An in-depth Ceramics focused culinary tour in Japan with Ace Camps Travel and Prairie Stuart-Wolff of Cultivate Days. Karatsu, Japan - MAY 2019 Learn more here!



About the trip:

Join us in the beautiful southern region of Japan, off-the-radar of the tourist masses, as we explore the intersections of food and ceramics. Karatsu pottery has long been collected by practitioners of tea ceremony from which the philosophies and aesthetics of omotenashi, Japan’s revered art of hospitality, has evolved. Through the preparation of quality ingredients and their presentation in ceramic utensils, we’ll explore the practices of arranging buds and branches, serving and receiving tea and sake, plating food, setting the table, and sharing a meal.

This intimate behind-the-scenes experience will be curated and lead by Prairie Stuart-Wolff. Prairie is a writer and photographer, who will bring you on a journey of of epicurean ideals from the heart of Japan.

You will enjoy home cooked meals, Sushi, Ramen, Soba, Eel, + three different versions of kaiseki. Traditional kaiseki is a course menu of specialty dishes utilizing fresh, local ingredients presented in fine vessels made of ceramic and lacquer.

May is a wonderful time of year to visit Karatsu. The days are mild and sunny and evenings slowly turn warm enough to leave the windows open. The first cicadas begin to stir and the lavender color of wild thistle blossoms in the fields marks the entrance into summer. It’s the season of fragrant citrus blossoms and fresh garden vegetables, and the tea harvests are underway.

All photos by Prairie Stuart-Wolff


This Ace Camp includes:

  • 7 Days of guided workshops and tours by Prairie Stuart-Wolff + Hanako Nakazato

  • 8 nights in twin share accommodation* - 3 nights in a traditional Japanese Ryokan (Japanese floor futon beds), 4 nights in a oceanview Karatsu hotel room (Western style beds), 1 arrival night in Fukuoka hotel

  • 8 breakfasts

  • 7 lunches

  • 6 Dinners, including sake

  • Pottery studio tours

  • Cooking class

  • Ikebana Floral arranging class

  • Wagashi Making Workshop + Tea Ceremony

  • Visit to the historic Porcelain town of Arita

  • Japanese Calligraphy class

  • Tour of a Medieval Castle Town

  • Green Tea Tasting and educational class

  • Transport during tours and return train transfer from Fukuoka to Karatsu


Group Size: Minimum 8 guests and maximum 11 guests. 

*Rooms are shared with one other guest. Single Supplement may be available, please inquire.

Airfare to Fukuoka, Japan is not included.

This trip does not include alcoholic drinks except where noted.

TRIP PRICE:  $ 4295 USD *

We’re sorry this trip has sold out! If you are interested in visiting Karatsu at a later date, and you would like to be the first to know please add your email address to our early notification list by clicking the button below. Thank you!



Located in a delightful corner of Karatsu, between the estuary and the beach, Yoyokaku is a small, charming ryokan - a traditional Japanese inn - with a history stretching back over a hundred years. Yoyokaku features superb food, beautiful ikebana, Japanese baths, a traditional garden, and warm hospitality.

An important note about the beds at Yoyokaku

Here you will sleep on traditional Japanese floor futons in tatami mat rooms (not a western style mattress). All rooms feature elegant, traditional Japanese design and décor, a garden view and ensuite bathroom.



This oceanside western style Japanese hotel features spectacular sea views from every room. The hotel features an ocean front pool, restaurant and is located at the foot of the spectacular Saga Pine Forest, also known as Nijinomatsubara. This magnificent forest of black pines dates from the 17th Century, when the first lord of the Karatsu domain, Terazawa Hirotaka, planted black pines along the dunes as protection against wind and tides. 


Prairie Stuart-Wolff

Prairie Stuart-Wolff Portrait.jpg

Upon moving to Japan in 2007, Prairie immediately recognized the great depth and beauty of Japanese culinary traditions and her good fortune to have married into a family of accomplished potters, dedicated cooks, and food connoisseurs. Her father-in-law, Takashi Nakazato, has long been a recognized champion of talented growers, producers, and chefs. Eating at her mother-in-law, Kuniko’s table kindled a desire to know more about the fascinating ingredients she used and the techniques in the kitchen that daily transformed them into such exquisite dishes. Thus began an endeavor, to learn about and document the principles and practices of Japanese food and culture in context.

You can learn more about Prairie on instagram @cultivateddays

Hanako Nakazato Portrait.jpg

Hanako Nakazato

We are also very fortunate to collaborate with Hanako Nakazato, a 14th generation potter from Japan, Hanako’s technique and philosophy are rooted in the ceramic traditions of Karatsu, Japan. But years spent living in the West has influenced her shapes and surfaces. Her wide variety of simple functional forms are carried in many galleries and shops throughout Japan and the US. She currently divides her time between studios in Japan and Maine. 

Follow along @monohanako


As a culinary focused tour, the meals are a main aspect of the week and the more adventurous you are, the tastier this trip will be for you. Unfortunately we are unable to handle specific dietary requirements, allergies or intolerances on this trip. Seafood dishes will feature prominently during this Ace Camp AND we recommend you enjoy ALL KINDS OF fish AND SEAFOOD in particular.

Japan is not always an easy place to travel for vegans, vegetarians or those with restricted diets such as gluten-free. Many foods in Japan that appear to be vegetable based are likely prepared with dashi (stock), which contains dried fish and soy sauce. Gluten, fish + soy sauce in particular are staples in Japanese cuisine. Japan is full of wild and wonderful things to eat. While we won’t be challenging you with the strangest aspects of the food culture, even day-to-day eating in Japan can taste quite different to someone unfamiliar with the cuisine.

All photos by Prairie Stuart-Wolff


ACE CAMPS  will email you when it is time to make your travel arrangements. This email will always be sent 90 days or more before your trip departs unless you book within 90 prior to the camp. There will be no refunds for this Ace Camp due to the planning and logistics involved. 

This trip will start and end in Fukuoka, Japan.


May is a wonderful time of year to visit Southern Japan. Days are mostly temperate with trees and plants in bloom.

Temperatures range from 55°F to 75°F, which means you should pack layered clothes for your stay and a light jacket + umbrella to prepare for the odd shower. 


The ACE CAMP TOUR LEADER is a part of your group and are there to look out for your safety, to help resolve issues, and to make sure you get what you want from your vacation. The Tour Leader will make sure that everyone who wants company has it, including dinners when no group meal is scheduled.


This trip is for the calm, open minded traveler who is eager to experiment with their taste buds. You should be interested in learning about the local community of artisans, fascinated by ancient rituals and curious about regional culture and cuisine.



Travel Day - plan to arrive in Fukuoka, Japan

Make your own way to our hotel in Fukuoka, located a short walk from Hakata Train station. The airport and train station (where the Shinkansen/bullet train stops) are easily accessed as they are just a few minutes away.

Due to many flight arrival times in the evening, there are no planned activities today.


Breakfast at the hotel

This morning is free for you to explore Fukuoka, the hotel is within walking distance of the Shofukuji temple complex, completed in 1195 it is the oldest Zen temple in Japan.

Around noon, we will meet at the hotel and enjoy a casual meet and greet lunch with everyone. After lunch we will take the train 90 minutes south to Karatsu. Check in to the Seaside Hotel.

Dinner this evening will include an introduction to sake, learning about the etiquette and tasting at Arutokoro (where we will also enjoy a traditional washoku course meal). Arutokoro is run by Sunao and Megimi Hirakawa and located in a farmhouse at the foot of mount Kagami that the couple renovated themselves. Kaiseki trained chef Hirakawa serves a course menu of traditional Japanese food using local, seasonal ingredients. Meals are prepared in an open kitchen visible from the the dining tables using techniques such as grilling on binchotan white charcoal and cooking rice in an iron pot over an open flame.


Breakfast at the hotel

This morning begins with a visit to the Karatsu castle which sits atop a hill surrounded on three sides by water, it will give you views out across Karatsu.

Following this, we will tour the studio of monohanako established in 2007 by Hanako Nakazato. Hanako apprenticed under her father at Ryutagama. At monohanako we will see an example of a production studio. Each piece is wheel thrown by hand and Hanako will demonstrate her throwing technique, throwing off the hump with a gyubera (bull’s tongue tool). She’ll explain the technique’s efficiency and history particular to Karatsu. Here we have some time to learn more about Karatsu’s pottery traditions, ask questions, and peruse the showroom where Hanako’s works that blend traditional techniques with modern sensibilities are on display and for sale.

Lunch TBD

This afternoon you will have a hands-on flower arranging class. Also known as Ikebana, this is a systematic and storytelling Japanese way of picking, preserving and arranging buds and branches.

Dinner this evening will be Yakitori in Karatsu


Breakfast at the hotel

Today we travel to Akizuki for a walking tour of the old castle town and shrines. A beautiful townscape that has been called the Little Kyoto of Chikuzen, Akizuki is a historic town which has retained it’s castle town appearance from 800 years ago.

For lunch today we enjoy soba in a charming little spot tucked into the trees beside a mountain stream.

This afternoon we’ll learn about the seven tea producing regions in Kyushu. We’ll learn the proper steeping method of sencha, taste a variety of green teas and learn about the role of varietals and terroir in flavor.

Late afternoon we return to Karatsu and have dinner at Hirata where Tomohaya Hirata, a Kyoto kaiseki trained chef, assisted by his wife Rika, serves a course menu of elegant dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients in local ceramics.

PSW AC Karatsu May-1.jpg


Breakfast at the hotel

This morning we visit the Karatsu fish market & vegetable stands to learn about local seasonal produce and select items to use in our cooking class this afternoon.

Lunch will be served at the house

This afternoon Prairie will lead a cooking class at her home. She will explain and demonstrate the different kinds of dishes and cooking techniques used in preparing a traditional home cooked meal. With Hanako’s studio just paces away and a cupboard full of Nakazato pottery, Hanako will talk about the use of pottery at the home table and offer some insights into plating techniques. We will cook several courses of a traditional home-cooking meal, plate them in Hanako’s pottery, set the table and eat dinner together at Prairie and Hanako’s home.

Return to Seaside hotel after dinner.


Breakfast at the hotel

This morning we pack our bags, and move from the Seaside Hotel to our traditional Japanese Inn - Yoyokaku.

This morning we will visit the ceramics studio of Ryutagama. Ryutagama was founded by Takashi Nakazato, the youngest son of Taroemon Nakazato who was bestowed the honorific title of national living treasure in 1976 for his efforts in reviving an ancient and dormant tradition of pottery in Karatsu. Here you can see two wood-fired noborigama kilns, a throwing room featuring kick-wheels, and a showroom with works for sale. Today Ryutagama is run by Takashi’s son Taki who works alongside his own son.

This afternoon we travel to the small historic town of Arita, to see a very different kind of pottery - mold made porcelain tableware. With the discovery of Kaolin clay in 1615 the first Japanese porcelain, Aritayaki, originated in the town of Arita, and enabled the manufacture of fine porcelain in Japan for the first time.

While in Arita we’ll visit with a local pottery studio and then check out several shops to see a variety of porcelain vessels. This will be an excellent opportunity to do some shopping!

Dinner this evening is a traditional ryokan style kaiseki meal served in your room at Yoyokaku.


Breakfast at the hotel

This morning you begin with a hands-on Japanese Calligraphy course taught by a local instructor. Shodo or 'the way of writing' is the art of Japanese calligraphy. The history of Shodo is very long, and blossomed during the Asuka period (593-) when Chinese characters were introduced to Japan. You'll have time to practice your calligraphy skills before painting one kanji to take home and keep.

Lunch today is Unagi eel.

Free afternoon and evening (we’ll offer suggestions of places to go - relaxing at Yoyokaku may be just what you seek).

Dinner on your own.


Breakfast at the hotel

Today we focus on the art of wagashi (Japanese confections) with a hands-on workshop with a local wagashi maker. Designed to accompany and complement the naturally bitter taste of green tea, wagashi are often beautiful and intricate in their design.

For lunch we will visit a local historical property and enjoy Bento boxes.

This afternoon you will have a full introduction to a Japanese tea ceremony in a traditional tatami tea room. Your experience will include the wagashi sweets you made this morning.

Our farewell group dinner this evening is a private sushi party! We’ll have the grand cypress counter at Ginsushi all to ourselves and watch chef Nobuhisa Abe prepare traditional Edo style sushi using local fish. 


Breakfast at the hotel

Departure Day

This morning we pack our bags, say our farewells and take the train back to Hakata Station in Fukuoka for departure.

We’re sorry this trip has sold out! If you are interested in visiting Karatsu at a later date, and you would like to be the first to know please add your email address to our early notification list by clicking the button below. Thank you!

Nota Bene: this is a prospective itinerary. It is subject to modest modifications, dependent on local weather, new opportunities and the desires of the group.