Osaka, soy factory, irie shrine, Japanese BBQ and sadly home 

So our last day crept up upon us without us even realising! With such a busy week of activities it came round so fast and onto our last days activities. An early start to catch a train out to Koyto. A beautiful part of the Japanese countryside famous for its striking cherry blossom being produced here. We were created by the factory owner and shown around his premises and explained the process of making the soy from scratch to finished product. 

From the steaming of the soy beans and roasting of the wheat to blending and the fermenting process. To the mix being pressed in muslin cloths to produce the natural raw soy. We were even lucky enough to make our own soy on the day and bottle it and take it back home with us.  

 After a quick tasty lunch in a local restaurant we moved onto the irie shrine. This is the most visited shrine in the whole of Japan, and famous from the film memories  of a geisha. Originally a shrine visited by people to say a blessing for the gods of food to give them a good crop for the following year, and also a prosperous business. If your fortune came true you were able to erect one of the famous red gates on the grounds. Over time many of these gates were erected leading to a long snaking trail of red gates to walk under and create an almost maze effect. 

 Our last night dinner was a traditional Japanese open flame BBQ. With an amazing selection of scallops, mackerel, clams, chicken meatballs, garlic beef and of course the strange ones such as fish heads, chicken gizzards etc…. 

A lovely feast to end this amazing trip of s lifetime! Sadly time to pack and try and get some sleep for an early start to catch 2 flights back to London.  

 So I sit here here on the plane thinking of what a week of amazing experiences we have had. From a visit to the grand palace, seeing bonito being produced, engaging in local traditions in Toba and dining with the mayor and Vice President. To the fish markets, amazing street food and local produce, to hot spring bathing and wearing kimonos.

What defiantly stands out in my mind about Japan is the hospitality and kindness of the Japanese people as a nation and general politeness of everyone towards each other. A country that is spotlessly clean everywhere you go and with its quirky traits should be on anyone’s vacation top 10 list. 

For giving us all an amazing experience of a lifetime, I’d like to thank the BHA, miki travel, ANA, all our amazing translators and relations while we were out on our trips and most of all the people who took the time out of their busy day to share with us their craft and love of what they do and letting us in.  

 I certainly will be coming back to Japan one day and these memories will be with me forever and hopefully the new skills I’ve learnt also will stand me in good stead going forward.

Only one word to say! 


Ama divers for pearls, nori seaweed, chef masterclass Japanese techniques

Thursday planned to be an amazing learning day jam packed with activities and traditions that we were always going to remember. 

First of all a visit to the harbour where the local ama divers dive for pearls. The tradition has been around since the early 1900’s where the women of the town free dive anything up to 10m deep with out the aid of snorkel or any breathing apparatus.  

 The women hold their breath for up to 1 minute whilst free diving in their traditional standout white garments with a bucket attached around their waist to store the pearls or seaweed found every time they dive. The old tradition used to be a husband and wife team would dive with the women diving as they have a bit more body fat and cold withstand the cold waters better than the males. After diving and finding their treasures the lady would tug on the rope and the husband would then pull them back up to the surface.  

 We also learnt about the way of cultivating pearls with in end produced a higher yeald of gradeable pearls with a higher value to them. 

We then took a boat to a local island to visit their local fish market and also learn how to make traditional nori seaweed. The seaweed is harvested from the nets it is cultivated on then frozen straight away to keep the freshness.  

 Once back on land the seaweed is defrosted and chopped finely by hand until it becomes and thick black paste. No seasoning is added, infact the complete opposite. 

The seaweed is washed in tap water changing the colour of the seaweed to a slight red tinge going through it. The seaweed is then scooped over and onto bamboo mats into the traditional square shape of nori seaweed. All the gaps and corners have to be filled in with no holes in the seaweed.  

 The mould is lifted and another bamboo mate placed in top and pressure is applied to drain as much water out of it as possible. This is the hung on wooden stands for 24 hours in the direct sunlight to give that distinct dry nori seaweed wrap that we all often see concealing amazing sushi. 

We were then treated to a lunch prepared by the ama divers where they usually come to warm up from the cold waters and eat. Local fish was flamed grilled in front of us, sea bream, gobi, swordfish, oysters all tasted amazing cooked on the open coals.  

 Our afternoon was spent with chef matsuka of the Toba view hotel. An award winning chef was willing to spend the afternoon teaching us the secrets and techniques or his local food. We prepared a local seabream from live! Learnt how to kill the fish without stressing the fish out too much and how to bleed the fish. 

Peeling the skin for a 30 kilo yellow fin tuna, preparing our seabream for sashimi. The secrets behind tempura batter and cooking, sharpening knives the Japanese way and learning about the steal that is used to make the blades.  

 Making our own sashimi from slicing to plating up the Japanese way and how to present, plus we got to eat our own sashimi later on that evening for dinner. Working with his brigade of chefs in the kitchen, learning the techniques of sticky rice, elaborate vegetable garnishes. What a way to spend an afternoon with a master chef who didn’t mind 7 UK chefs taking over his kitchen for a few hours.

Welcome to Toba banquet, with Vice President or Ise region and mayor of Toba

Our first dinner in Toba, was to be hosted by the Vice President of the Ise region and the major of Toba. A 12 course menu was designed by chef matsuka to showcase the seasons and local food that Toba had to offer.  

 It certainly was a grand affair and the welcome we received was second to none, and it was a great honour to be welcomed by people like this, and also for them as well visiting their region and sharing in their experiences and culture.  

 Locally made saki was on offer. The first fish on our banquet was a selection of foods to represent the winter season. From pickled, preserved fish, local vegetables, the infamous fugu fish (Puffer fish) Eel, yuzu, lobster roe the list was endless.  

 The dish was presented beautifully as a winter scene with snow on the platter. 

Dishes of milt, sashimi, boiled miso potato, local tofu, grilled lobster and ginger followed one after another.  

 The Vice President certainly made us all feel welcome making sure our glass was never empty with the prize winning saki. He was proud to have us in his region dining with us and spending time with them. 

The night finished with a trip to hot spa based in the hotel. We dressed in traditional dress wear and relaxed in the hot springs in the open air, over looking the Toba harbour.  

 A truly fantastic evening to welcome us to this lovely often unheard region of Japan.

Tokyo to Toba – bullet train,mount Fiji, bonito shop, Shinto shrine 

We left Tokyo in style travelling on the world famous bullet train. With speeds of over 150mph it certainly wouldn’t take us long to get to our destination of Nagoya.  

With beautiful scenery all around us as we travelled to the Japanese countryside something suddenly stud out as we were shooting along! Mount Fuji!!  

It was a lovely clear day so we quite a decent view, however snow on the top meant that we could not see its peak of over 3000 meters. 

We arrived in Nagoya to be greeted by our hosts from Toba city who would be looking after us all day  

We headed off to Ise shima for lunch specialising in conga eel then onto the number 1 Shinto shrine in the Ise region to say our wishes for someone else in our life’s.  

Ise grand shrine, Shinto temple and amazing Japanese gardens  

We then visited an original bonito shop where they produce the very best bonito to go into the making of dashi.  

Set on the sea front woth amazing views

Authentic tofu restaurant – Tokyo 

Our dinner took us to an authentic Japanese restaurant that specialised in tofu dishes, sweet/savoury. Set in beautifully manicured Japanese gardens with private rooms and no shoes this certainly bought you back home to the traditions of Japan and Japanese dishes and how to eat them.  

Our own private dining room to eat while we sat on the floor with the waitresses in traditional kimonos.  

The menu for the evening was 9 course taster menu out together by the chef to showcase his seasonal food pairings incorporating tofu where he could in the dishes.  

A few selected dishes from the evening – bamboo shoot, shrimp, clam and miso vinegared with sea eel and butterbur  

Deep fried tofu coated with miso 


Sashimi –

Steamed rice with crab & grilled sea bream

Sightseeing around Tokyo 

After our early start at the fish market today we took in all the sights and sounds that Tokyo had to offer.  

From shrines to grande palaces. To backstreet eateries and temples Tokyo certainly has a lot to offer.  


We found ourselves in kappabashi a traditional kitchen town with every shop a chefs dream from amazing Japanese knives to uniforms to pots and pans and even fridges if you get them back through customs on the flight home!  

Lunch took us to a healthy eating venue of tofu and specialising in low calorie meals. Our total calorie content for the whole meal was only 800kcal, defiantly a place for the health freak only I’d say! 

A visit to the grand palace where the emperor and his wife lived, just a small place for the 2 of them to live!  

Then a quick visit to a 3 Michelin star sushi restaurant in Tokyo with only seats by a world famous chef named Giro.

Tsukiji world famous fish market 

An early start of 3am this morning to visit the world famous fish market in Tokyo to witness the live tuna auction that takes place daily, were only recently the highest fee ever was paid for a tuna. Around $1.7 million dollars was paid for one tuna!  

We dodge the fish traders vehicles as we are invited into the market which is not usually open this intimately to the general public. We don our wellies and off we proceed to see some amazing local, fresh fish waiting to be sold to the traders and local restaurants buying there.  

We are shown to where the auction takes place, the auctioneers bells ringing to let us know it is about to take place. A frenzied shouting and bellowing starts as the buyers and auctioneers haggle on the best price for the tuna.  

The most paid for today’s auction was a mere 1 million yen! Around £20,000 for one tuna fish. 

With the licence to get into the market to trade costing around 1 million yen also this certainly is a place for the big spenders and not for the faint hearted or shy of funds.  

We were also very fortunate as the market is due to be relocated soon as the whole of Tokyo is being prepared for the coming Olympic Games in 2020, with the new location of the market not allowing any guests or visits from the outside public so we were one of the very last people to be able to witness this auction.