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Kansai Region, Japan Meet the locals

Our most recommended Kansai Region, Japan Meet the locals

Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

1. Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

Start your tea ceremony experience by entering through the main gates of the Jotoku-ji Temple. You will pass the entrance to the Grand Tearoom on your left and a shop next to it and meet at the nearby red benches where your guide awaits. Whilst walking through the temple you are free to admire the architecture and stand by the purification fountain. Weather permitting, you are free to sit at the red benches and for a break. In the event of rain you can stand outside under the gable of the shop or wait in the Grand Tearoom. Once you have finished perusing the temple or sitting on the red benches taking in the atmosphere you are able to enter the Grand Tearoom where your instructor waits for you.  Start your tour of the Temple with a traditional purification ritual, a completely unique and insightful experience for Western visitors. Afterwards you will remove your shoes at the entrance of the Grand Tearoom and in your group, proceed inside to take your seat. Get the chance to sample matcha tea at its best. The Tea Master will guide you throughout, showing and explaining every step of the way. Throughout the ceremony you will be taught the fine art of drinking matcha tea and learn about the importance of the ceremony.

Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

2. Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

You will take you place on the tatami, the traditional Japanese floor mat and be met by your English-speaking host, who is a licensed tea master from Urasenke, the biggest school of tea ceremony in Japan. Watch as the host carries out the ceremonial preparation of matcha, powdered green tea. Then, you will have the chance to make tea yourself, while the host informs you about the history and spiritual role of the tea ceremony and the effects each tea-making method has on its flavor. Afterwards, savor some traditional Japanese sweets Once the ceremony has come to a close, you will have the chance to take photos and see examples of kimonos and beautiful woven textiles made in the Nishijin district of Kyoto. If you'd like to wear a kimono during the experience, you can select it as an add-on during booking and take photos to remember the experience.

Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

3. Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

Explore the Gion district by night with an experienced English, German, French, or Spanish-speaking tour guide who knows everything there is to know about the area. The tour starts near Kamo river, where you’ll learn about how the tradition of Geishas came to be. After a short stroll along a busy commercial street, you’ll slip into a calm, quiet area to visit the Yasaka Jinja shrine. After that touch of education, it’s off to the Gion.   The Gion has secrets and history scattered across its narrow streets, but this is also a modern entertainment district—so it’s time for a deep dive into what goes on here. Your guide will keep it light and fun, and explain some of the more interesting cultural mores of these parts. Step into a restaurant and graze from a multitude of small plates at a sort of Japanese-style tapas experience. Enjoy a drink as well before continuing on.   Between restaurant stops, there will be an exploration of Kiyamachi, Ponto-cho, and some other commercial and nightlife streets. Your guide will show you both modern and historical Kyoto, painting a well-rounded picture that gives you a real sense of the place. This tour keeps the groups small and includes your food and drinks, so that you can have a carefree night like you’re simply hanging out with someone who knows the neighborhood. A delicious Kobe (or nearby sourced) Beef option is available on top of the usual food and drink. This option is for bookings at least 10 hours in advance.

Osaka: Shinsekai Food Tour

4. Osaka: Shinsekai Food Tour

Explore the hidden gem of Shinsekai with your guides and discover the real Osaka. Osaka’s Shinsekai district is a vibrant place combining modern and traditional cuisine. Fill your belly with some of the best food you will have in Japan. Discover hidden, original establishments which have been chosen by two local expert guides. Wander in and around the markets that serve traditional Osakan food for an authentic local experience.  Make your way to the first eatery, a takoyaki, or battered octopus balls, stall. Then visit an Izakaya restaurant and sample some authentic Osakan kitsune Udon along with japanese style chicken wings. Also taste the locally invented kushikatsu, which are lightly deep-fried vegetables, meats and seafood on skewers. Head off the beaten path and visit a cosy, traditional Japanese restaurant you will get dishes of mouthwatering nikudoufu or beef and tofu stew, original yakitori or skewered beef assortments, plus an alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverage. Then visit specialized delicious gyoza dumpling establishment. The last dishes of the night will be at a unique Japanese eatery. Enjoy a tonpeiyaki, or pork omelette plus an abundance of edamame and karaage, Japanese fried chicken with spices. Another drink of your choice here is included. Finish off the night at a market eating Japanese castella cake shaped as the local mascot of Shinsekai.

Nara Like a Local: Customized Guided Tour

5. Nara Like a Local: Customized Guided Tour

Your guide will meet you at your accommodation and help you get familiar with the neighborhood, show you the best places to eat and shop and tell you about the easiest ways to get around. Choose a 2, 3 or 4-hour tour, and by the end you’ll have all the information you need to make the most of your stay. After booking you’ll be sent some questions so that you’re paired with a local guide based on your interests. The tour is completely customized so you can choose the meeting location and the starting time. During the walking tour you’ll have the option of taking public transportation or a taxi to get around the city (at your expense). Hear what it’s like to live in Nara, learn about cultural differences, local events and politics and get to know your guide on a personal level.

Kyoto : 3-Hour Bar Hopping Tour in Pontocho Alley at Night

6. Kyoto : 3-Hour Bar Hopping Tour in Pontocho Alley at Night

Meet your guide at the Izumo no Okuni statue at Gion Shijo Station, then set off for an exciting bar crawl through some of Kyoto’s best venues and hidden gems. The tour focuses on the vibrant Pontocho Alley, famous for its exhilarating nightlife and bursting with local bars offering specialty drinks and tasty dishes. Throughout the tour your local guide will ensure you have the most exciting and authentic experience. All tour guides have either grown up in Kyoto or spent extensive time living here, meaning they know everything there is to know about the area and its nightlife. The first stop is at a local tavern known as an ‘izakaya’ bar where you can try unique drinks such as matcha/green tea beer, matcha sake, and a Kyoto style tempura. Next, head onto the second and third spots of the night which you will decide upon as a group depending on your interests and your guide’s knowledgeable recommendations. At the bars, taste more traditional Kyoto beverages and delicacies, as well as soaking up the unique atmosphere of Pontocho Alley and mingling with the locals.

Osaka: Guided Pub Crawl

7. Osaka: Guided Pub Crawl

Experience the nightlife of Osaka throughout an exciting pub crawl. You can meet new people as you visit various bars and clubs, mingling with your fellow crawlers. Avoid the need to plan your night and avail of the services of a fun guide with good local knowledge. You will typically start the night in a relaxed bar with space to sit down to get to know each other, enjoying a free shot and getting the chance to win some free drinks. Things will heat up at the 2nd bar, with more music and some games and activities to get to know your fellow participants. Next, continue to a 3rd bar with space to dance and a table to sit down at if you prefer. Then it will be time to make your way to a club to end the night on the dance floor. You can stay until closing time at 5:00AM if you want to mix with the locals, who will start arriving at around 12:30AM if you want to see how they have fun. You may even get invited to an after party if any are available, which they often are.

Osaka: Full-Day Private Guided Walking Tour

8. Osaka: Full-Day Private Guided Walking Tour

Enjoy an exciting full-day walking tour of Osaka accompanied by a guide and explore Japan's second-largest city. See the modern and traditional sides of this colorful, dynamic metropolis. Start your day meeting your guide at your hotel, and embark on your customized tour. See Osaka Castle, rebuilt after being destroyed in the sieges of the 17th century. Stroll through Kuromon Ichiba Market amid the booming voices of Osaka merchants. Snack on various local foods. Have lunch in the traditional working class Shinsekai area. Choose your must-see spots, create your own itinerary, and enjoy your own unique Osaka experience. Learn all about your favorite spots from your knowledgeable guide.

Kyoto Nishiki Market Food Tour

9. Kyoto Nishiki Market Food Tour

Your experience will include stops at family owned stalls and shops which have stood the test of time. At a few of the stops sample specialty products like tsukemono (vegetables from the surrounding mountains preserved in vinegar), yuuba (the world’s smoothest sashimi tofu made from the world famous Kyoto mountain water), Kamaboko (seafood preserved in fish paste), Tako (Octopus with quail egg) and Macha Warabi Mochi (a special traditional sweet covered in ground tea leaves). During the tour learn detailed information about the ingredients of different Japanese dishes, how their food is prepared and what is used to eat it. Your experience will do more than just give you a chance to taste Kyoto’s delicious food but will also give you a sense the history and atmosphere of the Nishiki Market experienced by the Japanese for generations. You will be consumed with physical and visual stimuli every step of the way and enjoy stories from the past told directly from shopkeepers and families you will spend time with. After your market exploration walk to a nearby restaurant and have a course lunch featuring beautiful and delicious local dishes.

Kyoto: Afternoon Japanese Izakaya Cooking Class

10. Kyoto: Afternoon Japanese Izakaya Cooking Class

Join an afternoon Izakaya cooking class to enjoy a great way to immerse yourself in Japanese dining culture as well as learn authentic Japanese foods that are eaten at home and in local restaurants. The cooking course consists of two parts. First, you will cook 2 or 3 dishes together with your chef and enjoy them. Then you will return to the kitchen and learn 2 or 3 more dishes before eating once more. As in many Izakaya (over the counter) restaurants, be ready to talk with your chef while cooking and eating at the same time. 

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What people are saying about Kansai Region, Japan

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 14 reviews

Nara is a great little town and this food and drink tour really does it justice, walking through the really atmospheric old quarter sampling its homegrown sake, beer, sushi and ramen. I had a fun afternoon exploring with Remi, a Frenchman who lives here, speaks fluent English and really knows his stuff. If I'd have had more time I'd have done one of his bike tours too.

It was an absolute splendid few hours!! Nia did an incredible job at showing me around, showing me the most interesting and beautiful parts of Nara. She had interesting tidbits and information about everything and clearly knows her way around the city! This was absolutely with its money and I'm so glad I did this tour.

We had a wonderful (afternoon) lunch at Nishiki Market. You should definitely be hungry, because you will taste many different typical Japanese dishes. Our guide was really great! Since we were there off-season, there were only three of us and we were able to ask a lot of questions and talked a lot about our countries.

My guides have been excellent- warm, gives wonderful insights into Kyoto culture and cuisine, very polite and excellent service!

thank you for your flexibility and guidance. much appreciated!