If you’re looking to really experience a travel destination, there are few things more immersive than trying out the local cuisine. It can, however, often be difficult to find the real local varieties if you’re not familiar with the location. Japan is home to a wide variety of food specialties, if you know how to find them. Amidst the historic beauty of Kyoto, JD Kai food tour can help you sample some of Japan’s classic dishes, as well as some Japanese takes on specialties from other countries. With a friendly guide and a wealth of knowledge, you’ll enjoy a day of exploration and eating.
Make your way to a quiet neighborhood in KyotoOnce you set up your tour, you’ll need to make your way out to the Fushimi area of Kyoto. The JR line will take you straight where you want to go from just about anywhere in Kyoto. If you’re used to the larger parts of Kyoto and Tokyo, you’ll immediately feel the small town vibe. The train station is small, and there is little fanfare. This part of Kyoto is definitely not a general tourist area. It is quiet and can be a nice break from the busy tourist sections of Kyoto. Luckily, your guide will meet you at the train station, so you won’t need to worry about finding your way alone. As you wander and taste your way through the area, you’ll find small shops and sites that are well off the beaten path.
A friendly guide makes a world of differenceYour guide for the tour, Jason, will meet you at the station to start the tour. Jason is a native English speaker from Minneapolis, but has been living in Japan for 13 years. The food tour is actually a walk through his neighborhood visiting many of the shops he regularly frequents. Jason had the idea that people visiting Japan might enjoy experiencing Japanese cuisine the same way he does. In this way, you not only get a knowledgeable guide, you also get one who is friendly with the local shopkeepers. The easy rapport he has with the folks at the shops you’ll visit makes the tour feel much more friendly. You’ll feel more like guests and less like a tour group, which makes everything more relaxed. Jason was able to answer a ton of questions for our group about food, customs, and daily life in Japan. The groups stay fairly small, ours was only 6 people, so that each tour feels personal. Jason is easy to talk to, and he’d go out of his way to make sure that the group is comfortable and having fun. If you’ve been a part of tour groups before, you know how important the demeanor of the tour guide is, and Jason made us all feel welcome.
Traditional flavors and knowledgeOur JD Kai food tour started with a taste of traditional tempura. The version we sampled is actually a deep fried fish paste that could be prepared with additional seafood mixed in. It was crispy and golden brown, but very different from the tempura vegetables and shrimp I’d tried elsewhere. I knew we were off to a good start. As we made our way through the open air shopping streets, this was a theme that repeated itself. We were able to try a number of dishes that I might have never thought to order. We sampled tamagoyaki (rolled omelet) with freshwater eel at the center, sashimi from fish caught just that morning, a number of pickled vegetables, fresh matcha, and more. It felt like going to a friend’s favorite restaurant and having them order for you. Some of the dishes may feel a bit adventurous, but everything we tried was delicious. We also learned about the long process of making and serving tea, and a number of dining customs. We were even able to try a Japanese take on French croquettes. The tour lasts about 3 hours, and everyone left full and happy.
An insider's guide
There is no shortage of delicious food in Kyoto, and it can be found just about everywhere. That said, the JD Kai food tour feels intimate and and introduces you to places and tastes that it would be far too easy to miss in a busy city. If you’re the kind of traveler who loves experiencing culture through cuisine, you’ll be right at home here. You’ll visit family owned shops that have been open for generations, and taste things that have been prepared and eaten in this region for even longer. In short, if you’re looking for a real taste of old Japan, contact Jason and let him introduce you.
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