Mayor of Ichinoseki
Meeting the mayor of Ichinoseki (Photo by Alfie Goodrich / Japanorama.co.uk)

The Japanese government has a cool new program where they’ve certified five regions of the country as Savor Japan. This means they produce the best food or food products in the world and they only come from that specific area in the country. It’s an initiative to drive tourism to those areas not normally visited by foreign tourists and to appeal to the new wave of foodie travelers.


After a great Cathay Pacific Business Class flight from LAX to HKG and from HKG to NRT, I arrived in Tokyo and met with the press group. Our first adventure was a bullet train ride from Tokyo to the city of Ichinoseki in the Iwate prefecture. This is the land of mochi and we visited the Honederamura Shoen Iseki cultural center to help make some. This area, preserved as it has existed since feudal times was fascinating to visit. I got to pound some mochi and then we had a very formal, very traditional mochi-centric lunch.

 

The first night we stayed overnight in a small Japanese inn, called the Kajiya Annex Ramakko Wildcat and had a fun group dinner with local dignitaries. The next day we visited two temples in the Hiraizumi region, the Motsuji Temple and the Chusonji Temple. From there we headed into the mountains for a visit to Tsuruoka in Yamagata prefecture. We participated in Yamabushi monk ceremonies in the woods and stayed overnight at the Saikan Shinto shrine at Mount Haguro. This is part of the three sacred mountains of Dewa. At the temple guest house, we had a traditional shojin ryori vegetarian monk’s meal, which included copious amounts of sake and beer.

Our final stop was the island of Hokkaido and while it may best known for oysters and seafood, we explored the beef, dairy products and wine produced there. We stayed at a very cool onsen or spa in Tokachi, complete with our own hot tubs on balconies overlooking the snowy landscape. The next day we did wine tasting at the Ikeda Wine Castle and also visited a cheese factory. We even did a snowmobile sled ride through the snow. From there it was back to Tokyo for final meetings and the end of our group press tour adventure.

Cheese in Japan
We visited a cheese factory in Tokachi

After the food adventure, I spent a few luxurious days in Tokyo. First, I stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo. If you’ve read my articles you know I love the Shangri-La brand and this property was just wonderful. Beautiful, modern Asian design, beyond five-star service and a great central Tokyo location right next to Tokyo Station. I had a great dinner at Piacere, their celebrated Italian restaurant and interviewed Chef Andrea Ferrero.

luxury hotel in Tokyo
Beautiful in-room amenity at the Shangri-La Tokyo


And after the Shangri-La I headed over to the InterContinental Tokyo Bay to stay for my last night in Japan. I took the airport bus (which stops at the InterContinental) to Narita and headed to my next adventure in Hong Kong.

InterContinental Tokyo Bay
My view of Tokyo from my room

Rainbow Bridge tokyo
My view of Rainbow Bridge