Come with us on a journey along the old highway Saba-kaido to Obama, Asia’s Original Gateway to Japan and Kyoto.
- Trip Outline
Quaint, charming and rich in historical significance, the small coastal city of Obama is the perfect destination for your next rural, authentic Japan adventure.
Thanks to its close proximity to the ancient city of Kyoto, Obama rose to significance in the 7th century when it served as the main port and ‘front gate’ of Japan for international trade from China, Korea and beyond. From Obama, silk, salt and other important produce – including ‘Saba’, the area’s delicious mackerel specialty – would be carried to what was then the capital city of Kyoto. As a result, Obama is still known today as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’, and the trade road between Obama and Kyoto still exists as the ‘Saba Kaido’, or ‘Mackerel Highway’.
Modern day Obama has changed with the times (and even received some global attention when a certain American President assumed office in 2008!), but still hosts and preserves many great examples of Japanese traditions and cultures that have been passed down from generation to generation. From delicious local mackerel delicacies to preserved Edo-period towns and some truly unique temples, there’s a lot more to this city than meets the eye!
- Enjoy a rare opportunity to watch an authentic Geisha performance during a traditional-style dinner
- Explore the old and historical temples and shrines of the area on a special cycling tour
- Watch and feed mackerel as you spend time aboard a real, working fishing boat
- Jump into a kayak at Ano Bay and experience the area’s beauty first-hand
- Step back in time as you trek along the historic and famous Saba Kaido, once one of Japan’s most important trading routes
- Munch and taste your way around the region, with visits to sake breweries, a vinegar factory, a Ponzu sauce shop and even a vegetable harvesting experience
Your rural Japanese adventure will start in what was once Japan’s ancient capital city, Kyoto. At Kyoto Station the group will meet and receive a trip briefing from the tour’s knowledgeable guide before taking a short walk to Demachi Masugata Shopping Street, which marks the ending point of the historic ‘Saba Kaido’.
Driving to Kumagawa-Juku, you and your group will stop to enjoy a spot of lunch before exploring the area by foot. This will be followed by a short drive to Tobaya, home of the Tobaya Vinegar Factory. Here, you’ll not only enjoy a tour of the factory and learn how the products are made - you’ll also have a chance to sample them for yourself!
The first evening of the tour is truly special. Having checked in to your accommodation for the night, you’ll make your way to an adjacent restaurant, where a real and highly-skilled Geisha entertainer will delight you with a performance of her art as you enjoy a truly delicious and authentic-style meal.
Day two starts with an optional morning activity open to any and all early-rising participants. Strolling along the quiet beach before the rest of the city is even awake, you’ll make your way to the local fishmarket to see the high-quality, fresh produce sold every day at the bustling morning auction. As you return to your accommodation for breakfast, you’ll also have time to stop by the Wakasa Obama Fish Centre and pause at the beach for the chance to take pictures before anyone else appears.
After breakfast, it’ll be time to get on your bike and start the day’s main activity - a fascinating cycling tour of Obama’s most interesting and historic shrines and temples. Visit the twin shrines of Wakasahime Jinja and Wasahiko Jinja, then learn about the syncretism of Shintoism and Buddhism at Jinguji Temple, one of the only remaining temples dedicated to both religious practices that survived the Meiji restoration.
Having enjoyed lunch at an old Japanese House Cafe, you will then continue cycling on to Unose-Myotsuji Temple to experience Ajikan Meditation and a tea ceremony with the temple’s priest. Relaxed and at peace, the group will move on to its final destination - Mantokuji Temple, home to one of the most beautiful gardens in the region.
Afterwards, you’ll return to your accommodation for a well-earned dinner and time to relax before bed.
Cycling distance: 16.6KM
There’s even more cycling to enjoy on day three, making your first stop at Bukkoku-ji Temple for a lesson in zen meditation. After such a peaceful start, it will then be time to get hands-on at the Miketsukuri Wakasa Obama Food Culture Museum, where you will learn about the region’s significant food culture before enjoying a craft activity (possible activities include chopstick making, paper-making or even creating fake food displays).
Cycling on to Tagarasu, you’ll learn about the fermentation processes involved in making ‘Heshiko’ and ‘Nare-sushi’, two local delicacies that are a lot more delicious than they may appear! Don’t believe us? Luckily, you’ll have the chance to try these popular dishes for yourself during your lunch at a friendly nearby restaurant.
The last activity of the day will be a short boat tour on a real, working fishing boat. Enjoy the trip as you get to know the fishermen who keep Obama’s thriving fish-trade running, and take some time to feed the iconic local Mackerel as well. When your time at sea comes to an end, the group will then make its way to the night’s accommodation, where dinner will be served.
Cycling distance: 17.4KM
You may have been cycling quite a bit during this tour, but make sure to keep some energy spare to use during today’s first activity - Kayaking at Ano Bay. Explore the beauty of your surroundings as you cut through the water during this truly immersive experience!
Kayaking over, you’ll next cycle back to Obama, passing a landscape of interwoven rice terraces and the stunning ruins of castles as you go. When you reach your destination, it’ll be time for lunch, so make sure to refuel with some traditional okonomiyaki and rest your feet at a local restaurant.
The rest of the day’s activities will consist of a tour of Hotoro-Okiya, a museum hosted in what was once an old brothel visited by merchants from around the country during their time in Obama. The tour will be followed by a visit to the fascinating Wakasa History Museum. This will mark the end of your time cycling around Obama; after returning the bicycles, the group will enjoy dinner at an Italian restaurant before heading to the accommodation by foot.
Cycling distance: 26.3KM
The cycling portion of your time in Obama may be over, but that doesn’t mean the outdoors exploration will stop! After breakfast, the group will drive to Kaminegori Hamlet, from which point your trek of the Saba Kaido Mackerel Highway will begin.
The trek will take you to the stunning Onyu Toge Pass and will be led by a local trekking guide. At Onyu Toge, lunch will be served in the form of delicious ‘bento’ packed-lunch boxes, with plenty of time to rest and recuperate. From there, the group will travel by car to the Obama Shuzo Sake Brewery for a brewery tour and some well-deserved product tasting.
Later in the afternoon you will be driven to Tsuchimikado Shinto Honcho Shrine for a visit and some exploration, before then moving on to your accommodation for the night, where dinner will be served.
Walking distance: 9.7KM
After breakfast on day six, you will walk as a group to Miyama Kayabuki no Sato to explore the streets of thatched roofs and original preserved houses that can be found there. This will be followed by a trip to Tautasya, a local restaurant, by car for lunch.
Driving on to Ohara, your afternoon will consist of a visit to a Ponzu sauce shop to learn more about the popular Japanese cuisine ingredient, as well as the day’s main activity - a chance to experience vegetable harvesting, learn about the pickling process, and even munch on some delicious healthy produce.
After dinner at Wappado, you will then check in to your final accommodation of the tour and spend some time resting (or socialising) before bed.
Walking distance: 2.3KM
Day seven marks the end of what we’re sure will have been a fascinating, enjoyable and memorable tour of Obama and its surrounding rural region.
After sharing one final breakfast together, the group will return to Kyoto by car and stop at Nishiki Market, the most famous market in Kyoto (and perhaps the country as a whole) where the tour will come to an end. We recommend taking the time to explore the market and its goods - perhaps you’ll even find some special products from Obama!
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