Experience traditional Buddhist food culture at a historic 600-year-old temple, located in a charming town known for its breweries. Get to know the small-town community with a local guide!
Join us for an unforgettable day exploring less traveled parts of the charming Japanese countryside near Kyoto, where you’ll discover a rich Buddhist food culture and beloved centuries-old breweries. Led by a knowledgeable local guide, this tour offers an immersive experience of rural Japan’s history, culture, and cuisine, preserved for centuries in this area.
The highlight of the tour is a cooking workshop at Myorakuji Temple, where you’ll learn to make otoki ryori, a type of Buddhist cuisine, traditionally served at various ceremonies, particularly of the Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land sect). Under guidance from the head priest’s wife, you’ll gain hands-on experience preparing seasonal ingredients and learn about the significance of food in Buddhist practices.
Starting at JR Maibara Station (accessible by shinkansen), our guide will take you on a 24-minute train ride north to JR Kinomoto Station, and walk to Myorakuji to start the cooking. The temple buildings are registered as a national tangible cultural heritage, providing a uniquely special setting for our activities.
In Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, otoki is a term used to refer to the meals that people prepare and share during Buddhist memorial services. While it is based on shojin ryori, or Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, otoki ryori is more varied and adaptive to contemporary life, often including some animal products. The true goal of this dietary practice is to appreciate the importance of receiving the gift of life through eating. Ingredients used are fresh locally-grown vegetables, many of which are given as offerings by local temple visitors, as well as the temple’s homemade fermented products such as miso and pickles, soy sauce and sake from local breweries.
The flexible nature of otoki ryori allows us to cater to vegetarians, vegans, or any special dietary needs upon request. Please feel free to inform us of any such needs, and we will be more than happy to accommodate them.
After enjoying the meal made at the workshop, we’ll go on a walking tour, visiting 1 or 2 sake breweries, both among the 5 oldest operating in Japan, as well as a traditional soy sauce brewery. You may see some of the same ingredients that were used in the cooking workshop.
Kinomoto is a charming old brewery town blessed with an abundant local freshwater source. As a former lodging stop along a historic Edo period trail, the town has retained much of its original charm without catering heavily to tourism, but rather by sustaining its local family-run business community that has thrived here for centuries. Whereas many sake tours in Japan cater to large groups and teach sake-making basics, our tour is focused more on the actual community and history of these local brewers. So we can meet the staff of these family-owned operations, try samples at a couple of the stops (note: sake and alcohol samples restricted to guests age 20 or older), and aside from the winter brewing season, guests are usually invited to take a peek behind the storefront at the actual brewing areas at two of our stops (Yamaji Shuzo & Daiko Shoyu)
We’ll also visit the area’s other interesting spots, such as a large local Buddhist temple at the heart of local culture, and local shops such as traditional confectioneries and bakeries. Your guide will help you discover all of the local charm of this small, yet bustling traditional community.
About Our Guides
We value real local culture. So, we rely on guides who are from the area and have strong local knowledge to guide you. Rather than simply introducing sightseeing spots, guides involved in the community can act as mediators and create opportunities to experience the values and communal ties that have brought prosperity to this charming little town since ancient times.
About Kinomoto Town
Kinomoto-juku is one of Japan’s shukuba-machi (medieval lodging towns along Japan’s historic travel routes) in Nagahama, Shiga, where some of the original centuries-old traditional businesses are still operating today. Breweries for sake and soy sauce were particularly successful here thanks to an abundant underground source of pure water from the Ibuki Mountain Range. Located right at the junction of North, East, and West Japan, this area has cold winters ideal for sake production, and also served as a shukuba trade hub, with ready access to local ingredients.
Situated on the Hokkoku Kaido, meaning the northern Japan trail, the town embodies a unique blend of northern and central Japanese cultures. Much of this local culture and historical charm is still seen here still today, as it has been largely preserved, including local family businesses which have continued traditional operations, without being transformed into tourist attractions.
Meet Local People
Myorakuji Temple (cooking workshop venue)
This temple was built around 600 years ago, and has since been cared for by 37 generations of head priests. Noriko Fujitani, the wife of the current head priest, together with other women of the community are also engaged in various activities to preserve local area food culture. In particular, they are focusing energy on a local food workshop, introducing authentic recipes of this area, using fresh vegetable, miso, pickles, etc. In this tour, they introduce the depth of local Japanese cooking as well as recipes you can try back at home!
Daiko Shoyu (soy sauce brewery)
Established in 1852, Daiko Shoyu has been operating as a family business for 6 generations. Kensuke Osugi is the current successor. Most soy sauce breweries now rely on modern production methods, but Daiko has continued using strictly traditional methods, which is quite rare nowadays. At the brewery, you’ll have a chance to sample a few of their sauces, and to learn a bit about which sauces to use for different dishes.
Yamaji Shuzo (sake brewery)
Founded in 1532, Yamaji Shuzo is said to be the fourth oldest sake brewery still existing in Japan. The brewery and storefront both occupy a beautiful old traditional building. Yuko Yamaji, the wife of the current 13th generation successor, provides us with tastings of some of these different sakes in this tour (age 20 and over).
Tomita Shuzo (sake brewery)
Founded in 1534, Tomita Shuzo is said to be the fifth oldest sake brewery in Japan, after Yamaji Brewery. Their famed sake brand, Shichihonyari (lit. Seven Spears), has won high acclaim both here and abroad and they’re known for integrating a creative edge with respected traditions. The current master, Yasunobu Tomita, believes in local sourcing, making sake with almost all local ingredients from rice to water, for sake that’s both delicious and environmentally conscious. Sake pairing for the tour’s lunch meal is available from this brewery.
Tsuruya Pan (bakery)
Founded in 1951, this bakery sells freshly baked breads, sweets, juice, coffee, etc. Beloved by locals, some locals have been coming here for three generations. The shop was founded by Hidetoshi Nishimura, who anticipated the post-war American influence on food culture, and seeing that the town lacked a bakery, decided to open his own, which soon became a local landmark.
- Meeting point is JR Maibara Station but your guide will conclude the tour at Kinomoto Station
- Seasonal operation: year around
- Suitable for all ages. No strenuous activities.
- This one-day course starts at 10 am.
- Since the tour includes meals, it is necessary to inform of any allergies, but please inform in advance of any and all food allergies for all your attendees.
- Sake pairing option is available for an extra ¥3,000 per group. See options below for details.
- For child participants, please ensure that those under age 18 are accompanied by an adult. Adult rates start from 13 years old.
- If participating with two or more adults and youth(s) under 13, the youth fee is ¥8,000 per person. However, in case of only one adult and one youth, the adult price (¥22,000) still applies.
- Attendance is free for children up to six years old, who do not participate in cooking (However, as there is a 2-guest minimum attendance, in case of 1 adult and 1 child, the adult price is applied for two)
- Heat and cutting are used. Please be careful when small children participate.
- We strongly recommend purchasing appropriate travel insurance in advance. Although minimal insurance is included (ask for details).
- Professional bilingual (EN/JA) guide
- Temple cooking workshop
- Lunch meal
- All admission
- Sake & soy sauce tasting (1 each)
- All train fares (but covered by JR Pass if you have)
- Souvenirs, snacks, etc.
Meet your guide right at the ticket gate of JR Maibara Station. By bullet train, Maibara is 1 stop east (20 min) from Kyoto. The guide will then join you for a short local train ride to Kinomoto, the actual tour site (fare paid by customers, but covered by JR Pass if you have one). The tour will conclude at Kinomoto Station.
Pricing for this private tour is determined by the size of your group, and any optional activities. Basic pricing is as follows:
Standard Private Course
|Price per Person
|¥26,000 per person
|¥22,000 per person
|4 – 6 people
|¥18,000 per person
Options & Additions
Additional fees apply, but vary by time & group size (final cost will be confirmed before finalizing reservation). Please mention in comment field of reservation form to add options, or feel free to ask us for more details about any of them!
- 1 sake bottle paired with the lunch meal (+3,000 yen) Sake pairing option is available for an extra ¥3,000 per group. Noriko san, the cooking instructor is also a sake lover and will select a nice one to complement the meal from Tomita Shuzo, one of the town’s breweries.