issues and was finding it hugely difficult to feed its population. Businessman and inventor, Momofuku Ando, took it upon himself to find a hot dish that could easily feed the nation thanks to having a long shelf life, being quick to prepare and low-cost. After trial and error, Ando created his first instant ramen product known as Chiken Ramen. This humble invention led to Ando’s creation of top companies: Nissin Foods, Top Ramen and Cup Noodles, said to have sparked the popularity of this instant snack overseas.
Nowadays, there are two ways to enjoy ramen. The first being in that instant packet that Ando spent years creating, and secondly, and most rewardingly, in the magnificent hole-in-the-wall ramen bars that dot the cities and towns of Japan. So, where can you get the best ramen? Everyone you’ll ask will have a different preference, but most definitely, Hokkaido is one of the best destinations to enjoy a rich tonkotsu broth and expertly cut noodles.
OROKO has tailored a suggested Hokkaido Explorer itinerary that takes you from Seoul to Tokyo by rail. Start in South Korea’s capital to enjoy the beautiful landmarks and embark on a guided foodie tour before departing for Sapporo, the capital of Japan’s island of Hokkaido. Instantly delve into the food culture of the city on an evening food tour taking you to an authentic izakaya and for a hot bowl of Hokkaido ramen. In the morning, continue your exploration alongside your expert guide. Leave Sapporo for traditional ryokan experiences in Lake Shikotsu and Hakodate before taking the train to the futuristic city of Tokyo. Spend your final nights exploring the capital city’s highlights and culinary delights.
Embrace the bright lights of Osaka
A city defined by neon lights, street art and colourful buildings, Osaka is a characterful city that still manages to maintain and respect its ancient history. A culinary capital of Japan, it is the home of street food dishes like takoyaki (grilled octopus-style croquettes) and okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake commonly featuring cabbage, meat and seafood.
Best appreciated after sundown, stroll through Osaka’s lively streets of Dotonbori, a gallery of brightly lit shops and restaurants, where it is near impossible to refuse a delicious kushikatsu (fried, skewered meat), okonomiyaki or takoyaki at a local stall. Make sure to also sample its long-standing restaurants serving kitsune udon, a simple but flavourful dish consisting of udon noodles served in a hot soup and topped with deep fried tofu.
Wherever you choose to explore in Japan, OROKO Travel’s expertise will guarantee a seamless tailored luxury holiday. OROKO has partnerships with outstanding local guides and arranges comprehensive services that make a huge difference, from portable WiFi devices and transport passes to luggage forwarding services and private English-speaking guides.
This article was created in partnership with the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) as part of the Japan Endless Discovery campaign. OROKO is Ireland’s only dedicated luxury tailored travel business. A team of luxury travel agents passionate about the world who create experiential, personalised luxury holidays from Ireland. Having travelled far and wide to discover the world’s culinary hotspots, OROKO will tailor gastronomic experiences all over the world, from the food markets of Lisbon and Porto to the neon-lit streets of Tokyo and Osaka.
Visit www.orokotravel.ie or call 01-2600240