Tokyo is a great city for food tourism. There are so many delicious options, from Unagi to Okonominake to all things noodle-related. Having visited Japan a few times, I’m pretty familiar with the food, but I’ll never get tired of Japanese food tourism.
For my recent visit to Tokyo I did some searching around for off-the-beaten path activities. I looked through the offerings from several peer-to-peer experiences companies. And ultimately I decided food tourism is still my favorite. This led me back to Traveling Spoon. They offer in-home meals with locals, often including the option of a cooking lesson, market tour, or farm tour. I interviewed the founders back in 2014 when they were just getting started. Since that time their geographic reach and number of tours has grown dramatically.
Traveling Spoon has an impressive line up of home cooks in Tokyo. It was actually quite difficult to choose between them. Ultimately I decided on Junko because she offered a tour around the famous Tsukiji fish market along with a cooking class and meal. I’ve visited Tsukiji a few times, and it’s crazy chaotic, packed with people and tiny stalls and restaurants. I figured there are lots of things I have overlooked in the market and it would be fun to have a local show me around.
Junko met us at the train station near the fish market with a professional looking Traveling Spoon sign. The market tour did not disappoint. We learned about the foods for sale (some that I had mistaken for vegetables were actually pickled fish), browsed knives and other cookware, and walked through tiny alleys that I would have thought off limits. As we wandered through the market Junko shared interesting tidbits about Japanese culture and daily life.
Junko’s love for cooking is obvious in her home. Shelves are packed with jars of jams and preserves, and she frequently hosts dinner parties. One of her friends, who I assume has sampled Junko’s fabulous cooking, connected her with Traveling Spoon, thinking it would be a good fit. And it is. It’s clear Junko really enjoys combining her love for food and cooking with an opportunity to use and practice English.
After the market tour Junko prepared a feast for us. We were just two people, but the spread must have included 10 dishes (I lost count!). And none of them were simple to prepare. I gleaned a few new ideas for sauces, and tried out some ingredients that are hard to come by in the U.S.
Arguably there’s no need for food tours in Japan. It’s easy to find delicious food, both relatively cheap and very high end. Still, I find there are always new dishes to try and new things to learn. And the opportunity to spend a half day with a local chatting about life and culture and food is one of the best parts about Traveling Spoon experiences.
Self-serving link: If you want to enjoy private meals and cooking lessons with locals through Traveling Spoon, you can get $20 off your first booking with my referral link.