Japanese tour operators serve up gastronomy packages

Luxury gastronomy tourism in Japan is expanding, with regions and operators launching new packages to cater for an expected uptick in affluent inbound travellers.

The Japanese government aims to increase annual spending by international tourists to five trillion yen (US$35.3 billion) as soon as possible, up from 4.8 trillion yen in 2019, by focusing on visitors who spend at least one million yen during a visit to Japan. This market equated to one per cent of all arrivals but 10 per cent of total inbound tourism spending in 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Japan hopes to increase annual spending by international tourists through travel packages offering unparalleled experiences, such as gastronomy

This fiscal year (until March 2024), the Japan Tourism Agency is subsidising 139 travel packages that offer unparalleled experiences, including in gastronomy, and targeting high-net-worth individuals. In Nara Prefecture, participants can dine on a meal typical of the court cuisine of the Asuka Period (592–710), after visiting historical sites dating from this period.

In the private sector, Japanticket is teaming up with Honda Motor to offer local, seasonal food and drink experiences in Toyama Prefecture for participants traveling from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport by private jet and helicopter.

Jacada Travel, based in the UK, offers a seven-day-six-night luxury gourmet tour of Tokyo and Kyoto for US$8,135 per person, promising exclusive cooking classes, market and street food tours, a sake brewery experience, and a traditional tea ceremony as well as luxury accommodation throughout and full support from a travel concierge.

Tokyo-based tour company Michi Travel Japan’s private eight-hour tour of the capital allows participants to sample everything from sashimi at Tsukiji, one of the world’s largest seafood markets, to traditional confections for 78,000 yen for two people (meals not included).

According to a recent study by Spin Genie, Japan has the third-highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world and the highest-number in Asia at 344 – this gives tour operators a wealth of high-end restaurants to choose from.

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