3 Heart-Warming Food Experiences in Rural Japan

By Sydney Seekford
Updated: February 16, 2024

Beyond the sparkling facades of Japan’s major cities lie cultural memories that have persisted for centuries. If you’re looking for an authentic look into life in Japan, you need to venture out of the concrete jungles — far, far out. Only then will you encounter those who carry the essence of Japanese culture and traditions on their sleeves. 


These three experiences bring guests into the homes and lives of local artisans, producers, and priests. Here, in the rustic landscape of rural Japan, you can become a part of the collective memory keeping rare Japanese traditions alive. 

1. Goishizan Temple Ritual, Sake & Craft Beer Tasting in Shodoshima


The hiking path that takes travelers to the top of Mt. Dounzan has many statues honoring ocean gods. At the end of the trail, a figure of sea protector Namikiri Fudou watches over the coast. 

Goishizan Temple, located at the top of the mountain, offers visitors willing to climb up the rare chance to participate in the ritual of burning prayer planks. Most temples perform this ritual only on certain dates so that Goishizan gives visitors the opportunity to do it on the day of their visit is unique. The spectacle is guaranteed to immerse travelers in the mysticism and ancient spirit of the mountain. The ceremony, bracketed by stories from monks on the mountain’s history and tradition, lasts about 15 minutes.


Located a short drive north of the mountain is the only sake brewing facility on the island, Morikuni. The brewery also operates an onsite bakery and provides a delicious lunch course, complete with sake pairings. 

Morikuni’s work revives Shodoshima’s regional sake tradition with stylish, contemporary flair. This said, it also doesn’t stray from Shodoshima’s roots; it adds to the island’s already high production of fermented foods. 


Another brewery making waves is Mamemame, where travelers can enjoy a craft beer tasting flight with beers made from ingredients grown on Shodoshima. Rustic terrace seating offers views that rival any post-card panorama. It doesn’t get much better than enjoying the heady, warm buzz of spirits brewed in harmony with nature while enjoying a clear day.

Book this experience on byFood and embark on a spiritual journey on Shodoshima.

2. Kagura Dancing, Kaiseki Dining Experience & Miso-Making in Nara


The people of Nara have kept traditions for centuries. One of Japan’s ancient capitals, many recognizable Japanese cultural practices were either born or remained alive throughout the years. This dedication to keeping ancestral traditions in living memory is palpable at Nara’s Muraya-jinja.

The shrine maidens (miko) and attendants of Muraya-jinja invite visitors to play an active role in commemorating the past by learning an entry-level Kagura routine. 

Kagura is a sacred Shinto dance, which you may have seen in Shinkai Makoto’s Your Name. The ceremony itself can only be performed by miko, but you can learn a few basic steps should you want to perform for the gods yourself. Visitors can also try on miko garments and perform their newly memorised routine on the main stage of the shrine, accompanied by taiko music. 


Cool off and breathe in serenity at the nearby Japanese garden as you feast on a kaiseki course meal at Tanaka. The restaurant serves authentic Japanese cuisine inspired by the change of seasons, where every dish in the course features the finest ingredients sourced around Nara.


No Japanese meal would be complete without a comforting bowl of miso soup. The miso used at Tanaka comes from a maker who has been in business for over 260 years. Traveling foodies will visit Shimada Miso Factory themselves and help make some of the product. Anyone who takes part in churning and preparing the miso gets to take some home — even though they’ll have to wait about a year to enjoy it. But when it fermented well, it’ll be one of the most flavorful miso you’ll ever taste. 

Get ready for a history-rich trip to Nara. Book this experience on byFood.

3. Meet Ama Divers & Learn About Their Local Culture in Toba


Sustainable eating is the foundation of the ama, female divers who plunge into deep waters to retrieve shellfish and crustaceans. Ama rely on mutual respect to limit their catch; no diver takes more than they can use or sell, and each person is responsible for making sure populations stay healthy.

Toba and nearby Shima in Mie Prefecture are said to be the two cities with the highest number of ama divers and about 3,000 years of ama fishing history. Driving 30 minutes south of central Toba is Osatsu, one of Japan’s top ama fishing villages, where you can get up close and personal with the ama divers and the culture surrounding them. 

While it’s tempting to go straight to the ama hut (more on that later), there are a few sightseeing and religious sights with deep connections to ama culture worth checking out. One of these is Shinmei Shrine (Ishigami-san). 


It’s believed that any woman who comes to make an offering at Shinmei Shrine will have a wish granted. Ama divers in the area regularly visit this shrine to wish for safety and a good catch. 

To learn more about the technical elements of the ama profession, visit the Osatsu Ama Divers Cultural Museum. Ama diving is an extremely physical activity, and you can only understand this by seeing it through realistic installations and photos. To this day, ama divers fish without modern technology like air tanks or scuba suits, relying instead on skill and experience. 

It takes a great deal of energy to do the work of an ama. Fortunately, travelers can enjoy freshly caught seafood at ama-hosted lunches on site. 


Mid-day meals at Ozegosan, an ama hut, feature open-hearth cooking punctuated by wives’ tales and anecdotes. Lobster, giant clams, scallops and plump roasted squid are just some of the delicacies hand-caught and prepared by the ama you get to try here. It’s the perfect way to wrap up a visit and move on to your next adventure with your heart and stomach full.

Experiences Featured in This Post

This post features two byFood original experiences developed by tourism experts alongside local organizers. If you’re looking to enrich your trip to Japan and don’t mind a little travel time to these off-the-beaten-path areas, book these truly unique experiences:

Not all of Japan sits under the glow of neon lights. Nor is every reach of the country accessible by bullet train and white-gloved taxi. But to venture into the country is to see the parts of Japan that have not changed for millennia, where the hosts are just as warm as the food they pile up for hungry guests. This side of Japan has its own stories; those who get to hear them and taste the food they’re deeply connected to are the lucky few. 

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Sydney Seekford
Sydney fell in love with lesser-known Japan after seeing Ferris wheels sticking out of the landscape while her bullet train flew by. Since that time, this farming-fashionista has been cultivating vegetables and community in the mountains of Ishikawa. Her dream is to support tourism in inaka Japan by bringing regional rarities to the world and highlighting local businesses.
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