1. Shodoshima, Kagawa prefecture
    Photo: Tablecross Inc.Shodoshima, Kagawa prefecture
  2. Shimada Miso Factory
    Photo: Tablecross Inc.Shimada Miso Factory in Tawaramoto, Nara prefecture
  3. Osatsu, Mie prefecture
    Photo: Tablecross Inc.Osatsu, Mie prefecture

3 countryside tours to explore the food and culture in Nara, Kagawa and Mie

Looking to escape the busy cities? Travel to Japan's scenic countryside with one of these English-friendly tours

Written by Time Out Tokyo. Paid for by Tablecross Inc.

Already travelled through Japan's major cities? If you’re looking for a different experience, why not venture to some of the country’s lesser-known destinations and discover the wonders of Japan’s inaka, or countryside?

One of the most convenient ways to do so is via local food platform byFood, which is known for its helpful reservation services and wide range of food and travel experiences. It also offers a variety of interesting rural tours. Through these English-friendly excursions, you’ll get a glimpse of Japanese culture outside of the busy cities, as well as a chance to interact with friendly locals excited to welcome you to their home.

Wondering where to start your next adventure? Here are three countryside tours in Nara, Kagawa and Mie prefectures that offer an exciting mix of food, heritage and cultural activities.

Tawaramoto, Nara prefecture

Take a deep dive into one of Japan's most historic regions with this tour that shows you around the quaint town of Tawaramoto in Nara prefecture. Scheduled only twice a month, the experience is a rare opportunity for guests to explore this gorgeous region, which includes sites such as Muraya Shrine and the Shimada Miso Factory.

One of the highlights of the tour is the opportunity to learn about Mikomai, a traditional dance performed by miko (shrine maidens) during a Kagura (Shinto ceremonial dance) performance. The movements may ring a bell, as Mikomai appeared in the 2016 hit anime 'Your Name'. During the experience, guests will get to try on a traditional miko outfit and learn an easy dance accompanied by live drumming.

Following the dance class, guests will be treated to a traditional omakase lunch at Tanaka, a kaiseki restaurant known for its gorgeous Japanese garden. The lunch is followed by a visit to the Shimada Miso Factory, which has been around for more than 260 years. Here you'll learn about one of the most important ingredients in Japanese cuisine and have the chance to make your own miso, which you can then take home with you as a souvenir.

From ¥60,000 per person (price may vary). The tour starts at 10am and lasts for approximately six and a half hours. More booking information here.

Shodoshima, Kagawa prefecture

The island of Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea is known for its gorgeous beaches and coastal scenery. On this tour, you’ll get to visit one of the island's historic temples as well as check out some wonderful breweries where you can sample local beer and sake. 

The excursion starts with a visit to Shodoshima’s hidden temple, Goishizan. This stunning sanctuary has been around since the mid-1600s and offers panoramic views of the island. At the site, you’ll meet a local monk who will share some history of the island and guide you to a cave for a spiritual ceremony, during which you can wish for good fortune.

Following the temple tour is lunch at Morikuni, the only sake brewery on Shodoshima. Guests will be served a tasty meal made with ingredients from the island and will also have the chance to taste some of the brewery's award-winning sake. 

The tour finishes off at Mamemame Beer brewery, where you'll get to try out three types of craft beer made with local ingredients. You'd want to enjoy your beer out at the brewery's impressive patio while taking in the views.

From ¥22,000 per person (price may vary). The tour starts at 10am and takes approximately five hours. More booking information here.

Osatsu, Mie prefecture

Discover the charms of the fascinating coastal town of Osatsu during this seaside excursion in Mie prefecture. You'll meet local ama (women divers), who are the heart and life of the community. You’ll also get to visit a shrine dedicated to the goddess of the sea and learn more about the area’s unique fishing culture at the Osatsu Ama Divers Cultural Museum.

Seafood lovers will appreciate this tour, as it includes lunch with fresh seafood caught and cooked by the amazing divers. Ama diving is a traditional way of fishing, where women free-dive into the sea without any oxygen supplies to catch local sea life. Some of the things you'll get to try at lunch include local Ise lobster, abalone, squid, scallops, giant clams and turban shells.

Over the course of the tour, you'll also get a chance to explore key spots around the Osatsu area, including Shinmei Shrine, which is dedicated to the goddess of the sea, the aforementioned Osatsu Ama Divers Cultural Museum, Osatsu Ama Hut, where ama warm up after their dives, and the Whale Cape Walkway, where you can take in some spectacular scenery.

From ¥24,200 per person (price may vary). The tour starts at 11.30am and takes approximately four hours. More booking information here.

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