2022 Food Tour of Kyushu, Japan in Autumn
The 2022 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn is one of our most popular tour packages. This 14-day tour takes you on a gastronomic adventure through the Japanese island of Kyushu, fast-becoming Japan’s favourite foodie destination for its fresh organic produce and culinary innovation.
This tour includes 5 Jtte Special Experiences, some call them unique.
You will visit local makers of fine soy sauce and green tea, as well as experience traditional haute-cuisine at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Sophisticated fusion food is offered at a modern Japanese restaurant, and hearty local fare dished up by night-time yatai street vendors.
A visit to Kyushu in fall offers access to rich ceramic traditions, spectacular castles, and stunning natural environment ablaze in the colours of fall foliage. A fantastic culinary vacation to learn about Japan’s history and culture through the lens of its food. The influence of Kyushu’s long-standing connections with European and Asian traders will also be apparent in the food.
The 2022 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn is perfect for travellers keen to discover Japan that lies beyond the big cities, and for both first-time and repeat visitors seeking a comprehensive introduction to the world of washoku – Japan’s famous UNESCO-listed food.
The tour starts and ends in Kyushu Island. We highly recommend you spend a few more days of your own before or after the group tour to discover endless attractions of Japan in other areas especially if you are the first-time visitors to this country. Journey to the East will be delighted to plan your private itinerary and provide information to suit your interests.
Day 1: Arrival in Fukuoka
Fukuoka, the river city, is the fifth largest city of Japan, very vibrant and cosmopolitan. It has good access with an international airport and a JR shinkansen station. Journey to the East always advises its guests on the best way to get to Fukuoka from where you are. On your arrival in Fukuoka (whether that’s by rail or air), you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2022 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn.
Day 2: Fukuoka
You begin your exploration of Fukuoka. With a history going back some 2,000 years, Kyushu’s largest city has traditionally been at the centre of western Japan’s trading contact with its Asian neighbours. We pause at Kushida Shrine, where the vibrant Yamakasa Festival is based, then at Hakata Folk Museum and traditional-style shopping arcades selling local food products and traditional items. For lunch, "Hakata ramen" noodles are on the menu, arguably the most famous dish of Fukuoka, and we find out why the locals are so serious about their ramen. Tonight you enjoy a welcome dinner at a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant – an exquisite multi-course kaiseki banquet of seasonal local foods served in a traditional Japanese setting. A very fitting introduction to this 2022 Autumn Food Tour of Kyushu!
Day 3: Dazaifu
Today you visit the magnificent Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, which dates back to the 10th century. The shrine commemorates the life of a famous Kyoto poet-scholar who was exiled to Dazaifu but later deified as the god of literature and scholarship. We also visit Kyushu National Museum, particularly noteworthy for its informative overview of Japanese history within the context of the broader Asian region. JttE Special Experience #1! This evening you will have a chance to learn how to make Japanese food yourself. We will visit a cooking studio housed in a renovated traditional house in Fukuoka’s suburbs. Here a creative food expert will passionately pass on recipes of Japanese dishes, which you can recreate back at home.
Day 4: Yame
JttE Special Experience #2! Today, we make a day trip to Yame district and surrounds. Kyushu’s Yame district is one of Japan’s leading tea-producing areas and today we’ll have a rare opportunity to visit a centuries-old tea merchant and be hosted by its fourteenth generation owner to learn about the different varieties of green tea and how to brew the perfect cup of gyokuro (highest quality green tea). Later, we taste-test another famous Japanese beverage – sake. At a visit to an award-winning local sake brewer. A personal tour by brewery staff will reveal the end-to-end processes of sake production – a special experience to engage in first-hand and ask as many questions as you like. On return to Fukuoka, dinner tonight is another iconic slice of Hakata food culture – the yatai food cart. These mobile carts roll into the city in the evening and serve up delicious food cooked right in front of you. Seating only 10 people, the relaxed atmosphere, shared conversation, and delicious food make it an unmissable Hakata food experience.
Day 5: Itoshima
JttE Special Experience #3! Today could be the highlight of Food Tour of Japan in Autumn according to our past travellers. In the morning we set off for the Itoshima Peninsula and the coastal rural town of Itoshima, which is becoming a bit of a foodie haven. Young creative chefs have set up new restaurants specialising in local produce, and centuries-old production traditions are being revived by boutique makers focusing on niche quality product. We visit a fourth-generation-owned soy sauce brewery to learn about how this fundamental Japanese ingredient is made. On a beach right on the edge of the peninsula is a salt extraction farm. Here you will see the production of premium salt using traditional methods. We also visit a local farmers’ market to see the range of fresh produce available. For lunch we see how these local vegetables are transformed into deliciously tasty dishes. We chat with both the chef and farmers over lunch about their food and how to prepare typical Japanese condiments, such as tsukemono pickles. This evening, we will move forward to our next destination, the pretty coastal town of Karatsu. Here we enjoy a dinner banquet of seafood caught fresh from the Sea of Genkai.
Day 6: Karatsu
We take a walk along the scenic Nijino Matsubara beach this morning for some stunning sea views. The lunch today is at a nearby fishing village of Yobuko to taste its famous calamari tempura. Back in Karatsu, a visit to a beautifully preserved 19th century villa owned by one of Karatsu’s early traders is on the agenda. Also we inspect some of the exquisitely decorated floats used in the town’s annual festival, Karatsu Okunchi, designated a festival of national cultural importance. Dinner tonight is at a teppanyaki restaurant with juicy Wagyu beef.
Day 7: Arita and Imari
Today we focus on Japan’s ceramic traditions and the famous pottery towns of Arita and Imari. With its elaborate designs and influence from Chinese and Korean potters, Kyushu porcelain became highly sought after and popular both in Japan as well as Europe. Essential for the proper presentation of Japanese food, the ceramic dish is seen to be as integral a part of the culinary experience as the food itself. Today we visit some pottery kilns specializing in Arita-yaki, a highly decorated style using various colours, and Imari-yaki, a classic style traditionally using blue and white hues. Tonight you will stay at a traditional Japanese style inn, ryokan. It is located a typical onsen town of Ureshino. Enjoy the experience of onsen hot spring bath as well as sleeping on futon bedding on tatami mattress floor.
Day 8: Nagasaki
Today we will head to the picturesque city of Nagasaki. While forever marked by the atomic bomb attack on 9 August 1945, Nagasaki has a rich and cosmopolitan history. Before Japan shut itself off to the world for two centuries from 1641, Nagasaki was the centre of Japan’s early contact with Dutch, Portuguese and French missionaries and traders. It was also the gateway for visiting ships from China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. This heritage is still evident in the city today in its architecture, culture and particularly its cuisine. Over the next two days we sample both traditional and contemporary styles of Nagasaki cuisine and learn how outside influences have shaped its food culture. On this first day, we also visit the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum for a moving and sobering introduction to the events of that tragic day in August 1945. We then take in Dejima Museum to learn the background of this intriguing city. Nagasaki has a lot of influence by its close neighbour China and home of one of Japan's largest Chinatown. Tonight we enjoy a silver service Chinese dinner with a Nagasaki twist. Another claim to fame of Nagasaki is a night view. We will drive by Inasayama Outlook after dinner on a way back to your hotel.
Day 9: Nagasaki and Unzen
JttE Special Experience #4! Nagasaki has one of the largest catch of fish in Japan and today we start with a local fishmonger where you learn about the local fish trade and see how delicate slices of sashimi are prepared for Nagasaki’s restaurants – you will have the chance to taste freshly prepared sashimi dished up in front of you by the staff. This morning, we will also visit Glover Garden, where you can tour the Meiji-era residences of European settlers from the late 19th century. We will walk past Oura Catholic Church, which is Japan’s oldest wooden church which was built by French missionaries in 1865 and which remains a symbol of Nagasaki’s long connection with Europe. Lunch today is at a restaurant specialising in Shippoku cuisine, a unique Nagasaki cuisine combining Japanese, Chinese and local foods. After the lunch, our minibus will take us to our next destination Unzen on the Shimabara Peninsula. At Unzen, a guided walk through Unzen’s national park is where you can see active geothermal geysers and mud pools. You’ll see how man has harnessed nature’s power to create the heavenly hot springs experience tonight.
Day 10: Unzen and Shimabara
The ropeway ride up to Mt Unzen will reveal spectacular fall foliage in October. We then visit Mt Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall, a unique, high-tech museum which vividly captures the 1991 eruption of Mt Unzen. The last stop on the peninsula is Shimabara Castle, a five-storied feudal-era castle on a hilltop, to learn about Kyushu’s early samurai clans as well as the fascinating history of the Christian rebellion in the 17th century. In the late afternoon, we board a car ferry and cross to Kumamoto City. JttE Special Experience #5! Dinner tonight is at a Japanese 'Italian' fusion style restaurant, where we meet the local Japanese chef who is famous nationwide for his creative, beautifully presented dishes and the work he does to revive and promote heritage Kumamoto vegetables which were slowly disappearing from use.
Day 11: Kumamoto
Today you will have a day in the city of Kumamoto, in a middle of Kyushu. The first stop is a symbol of the city, Kumamoto Castle. Originally built in 1607, it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 2016. You will have a rare chance of witnessing its restoration work. You will also visit Kumamoto's sublime Suizenji Japanese Garden this morning. This afternoon and the evening are free for you to explore the city at your own pace. Kumamoto is a great place for shopping as well as trying many different styles of food from local cuisine to modern western style restaurants. Why not try an izakaya, casula Japanese style eatery, where you can taste many different small dishes (like tapas). Our guide will always assist our guests to choose what to do and eat.
Day 12: Aso
This morning, we head through some of the most scenic parts of Kyushu island, the Aso region. Mt Aso is one of the world’s largest calderas, and volcanic activity over the last 300,000 years has created a landscape which is visually striking: craggy volcanic peaks, dense forests, and lush grasslands. We will take a short helicopter ride to view the great crater from the sky. We then stop at a local Kuju Winery for a tasting and lunch. Tonight we will stay at a luxury onsen hotel at one of Japan's most popular onsen towns, Kurokawa Onsen. This will be the last chance to experience onsen on this trip, but you will be spoilt for choice. Dinner will be a kaiseki banquet at your hotel.
Day 13: Yufuin
After relaxing at your ryokan in Kurokawa Onsen, you will be back on the road for the last time on this tour. The last stop on the tour is the very popular town of Yufuin. It is picturesque from every angle, with autumn foliage around the pond, in the mountains and gardens. After strolling the back streets together, you will have some free time to sample endless array of interesting snacks sold on the main streets. Back in Fukuoka, we meet in the evening for a farewell dinner, an exquisite sushi banquet. It will bring together all the elements of Kyushu food culture discovered along our journey – from its seas, mountains, rivers, and plains – reaffirming the fantastically diverse nature of its food and geography. Although the 2022 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn is coming to an end the farewell dinner tonight is truly something special awaiting us .
Day 14: Fukuoka and Bon Voyage
This morning, you will check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2022 Food Tour of Japan in Autumn concludes. You can fly out from Fukuoka, or return by air or train to the international airports in Tokyo or Osaka. Perhaps you might like to linger in Japan for a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan. Please see our Extension Model Itineraries for inspiration! Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.
- 13 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Meals as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Most cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer on the last day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
We found this a great tour for foodies, as well as a great all round introduction to southern Japan for anyone. While the meals were excellent, we were pleased to find that the tour wasn’t just about food, but also about Japan’s history, landscape, language and artisan tradition.