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Visiting Japan During Lunar New Year? Here Are 5 Food Experiences for Traveling Foodies

By The byFood Team
Updated: January 10, 2024

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is one of the peak tourist periods in Japan. During this time, popular destinations like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and even Fukuoka will be flooded with travelers from around East Asia. You should also keep an eye out for limited-edition campaigns and celebratory events. In 2024, the Lunar New Year falls on February 10 and will be celebrated in various countries until February 17.

A bird's eye view of Shibuya Scramble in Tokyo, Japan

Becoming one with the crowd is worth it for some Japan sightseeing spots but can also be tiring and inconvenient. Luckily, there are numerous ways to experience Japanese culture and Japanese food when in Japan. Let us introduce five food experiences that will keep you entertained and well-fed during your trip while avoiding the busiest areas of Tokyo and other major Japanese cities.

5 Things To Do During Lunar New Year in Japan

A sure way to avoid overcrowded places is to head to lesser-known destinations. Thankfully, Japan has plenty of options. Our first few experiences bring you the best of Japan in a more intimate setting. 

1. Head to Odawara for a Food Tour & Geisha Kaiseki Dinner

Learn about Japan's iconic professions at Odawara Castle, the closest castle to Tokyo. Explore the fascinating world of samurai, ninja, and geisha while enjoying the local cuisine.

You'll start your adventure at Odawara Station. Walking through Minaka Mall, you'll stop and try different foods made in the area while learning about Odawara's rich history.

After a few more street foods, you'll walk to Odawara Castle. On the way, you can stop and get dressed up in samurai gear for a photo in front of the castle. Inside the castle, you'll learn more about the life of the samurai and ninjas. 

After the tour, head off in a taxi to a truly memorable experience. Indulge in a traditional kaiseki meal accompanied by geisha at a luxurious restaurant inside a traditional Japanese building. The ultimate Japanese culture package! 

Convinced? Book this food experience in Odawara

2. Make Traditional Japanese Sweets in Nagoya

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Just a few hours southwest of Tokyo, Nagoya is a too-often-overlooked city. It's home to a unique breakfast culture, the recently opened Ghibli Park, and the world's second largest planetarium. When not looking at the stars or wandering Dondoko Forest, make your own Japanese confectionery (wagashi) and experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony

Delicate, beautiful, and delicious, Japanese wagashi sweets are a quintessential part of Japanese culture and a part of the ritual of any Japanese tea ceremony. This food experience offers the opportunity to learn how to make a range of Japanese sweets from scratch, diverse in their flavors and textures, and then enjoy them with a humbling Japanese tea ceremony experience. 

Book this wagashi and tea ceremony experience in Nagoya.

3. Reconnect With Nature on a Farm in Mie Prefecture

Now, if you're open to a detour, let us recommend a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Mie Prefecture. Stay overnight at a farmer's inn in Taikicho and prepare dinner with the family. Harvest vegetables and mushrooms, cook rice with local spring water, and indulge in a sukiyaki hot pot with luxurious Matsusaka wagyu

Collect water for the hot pot and rice at a local spring. This water is known as "miracle water" by neighboring residents, who say drinking it is their secret to a long life. Then, pick your veggies at a nearby vegetable patch. Lend a hand in making Japanese rice the old-fashioned way, starting by splitting wood for a fire. The family uses a wood-fueled "kamado" stove to cook their rice, a tradition that used to be the norm in Japan but has since been replaced by electric rice cookers. The effort pays off, as steaming the rice using this method is said to bring out even more delicious flavors from the rice. The star ingredient of your meal will be Mie-raised Matsusaka wagyu, a protein that ranks in the top 3 Japanese beefs. 

Experience the beauty of slow food, preparing a meal using traditional methods and ingredients hand-picked in the locality. 

Book this farm-to-table experience in Mie.

4. Customize Your Very Own Fake Food Sample in Tokyo

If you can't make it out of Tokyo, don't worry, we've got you. Take your food experiences a step further by making a unique fake food sample. Japanese fake food samples are a part of everyday life. You'll see them outside Japanese restaurants across the country, acting as a visual menu that entices hungry customers to come in. 

In this workshop, you will learn how to make your very own fake food sample with the help of a friendly, professional teacher. Choose the default experience, and you'll make your own life-size ramen food sample. Alternatively, select one of the options and make an adorable tart charm, cupcake charm, or parfait.

Book this fake food sample experience in Tokyo.

5. Go on an Evening Luxury Cruise in Tokyo Bay

A woman overlooking Tokyo Bay aboard a private boat

The best way to see Tokyo's skyline at night? From a boat, of course! Board an elegant yakatabune (traditional Japanese "pleasure boat") for a private cruise and dining experience in Tokyo. Marvel at stunning views of Tokyo Bay, Odaiba, and Rainbow Bridge as you feast on a luxurious kaiseki meal. Accomplished chefs with experience gained at renowned hotels will showcase their culinary artistry right before your eyes. 

This unique experience is pricey but worth every yen. Plus, it makes for a great date night activity if you're celebrating Valentine's Day with a loved one or marking a special anniversary. 

Book a luxury cruise in Tokyo Bay.

A couple praying at Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

The key to escaping the crowds during one of Japan's busiest periods is to go where nobody else is going. You can book hundreds of food experiences on byFood in addition to the ones we suggested in this post. Browse cooking classesfood tours and sake tastingsPro tip: Use the handy filters to find experiences suited to your trip and preferences.

More Japan Travel Guides

Check out our other guides for a smooth and memorable trip around Japan:

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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The byFood Team
Sharing our love of Japanese cuisine and culture, with the mission of spreading happiness through food.
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