Come with us on a journey along the old highway Saba-kaido to Obama, Asia’s Original Gateway to Japan and Kyoto.
- Explore the Saba Kaido, a 76km-long transport road that connects Fukui Prefecture’s Obama City (known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’) with Kyoto, Japan’s ancient former capital
- A relatively unknown destination just two hours from Kyoto, Obama is the ideal location for those who would like to experience authentic Japanese life at the end of their city adventure
- Obama exchanged more than just food with Kyoto, and today the area is a unique town where traditional performing arts rarely seen in Kyoto still take place, making it the ideal location to learn more about the origins of Japanese culture
- Participants have the opportunity to experience Obama’s rich food culture for themselves, with plenty of chances to try fresh seafood straight from the Sea of Japan, Kyoto traditional-style vegetables, unique fermented delicacies and local sushi
- Boasting rich natural heritage, visitors will have the chance to enjoy the beauty of the area’s coast and mountains
- While the area’s main selling point is its marine produce, visitors can also learn more about Obama’s agricultural produce and history of fermentation, including sushi, vinegar, sake and a special dish made from fermented mackerel
- Participants can immerse themselves in Japan’s natural beauty as they take part in a wealth of outdoor activities such as cycling, walking, kayaking and trekking along the Saba Kaido
- This tour features a unique opportunity to interact with and hear fro the locals who live and thrive in the small coastal area along the Sea of Japan
- Visitors can experience authentic Japanese life and fully immerse themselves in it
- Travel along the Saba Kaido – the famous road that connects the historical Kyoto with the culinary delights of Obama – by bicycle, trekking and car
- Visit Kumagawa-juku, a post town formed along the Saba Kaido in 1589 that welcomed a constant stream of travellers to its busy streets
- Learn about the area’s rich history of fermentation as you watch the production process of a vinegar used for sushi rice and enjoy a special product tasting session
- Experience a traditional Geisha performance in Obama Nishigumi, at a restaurant that once served the bustling market of Kitamae boat traders
- On the first day of the tour, take a pilgrimage by bicycle to the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples of Obama to experience the spirituality of Japan first-hand and take part in worship
- Learn the meditative art of Ajikan at Myotsuji Temple, then enjoy a peaceful Japanese tea ceremony experience whilst looking out upon the temple’s beautiful Japanese garden
- After a morning Zazen meditation experience, the second day of cycling is dedicated to an exploration of Obama’s food culture
- Take a stroll around the city’s Western area, where traditional buildings still stand preserved and enjoy a tour of an old ‘Okiya’, the traditional lodging where Geisha lived, worked and trained under the watchful eye of the lodging’s ‘mother’
- Try your hand at traditional Japanese crafts, making chopsticks, Japanese paper and more
- Learn about a unique fermented local delicacy and interact with local artisans in the fishing village of Tagarasu, then spend the night in a fisherman’s inn
- Enjoy a sea kayaking experience at Ano, another nearby fishing village
- As you trek along the historical Saba Kaido, enjoy the beautiful nature and imagine the path as it was during the height of its use as a method of transporting seafood to Kyoto
- Take a tour of a local Obama sake brewery and enjoy a special tasting experience
- Take a tour of Miyama, a beautiful rural village where thatched houses still stand and the slow and traditional Japanese lifestyle can still be enjoyed
- Visit Ohara, the village famous for producing the vegetables used and eaten in Kyoto, and try your hand at pickling and cooking the produce
The tour begins at Kyoto Station, where we will meet for a short briefing and introductions before taking the subway to Imadegawa Station. Here, there will be a chance to explore the Demachi Masugata Shopping Street – a covered shopping street filled with interesting shops and food vendors that marks the end of the Saba Kaido.
After a short exploration, we will travel to Kumagawa-juku post town by car to enjoy lunch and a walking tour before a visit to Tobaya, where we will be learning more about the vinegar making process and even tasting some samples at the Tobaya Vinegar Brewery.
In the evening, we will check in to our accommodation in Obama Nishigumi and spend some time relaxing before dinner, which will be served at a nearby traditional Japanese-style restaurant. As a special treat, we will be joined for our meal by a real, practicing Geisha who will perform a routine and spend some time interacting with us in a rare opportunity that few travellers to Japan ever get to experience.
Day two begins with an optional early morning walk along the beach towards the local fish market, where we can watch a live fish auction and explore the stalls before traveling back to our accommodation via the Wakasa Obama Fish Centre and beach, arriving back just in time for breakfast.
From there, the first cycling expedition of the tour begins. Starting at Obama Station – which marks the beginning of the Saba Kaido – we will explore the best examples of Obama’s rich traditions and spiritual history with visits to Wakasahime Jinja Shrine, Wakasahiko Jinja Shrine and Jinguji Temple, where we will have a chance to learn about the history of the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism, as well as the Omizuokuri Festival.
After enjoying lunch in an old Japanese House Cafe, we will continue our day of exploration with an Ajikan meditation and tea ceremony experience at Myotsuji Temple and a visit to see the beautiful Japanese garden at Mantokuji Temple before returning to our accommodation for some free time before dinner.
We’ll be cycling again on day three, this time in order to fully discover the food culture of Obama. Starting at Bukkokuji Temple for a Zen meditation experience, we will then take a tour of the Miketsukuri Wakasa Obama Food Culture Museum to learn about the history of Japanese cuisine and to enjoy some crafts, such as making chopsticks, creating traditional Japanese Washi Paper, or creating fake food.
From the museum, we will then cycle on to the small fishing village of Tagarasu, where we will meet a traditional ‘Heshiko’ (fermented mackerel) producer and learn how to make ‘Narezushi’, a fermented type of sushi. You will then have the chance to try these local delicacies during lunch, which will be served at a nearby restaurant.
After lunch we will enjoy a special boat trip, providing a great opportunity to tour the landscape from a new perspective and even enjoy feeding some of the mackerel living in the waters below.
An especially active day, today will begin with a cycle to the village of Ano to enjoy some kayaking along the Ano Bay. Next, will then cycle past the beautiful rice terraces and castle ruins to Obama to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
There will then be a tour of Hotoro-Okiya – a preserved Meiji Era restaurant – before we visit the Wakasa History Museum, which hosts an exhibit on local festivals known as ‘matsuri’. From there, we will then return our bikes and enjoy some free time before dinner, which will be served at a local Italian-style restaurant.
We’ll begin day five of the tour with a drive to the Kaminegori Hamlet, from which point we can start to hike along the Saba Kaido. After a short break at the Harihata Toge Pass, we will continue on to the Onyu Toge Pass, where we will stop to enjoy a bento boxed lunch.
After lunch we will travel to the nearby Obama Shuzo Sake Brewery by car to tour the facilities, learn about sake brewing and even taste some of the products made there.
Our final visit of the day will be to Tsuchimikado Shinto Honcho Shrine, where we will spend some time walking around the grounds and immersing ourselves in Japanese spirituality before driving to Miyama to check in to our accommodation.
On our last full day of the tour, we will enjoy a walking tour of the preserved thatch village of Kayabuki-no-Sato before lunch. After lunch, we will then drive to Ohara, where we can visit a Ponzu Sauce shop.
The main event of the day is a chance for a truly hands-on, rural experience. We’ll be harvesting vegetables and learning about the pickling process (with a chance for some cooking and tasting) at a local farm before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant.
On day seven, we will have a final breakfast together at our accommodation before driving to Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, the famous 400-year-old food market where the tour will terminate.
The ‘Saba Kaido’ is the collective name of multiple highways that connected the Wakasa area and Kyoto. The routes were used mainly for the transportation of seafood to the ancient capital, and gained the name ‘Saba Kaido’ as a result of the high quantities of Saba Mackerel that were carried along it. The highways today are still known as the main transport route for delivering fresh seafood, vegetables and salt to Kyoto.
Obama, as the largest transport hub port to the ancient capital of Kyoto, played a role as the main gateway to Japan. The port welcomed trade from nearby China and Korea, and the goods would then be transported on to the city.
The post town of Kumagawa-juku, situated along the Saba Kaido, is noteworthy for what remains of its magistrate’s office, guardhouse and storehouse. The town is also home to an old-fashioned preserved waterway.
Located to the east of Obama City lies Tagarasu, a fishing village of around 120 houses with a rustic and traditional landscape that overflows with the nostalgia of old Japanese life. Here, the traditional local delicacies of ‘Heshiko’ (fermented mackerel) and ‘saba no narezushi’ (fermented sushi) are still made following traditional manufacturing methods, preserving a taste that has been enjoyed for generations.
The town of Ano lies in the centre of the Wakasa Bay Quasi-National Park and is famous for its scenic beauty. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Nara of the sea’, Ano boasts a rich cultural heritage of shrines, temples and important artifacts as well as beautiful sea views and endless leisure opportunities. Here, it is also possible to stay in a traditional fisherman’s guest house and to experience the lives of hardworking Japanese fishermen.
Nadasho, a village in the mountainous area of southwestern Fukui Prefecture, is situated along the Shuzan Kaido (one of the routes making up the Saba Kaido) which was originally used for the transportation of seafood and salt. Here, the Onmyojis – specialists in magic and divination – relocated from Kyoto and brought their Onymodo, the traditional Japanese esoteric cosmology.
Miyama is a beautiful Satoyama village made up of 39 preserved, thatched-roof private houses surrounded by mountainous terrain. A truly nostalgic location reminiscent of Japan’s traditional landscape, the quiet, tranquil atmosphere of Miyama is a world away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Kyoto.
At the base of Mt Hiei lies Ohara, a rural village around 1 hour from Kyoto Station by rail. Here, royalty and aristocrats once lived together in luxury and the remnants of opulence still remain in the village today. The area’s local specialties, such as Kyoto vegetables and Shiba pickles, are undoubtedly worth a taste.
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