Important Covid-19 Update. Our client’s safety is important to us, and travel will resume when the travel ban (including the 14-day quarantine) is lifted both in Japan and the United States. Next Spring, we will offer two “off the beaten track” tours to escape the large cities and to enjoy the rural parts of Japan. First, is Textiles of Kyushu, a unique opportunity to experience Japanese culture and textile in the southern island of Japan. Second is Edible Japan, which will be a modified version of the original Culinary Tour with an extra day in the Shinshu region with sake brewery tour, miso making and knife shop visits. Stay well and be safe.

April 2018 Newsletter

Tanpopo Studio April 2018 Newsletter

Despite being greeted by one of the worst Spring snowstorms in Minnesota upon our arrival, we and the whole group made it safely back from Japan on our tour this April.

Warm Spring weather and stunning sakura blossoms accompanied us as we toured through Tokyo, Nagano and Yamanashi on our 6 day culinary tour of Japan. What a sweet success!! Although it was too early for Spring vegetables, we enjoyed pickled sakura flower tea, tempura of Spring tree buds, young bamboo shoots, and of course fresh seafood at Tsukiji Fish Market. Did I forget to mention the Japanese wagyu?

We found the sushi class and soba workshop to be very rewarding as it brought all of us closer together as a group. On the last night, at a 200-year-old farm house, we had a memorable 8-course meal in their traditional dining room where we all felt like family (including the inn owner). Who knew unfiltered local white wine from Yamanashi can be so full of flavor, fresh and delicious.

One of the goals of the tour was to learn about where our food comes from and how things are made. One of our travelers was surprised to see that the “Farm to Table” movement is such a big part of everyday eating scenes of Nagano and Yamanashi. Throughout the tour, we were able to experience how Japanese food is grown, harvested and prepared. We talked about the value of food and and people’s passion for preparing and serving food. We learned to bow, say some Japanese phrases, and show appreciation to the chef for the good food. We had such a wonderful group of people with willingness to explore new cultures and experiences. Thank you Angie, Lane, Carolyn, Avery, Kiera and Josh (also for Susan and Josh for joining us in Tsukiji) for wonderful time together in Japan.

This fall, we are taking another group on our culinary inspired tour to Japan. It’s the beginning of harvest season and this is a remarkable time to travel as the temperature cools a bit and the style of food starts to change. Join us for another small group, hands-on food tour this fall.

Here is what is happening with TanpopoStudio this month.

Art & Culture Tour Exploratory Meeting at Wet Paint

We have an Art Tour Exploratory Meet up with Wet Paint scheduled this month. We will talk about our collaboration with Wet Paint in St. Paul on a 2019 Art and Culture Tour to Japan. Join us to discuss the proposed 7 day Art and Culture Tour which will take place in the picturesque town of Matsumoto. If are interested, we would love to get your input on this exciting trip!

Date: May 11, from 6:30-7:30 pm
Place: Wet Paint 1684 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105

TanpopoStudio Monthly Meetup

This month’s meetup is scheduled for Monday May 21 from 7-8pm at Quixotic Coffee Shop in Highland Park, Saint Paul. If you missed us during Art Tour Exploratory Meet up with Wet Paint, here is a chance to catch up. The topic this month is ”Art and Culture in Japan”, and the planned 7 day Art and Culture Tour for Spring of 2019. Are you thinking about checking out art and cultural scenes of Japan along with some hands-on learning experiences with a great group of people? Come join us to learn what this new tour is all about.

It is free, but space is limited. Please send us an email if you are interested in attending.

Upcoming Tours to Japan

Culinary Tour of Japan
October marks the beginning of harvest season and this is a great time to visit Japan. Enjoy a fall walk in Kiso Valley, relax in hot spring and savor a regional Kaiseki dinner.
September – October 2018

We have added more tours for 2019!

Classes and Workshops

Artist in the Kitchen!
Until May 19th

Japanese Vegetarian Cooking
May 24th at 6 pm at Cooks of Crocus Hills, St. Paul

Happy Travels,
Koshiki and Benjamin Smith

ニュースレター:2018 年5月号

February 2018 Update

Tanpopo Studio Sushi Workshop

Happy February,

Our family started the year by visiting my aunt and uncle’s farm in Alexandria, Minnesota.  They bought a farm about 10 years ago to raise cattle, chickens, hay and vegetables.  They cooked us a delicious dinner using ingredients almost entirely harvested at the farm.  It was a clear reminder about the importance of knowing where our food comes from and enjoying food together. Thank you, Carl and Laurie.

Tanpopo Studio Monthly Meetup
Starting in February, we’ll be hosting a monthly meetup at a local coffee shop. It’s an opportunity for you to  learn more about upcoming tours.  Moreover, there will be a monthly discussion topic about Japan, cooking, learning Japanese, travel tips and more.  The kickoff meeting is scheduled on Monday, Feb. 12 from 7-8pm at Quixotic Coffee Shop in Highland Park, Saint Paul. Meet the Tanpopo Studio Team and learn about ramen!  We’ll have ramen chef(s) there to to share tips on making your own ramen. It is free, but space is limited.
Please send us an email (, if you are interested in attending.

April Guided Tour to Japan
We have 4 more seats available for the April Food Tour.  If you haven’t thought about your Spring vacation yet, please consider joining the group. We have a few weeks left before registration closes. Jakfoto Film, photographers and filmmakers, will be there to capture the moment. This is a great chance to travel Japan in good company!

Hands-on Sushi Workshops
In January, we hosted a sushi workshop at Blu Skye Acres in Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin. On a snowy Sunday afternoon, about ten of us gathered around of a large farm kitchen to learn how to make sushi together.  From the kitchen window, you can see horses in the pasture and the surrounding forest. It felt like a mini-vacation in the woods.

There will be another workshop in February.  If interested, please sign-up

New Team Members at Tanpopo Studio
We are excited to announce new team members – Lucas Erie and Zach Hurdle.They are both passionate about Japan, culture,food, travel and also speak Japanese. Lucas and Zach will be helping us with booking, marketing and communications and will be at our monthly meetup.

If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you.

Happy Travels,

Koshiki and Benjamin Smith


ニュースレター:2018 年2月号




私たちは新年早々に、ミネソタ州の西に位置する Alexandria にある叔父と叔母の農場にお邪魔しました。叔父と叔母は10年ほど前に牛の飼育を始め、今は鶏の飼育に加え野菜も栽培しています。とても寒いお正月に私たちを迎えてくださり、農場で採れた食材を使って温かい夕食でもてなしてくださりました。私がいつも大切にしている食材のルーツや、家族の大切さを改めて目の当たりにした貴重なひと時でした。











A Japanese Wasabi Farm & Traveling to Kiso

Japanese Wasabi Farm

It was a warm, sunny day as I arrived at the wasabi farm located in a valley surrounded by a mountain range known as the Japanese Alps. From the farm, you can clearly see the dusting of snow covering the North Alps. This farm in an area called Azumino, is one of the largest in Japan and is  also a popular attraction.

It is busy with visitors strolling the paths overlooking channels of mountain water peppered with wasabi plants.  Azumino’s cool temperature and clean source of freshwater is an ideal place for growing wasabi.  The root is planted in soil and gravel under a current of cold, fresh water. The farmers will cover the stream beds with black cloth doing hot and cold months to keep the air and water temperature at 13 degrees to protect the delicate plant.

Child at Wasabi Farm
Child at Wasabi Farm

In the perfect autumn sunshine, we decided to take a rest by sitting along the stream beds and sampled an unusual but delicious wasabi delicacies for sale: Steamed buns filled with wasabi leaves, local chicken and vegetables, grilled wasabi hot dogs, crispy wasabi crackers, and even freshly made wasabi ice cream!! All so delicious.

Steamed Bun
Steamed Bun

After indulging in our delicious wasabi delicacies, we drove down the steep mountain roads to tonight’s destination of town of Naraijyuku. The town is located in an area called Kiso. It is a historical area located along the Kiso river that has served as a postal town and merchant village.  One killometer stretch of Naraijyukuis sits right on Japan’s Nationally Designated Architectural Preservation Site and is recognized as a National Asset. All the building at this post town has been kept with the architectural integrity of Edo period of Japan.

Kiso Japan
Kiso Japan

Kiso is also famous for its lacquer dishwares.  Lacquer finish is highly regarded in this region as lacquer sap is collected from trees and then hand applied to wooden dishware by craftsmen.  This land-locked mountainous area is also known for Hinoki trees, a type of Japanese cypress tree.  The wood is used to make the fine, decorative Japanese lacquerware that is so well known. The town’s history, architecture and fine crafts and worthy of a visit.

In the evening, we stopped at a lacquer center and had freshly made buckwheat noodle soup with wild mushrooms and mountain vegetables from the area for dinner.  After dinner we strolled through a nearby a farmers’ market was selling golden persimmons, nameko mushrooms and other regional favorites.

Japanese Bowls

Tomorrow, I will be meeting a professional chef/farmer to make rental arrangements for staying at his private Japanese farmhouse and country inn to make preparations for our Spring culinary travel tour to Japan.

Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market

Visiting Tsukiji Market

The last week of October, I spent about three days in Tokyo meeting restaurant owners, going to cooking schools  and checking out ramen shops. I spent the last day of my trip  hanging out at Tsukiji – the world’s largest fish market. The day I visited Tsukiji, it was unusually warm, pleasant and sunny.  I found myself relaxed and carefree as I strolled through the market admiring the shops and soaking up the spirit of the market.

On Monday, Tsukiji was bustling with energy, and everyone was preoccupied with their day’s business and driving their turret trucks at full speed. Tourists are everywhere.  The coolers at food stalls were filled with catches of the season such as snow crab, pike fish, squid, salmon, mackerel and shelves with green tea, seaweed, bonito flakes, miso, pickled vegetables, wasabi roots and much more.  As a matter of a fact, “Food Town” is a word used in Japanese to describe Tsukiji as one can find nearly everything you need for making  traditional Japanese food.  This is also where world class seafood auctions take place surrounded by a maze of retail shops and all kinds of restaurants.

Food at Tsukiji
Food at Tsukiji

I had a morning meeting with Mr. Noguchi who assisted me with planning a sushi workshop at near by restaurant for our guests during our tour.  I was in luck that day as Mr. Noguchi treated me to a  private, behind-the-scenes  tour of the market.  As you might know, due to its  years of heavy use and also to make way for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Tsukiji’s inner market is moving this summer to Toyosu, a man-made island near by (if you sign up with us for our April and June trips, you might still be able to see the inner market as a group).

Fish for Sale at Tsukiji
Fish for Sale at Tsukiji

One of the must to do thing at Tsukiji is to shop and eat at one of the many restaurants serving the freshest sushi you can buy. After my meeting with Mr. Noguchi, I squeezed myself into a counter seat at very busy sushi restaurant and indulged on some of my favorites at the market; charred fally tuna, sea urchin, sardine, mackerel and salmon.

Store at Tsukiji
Store at Tsukiji

Hope to see you in Japan.

Happy Travels!

Tanpopo Studio

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