Japan with Mark Bitterman

One Departure Only | May 20 - 26, 2022

Salt, Earth & Sea

Explore Japan and celebrate its most ancient natural treasure with Mark Bitterman

May 20 - 26, 2022

One exclusive departure with Mark Bitterman

7 Day, 6 Nights

Best of Okinawa and Kyoto

Price from

$9,750

Per person
Based on double occupancy

Questions? Text or call us
+1 (855) 219-8018

You feel Japan’s ancient beauty in each fleeting moment. Each step has been a transient gift connecting you to the present. The azure, mineral-rich sea foaming at your feet, tiered temples alongside a matcha-colored river, misty forests and mountaintop meditations. You’re learning from local masters as you go—all about Japan’s enduring art of the simplest things: ceramics, sake, soy. And salt, at its most ancient, pure and elemental. Japan, like no place, rewards those willing to breathe in, look close and feel deeply.

With you on this seven-day Japanese adventure is Mark Bitterman, world-class selmelier, whose iconic Portland shop, The Meadow, just so happens to have an outpost in Tokyo. Mark is big in Japan—and Japan, with its thousand-year-old salt harvesting traditions, is equally important to him. This is more than just a trip for Mark; it’s a pilgrimage to the source, a chance to share his passions with us in a place where the pure and simple things are so deeply revered.

If you’re passionate about the natural world in all its glory, this trip is for you. We’ll be awestruck by ancient rituals and generations of artisans. We’ll explore what makes Okinawa and Kyoto so profoundly unique and uncover how a single salt crystal held in the palm of your hand can be the most enlightening thing in the world. Prepare yourself for a week of wonder.

Savor

The ancient traditions and rituals of harvesting salt with our own salt expert

Explore

The subtropical beauty, unique culture and rich climate of Okinawa

Honor

The artistry of local masters who’ve been practicing their craft for centuries

Embrace

The philosophy of wabi-sabi, finding beauty in the small and humble

3 Reasons to Travel with Mark Bitterman

Mark is a self-proclaimed “selmelier,” a James Beard Award-winning writer and leading expert on culinary salts. Yes, that is a thing, and he is it. Mark is also founder of The Meadow, a go-to for craft salts, chocolate and handmade bitters operating across four locations, three cities and two continents. Mark is always on the hunt for more of that tasty NaCl. Plus, he’s a world traveler who’s hungry to explore Japan with us!

Global Knowledge

Before opening The Meadow and writing a whopping five books on our friendly sodium chloride, Mark spent two decades traveling through Europe. He lived in France, restored a chateau and met top chefs who instilled in him a love of salt that obviously never went away.

He's a Food Hero

At least Cooking Light thinks so. He’s also been named a Tastemaker in Food & Wine, and has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, and on All Things Considered, Bizarre Foods, History Channel and more. People want to know what he has to say about salt!

Sense of Place

Mark loves Japan—one of The Meadow’s four locations happens to be in Shinjuku, Tokyo. And Japan loves salt. Mark’s excited to explore the elemental side of Japan from salt to the aromatics. And he’s the guy to do it with.

Your Experience

“The Japanese are the most interconnected with salt of any culture in the world.”
Mark Bitterman

Okinawa, Kyoto

“We’re going to have this secret window into the world of Japan that we can share the rest of their lives.”
Mark Bitterman

Day by Day

Day 1

Welcome to Okinawa! This chain of 150 islands, scattered in the turquoise waters of the South China Sea, forms the southernmost prefecture of Japan. Once an independent kingdom, it boasts its own unique history, cuisine and music. We begin with a visit to Yagaji Mars Salt Factory, on Yagaji Island in northern Okinawa. The birthplace of salt for the entire kingdom, it’s been harvested here for over 400 years. Mark will enlighten us all about the traditional “cooking” methods by which the salt is slowly heated in ancient iron pots, lending it a deep flavor and rosy color.

Next, we’ll turn our sights on another local delicacy: awamori, a liqueur of fermented rice that’s considered the national drink of Okinawa—and the most ancient spirit in all of Japan. Fermented with black koji mold, it’s distilled only once, and traditionally aged in earthenware jugs or stainless-steel barrels tucked away into limestone caves. In a place where age is honored—Okinawa is home to more centenarians than anywhere else in the world—it’s widely believed that awamori only grows better with time, a theory we’ll happily test out for ourselves. Tonight, we dine at a local restaurant to the lilting strains of the sanshin. Its distinctive sound will create the perfect island mood as we toast our adventures to come.

Day 1 Highlights

Tour Yagaji Mars Salt Factory

Awamori tasting at Kinshuzo Brewery

Visit underground caves

Stay at Ritz-Carlton in Nago

Day 2

We begin with a drive past azure waters and majestic rocky outcroppings to Naha, Okinawa’s capital city. We’ll first do as the locals do and head to the food markets, picking up the freshest items for a hands-on cooking experience. Then we go deeper into Naha with a visit to the Tsuboya pottery district. Much of the old town was destroyed during World War II, but here, where the Ryukyu kingdom centralized pottery production in the 17th century, remains a serene outpost untouched by time.

We’ll attend a ceramic demo and wander winding stone-paved alleyways, perhaps picking up a few omiyage (gifts for friends). Afterward, we’ll check out Kokusai Dori, the “International Road” that runs ribbon-like through the center of town, to explore—and check out the Yukishio salt shop, famed for its Ryukyu limestone salts. Okinawa is a delightful hybrid of flavors and cultures, as popular a destination for Japanese tourists as it is for foreigners, and we’ll feel that allure the rest of our visit. We’ll return to Nago in the evening.

Day 2 Highlights

Explore Naha 

Market visit and cooking experience

Ceramic demo in Tsuboya pottery district

Stay at Ritz-Carlton in Nago

Day 3

Today we history, craft and cuisine and see how salt unifies them all. We’ll start the day wandering the stone ramparts of the 15th-century Nakagusuku Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site formerly home to the Ryukyu kings.

Next, we’ll move from the ancient world to the modern. Our visit to the Hamahiga Salt Factory gives us an unparalleled behind-the-scenes view of salt production, starting with its harvesting from the crystalline waters right outside to its place on the dinner table. Mark will share his insights and we’ll enjoy a cooking demonstration, complete with salt pairings, that will serve as an introduction both to the Japanese concept of umami, the fifth taste, and to hyper-local Okinawan foodways, which use salt to preserve everything from pork to seaweed. We’ll return to Nago in the evening full of knowledge and flavor.

Day 3 Highlights

Visit Nakagusuku Castle ruins 

Hamahiga Salt Factory

Cooking demo with salt pairing

Stay at Ritz-Carlton in Nago

Day 4

Yōkoso to Kyoto! Today we’re off to Japan’s historic capital from the 12th to 19th centuries and one of the most visually stunning cities in the country. It’s a timeless land of crooked alleys, ancient shrines, narrow canals and rustling bamboo groves, all illuminated by the incandescent glow of scarlet maple leaves. Our first pilgrimage today will be to the Kyoto Distillery to taste the country’s first artisanal gin. Dry and elegant, it relies on locally sourced botanicals—a perfect complement to our Okinawa awamori experience. We’ll have a little time to rest and wander this afternoon before joining together for dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 4 Highlights

Short flight to Kyoto

Gin tasting at Kyoto Distillery

Dinner at Ikumatsu

Stay at Park Hyatt in Kyoto

Day 5

Today we’ll take a winding road through the foothills of Mount Hiei, the sacred mountain that looms over Kyoto. We arrive in the ancient farming village of Ohara, a gentle valley town famed for its graceful temples, serpentine waterfalls—and crisp, colorful pickles. Its fertile soil is the perfect place to grow kyo-yasai, the heirloom vegetables of the Kyoto region famous for their vivid colors and fanciful shapes, and the pure mountain air creates perfect conditions for fermentation.

We’ll visit Doi and Shibakyu, two of Japan’s most beloved picklers both famed nationwide for their shibazuke, or pickled summer vegetables, with their signature purple hue, chewy texture and refreshing herbal bite. We’ll enjoy a traditional, rustic lunch here before getting our Zen on with a temple visit, the perfect chance to reflect on all the beauty surrounding us.

Day 5 Highlights

Visit Ohara farm village

Visit Doi Shibazuke & Shibakyu picklers

Temple visit

Stay at Park Hyatt in Kyoto

Day 6

Our first stop this morning is the massive, colorful and mesmerizing Kyoto’s Nishiki Market. We’ll meet a knife maker who’s been in business since the 16th century and sample tofu—exquisitely fermented in mountain springs—as we’ve never tasted it. Next, we’ll visit a 400-year-old soy sauce factory—because there’s no such thing as too much umami. We’ll spend the afternoon exploring on our own, wandering the back lanes of Gion, a historic district famous for its geishas, traditionally clad hostesses trained to entertain with conversation, dance and song.

Our farewell dinner tonight will also be courtesy of a traditional Kyoto geisha. For the first half of the evening, we’ll be treated to an ancient performance that requires years of schooling and apprenticeship to perfect; afterward, we’ll enjoy a conversation with the geisha over dinner and raise a glass to each other and all our adventures.

Day 6 Highlights

Visit to Nishiki Market

Tasting at Sawai Soy Sauce

Geisha farewell dinner

Stay at Park Hyatt in Kyoto

Day 7

After breakfast, we’ll transfer to the airport for our flights home, where we’ll approach every endeavor with a new sense of calm and care, helping us find beauty wherever we look. Until next time!

Day 7 Highlights

Transfer to airport

Thank you.

Where We Sleep

Our accommodations offer the perfect blend of modern aesthetics and traditional hospitality—plus a restorative dose of shibui, that quintessentially Japanese notion of striking a peaceful harmony with nature.

Ritz-Carlton

Okinawa

With its enchanting views of the China Sea stretching away from nearby Kise beach, this is the perfect place to really feel Okinawa in all its enduring, regal beauty. Follow the bamboo tunnel down a lush garden path to the spa, located on the edge of a primitive forest, where treatments utilize indigenous healing practices and botanicals like the getto plant, a member of the ginger family revered for its rejuvenating properties.

Park Hyatt

Kyoto

Our Kyoto hillside retreat is an architectural beauty. This unique luxury hotel offers tranquil rooms highlighting local craftsmanship and garden views tucked away from the bustling Higashiyama streets. Integral to the Park Hyatt experience is harmony: with local landmarks and temples, spiritual gardens and the seasons. It’s their brand of distinctive hospitality and attention to detail that will make you feel right at home in Japan’s ancient capital.

Book Japan with Mark Bitterman

Number of Travelers

Payment

$9,750

Per person
Based on double occupancy

Can't travel on these dates?
Call us at

+1 (855) 219-8018

Questions?

That’s OK, we have answers. Read our FAQs below. Or text or call us at +1 (855) 219-8018 to speak with a Modern Adventure Trip Specialist.

  1. What does the price include?

    Six nights at unique four- and five-star accommodations; private travel for all day trips and excursions; departure airport transfer; private tours with local guides and cultural experts; exclusive VIP access and tastings; guided activities, adventures and expeditions; entrance fees; daily breakfasts, most lunches and dinners; local beverages with meals.

  2. What does the price not include?

    International roundtrip airfare; travel insurance; transportation to the trip’s starting point; activities not included in the trip itinerary; hotel incidentals including room service, laundry service and hotel bar tabs; food and beverages not included in itinerary; gratuity for tour leader.

  3. Where does the trip start and end?

    Our adventure begins at the Ritz-Carlton in Okinawa, Japan. The closest airport is the Naha Okinawa Airport (OKA)Our adventure ends in Kyoto, Japan. The closest airport is the Kansai International Airport (KIX). Your flight home should be scheduled to depart at 1pm or later from here.

  4. What travel documents are needed?

    US citizens are not required to have a visa for stays in Japan of under 90 days. Just bring a valid US passport. For citizens of other countries, please check with the Japanese embassy or consulate for information and requirements.    

  5. Do I need to pay a solo traveler supplement?

    For solo travelers, there is a $2,700 single-supplement fee—paid at the time of booking to secure a private room. If you would like us to pair you with a roommate, that option may be available upon checkout—these spots are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

  6. Who is going on this trip?

    Our adventures typically have between 10 and 20 guests, and our Modern Adventure Team. Our experiences are fun and inclusive and you can expect to be joined by a diverse group in terms of age, background and interests—including solo travelers, couples and friends traveling together. This adventure is for travelers age 18 and above.

  7. Who is leading this trip?

    This trip is led by an expert Modern Adventure trip leader. They’re an experienced travel guide, a representative of Modern Adventure and your go-to person for questions or concerns on the trip. We’ll be joined throughout our adventure by local, expert guides who are deeply knowledgeable with respect to local cultures, customs and history and are passionate about sharing that with us.

  8. What is the cancelation policy?

    You may cancel on or before January 20, 2022 and receive a full refund minus a $500 per-person service fee. If you cancel on or after January 21, 2022, there is a 50% cancellation fee. On or after March 21, 2022 there is a 100% cancellation fee. We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance as we are not able to make exceptions to this policy in cases of family/medical emergency or cases of the trip being cancelled (see our Terms and Conditions for full details).

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