Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Have a safe and happy summer!

I hope you've had a good year and have got some nice plans for 2018. For New Year, I went down to Mt Kosciusko for a few days of gentle hiking with some friends from Japan. What did you do?

Autumn tour reports

I'm so happy to have finished up my 2017 tours with everyone returning home safe and well. Over the last couple of months, I've run my Earth & Fire ceramics tour, Spirit of Japan walking tour, and Autumn Colours tour. My ceramics tour was lovely with a very friendly and talented group of potters. For Spirit of Japan, we had some wet and wild weather, but I felt so blessed to have a great group of walkers who took the typhoon in their stride. In contrast to that, my Autumn Colours tour was full of blue skies!


For 2018, we're starting a new venture that focuses on a very special walk in the central alpine region of Japan. It's called the Shinetsu Trail. It's an 80km trek, that's soft underfoot because of the grand beech trees that drop their leaves each year on the trail. We think it's the best long-distance woodland trail in Japan. We hope you can join us on one of our Half Treks or Full Treks. Visit our new dedicated website, ShinetsuTrail.com to be inspired.

Deep North Autumn Walks

I've also developed a new tour for 2018, which I'm calling Deep North Autumn Walks. This tour starts in late October when the Autumn colours in northern Japan are at their best. I'm focusing on Aomori Prefecture, where we can visit the world heritage area of Shirakami Sanchi, as well as Oirase Gorge below Lake Towada. It's such a beautiful area that's got some excellent food, friendly locals and gorgeous nature. Get in touch if you're interested.

Friday, August 4, 2017

My 2018 tours are now on sale

Bookings open!

We have just finished updating our website for 2018 and are excited to now take bookings! The lineup is similar to this year and we have print friendly flyers on our website for each of our tours. There are just two small changes. My North Sakura tour is pushing further north next year with two extra nights, one at the volcanic geopark of Lake Toya, and the other in Sapporo. For my City Lights & Alpine Trails tour, we will be skipping Sendai to have two nights at Oirase Gorge, allowing us more time to enjoy the pristine nature there... Please be aware that my Classic Sakura tour sold out very fast last year. We take bookings on a first come first served basis.

May & June tour reports

I took two groups on my City Lights & Alpine Trails tour this year. One group was my scheduled tour and the other was a private group. The first group had beautiful weather in Kamikochi on the roof of Japan, while the second group (pictured above) had a perfect day on Asahidake in Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido. This tour is my grand walking tour - we traverse the length of Japan from Kyoto to Sapporo. It suits travellers who enjoy nature, regional food and culture.

Independent tours

A traveller's pic of a friendly local met on the Nakasendo this year...
If your schedule doesn't match my tours or you want to visit Japan in your own way, we can still assist you. We regularly put together independent tours for travellers like you. We provide everything you need to travel easily in Japan and tailor it to your personal interests. We're happy to help.

Where do I holiday during Australia's winter?

This was taken a few weeks ago on Iriomote Island south of Okinawa. It's a great place to escape the cold.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

From sakura pink to new green

Just a week in Sydney to relax and play soccer

The sakura season has come and gone in Japan, and I have returned to Sydney for just ten days to recover and play two Saturday soccer matches - one win, one loss, no injury. Sydney Rangers will have to cope without me as I head back for Japan's new green tomorrow!

Private tours

I kicked off 2017 with a private tour taking in western Japan's kiln sites. It was a group of four Americans, who all had an interest in ceramics. Particular highlights were Hagi, where we enjoyed guided kiln visits, and also Inujima, which is a small island and part of the Naoshima Benesse Art Site on the inland sea (pictured below). I can tailor any private tour for you but please let us know in advance as times are limited. 

Sakura tour reports

The sakura season for 2017 was excellent as the weather was good and the flowers were in full bloom at most of the places we visited. Here is my troupe of Classic Sakura travellers in Ueno Park in Tokyo (top right).
My North Sakura tour this year was extended to include Hakodate at the southern tip of Hokkaido. Here we could enjoy Tarabagani (Red King Crab), which is a local speciality. Next year, I am thinking of pushing further north into Hokkaido. What do you think?

Availability in 2017

A couple of my tours in late 2017 still have availability, including my Earth & Fire ceramics and art tour (Oct 3-14), and my Autumn Colours aesthetic tour (Nov 17-30) pictured below. There are just a few spots left in each, so please get in touch with me if you're interested.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy summer holidays!

Ookini (thank you) to all my fellow travellers in 2016

It's been some time since I wrote to you, but I've been on the road for the past couple of months, so there were few chances to write. This year, I guided 56 people through Japan on six scheduled tours and one private tour. We also organised eleven independent tours for 26 travellers - thank you Jason for looking after them during my travels. Also, a big thank you to all my fellow travellers for joining me.

Oct-Nov tour reports

Late 2016 was a busy time with three great tours been and gone. We were very lucky to have pretty good weather on all of them, and everyone returned home safe and well.
Starting with my Earth & Fire ceramics and art tour, we (above) got to enjoy some great things. Particular highlights were our stay at Yoyokaku Ryokan in Karatsu and also our ceramics experience with Hajime-san in Bizen.
Following that tour, I met with fellow travellers in Osaka for my revised Spirit of Japan walking tour. It now includes five day walks at Koya-san, the Kumano-Kodo and the Nakasendo. The autumn colours on our walk over Torii Pass between Yabuhara and Narai were incredible. A special thank you to Sonia and Craig (pictured walking next column) who joined one of my tours for the second time. Also thank you to my brother, Daisuke, for providing back-up on this tour.
Finally, I ended 2016 with my Autumn Colours tour. It is such a beautiful time of year especially in the country side in the more remote places like Shirakawago and Gero (pictured below).

The year ahead

For 2017, both sakura tours and my walking tour in May sold out quickly. Japan is becoming more and more popular for foreign travellers, and there's a boom going on, especially in places like Kyoto. Fortunately, all my tours in the latter part of 2017 are still available, including my Earth & Fire ceramics and art tour (Oct 3-14), my Spirit of Japan walking tour (Oct 17-30), and my Autumn Colours aesthetic tour (Nov 17-30) pictured below. With just ten spots in each, they can fill at anytime, so please contact me soon if you're interested.

Happy holidays!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy summer holiday. I'll be staying in Sydney over new year; it's such a nice place to be at that time, with all the traffic gone. The only thing I'll miss about Japan is nishin soba (below), which is a specialty in Kyoto at this time of year... Ah... Enjoy your Christmas feast everyone! 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bookings open for 2017!

Brochure is at the printers

My 2017 brochure is at the printers as I type, but I thought you should know my website is updated and I'm ready to take bookings. I've taken a different approach to the brochure this year; it is more eco-friendly, so if you'd like one mailed to you, go to this link.


All my tours have availability, except for City Lights & Alpine Trails, which has been taken by a private group. My tours are similar to the ones I ran in 2016, but I have extended both North Sakura (formerly Tohoku Sakura) and Earth & Fire. North Sakura now continues under the sea to the port town of Hakodate in Hokkaido, where the cherry blossoms should be spectacular at Goryokaku Fort. As for the Earth & Fire tour, I have decided to include Hagi, on the Japan Sea side because it is one of the most important centres of pottery.

Japan tourism booming

You will see that prices have gone up a little for 2017 because of the drop in the Australian dollar against the yen, and also tourism in Japan is booming from visitors of neighbouring countries, which is pushing costs up. However, I've kept my tours good value for you. Last year, my sakura tours sold out quite fast, so please contact me soon if you are interested in the cherry blossoms. Please visit my website for details on all my tours.


I recently returned from a two week holiday in Okinawa, and I can recommend it for anyone wanting a break from winter in Australia. I enjoyed the coral beaches, snorkelling, kayaking and also the relaxed pace of life. It also has beautiful butterflies everywhere! Please get in touch with me if you are interested in visiting some day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Time to settle in for the winter and plan for next year

Sakura season has gone...

Thank you to everyone who joined my sakura tours this year. On the Classic Sakura tour, the blossoms were particularly beautiful around the alpine town of Yudanaka (pictured right). This is where we stopped to see the snow monkeys too. As always though, I enjoy heading north from Tokyo into the quiet rural areas on my Tohoku Sakura tour, where the cherry blossoms around Hirosaki castle were outstanding, but very cold!

as have the fresh greens!

My customers always laugh at me when I tell them that visiting Japan in May is a great time for seeing fresh greens - but it is! In Japan, we have a special word for the green leaves that appear on the trees with the warming weather - 'shinryoku' - fresh greens... Anyway, this year, we had spectacular weather for my City Lights & Alpine Trails tour, so the fresh greens were particularly beautiful! Here we were finally getting down from the Dakesawa climb at Kamikochi (pictured right).

Plans for 2017

I'm currently looking at my calendar for 2017. My line up of tours for next year will be similar to 2016, but hold on for details. Due to popular demand, I'm going to offer two departures in Oct and Nov for my Spirit of Japan walking tour that takes in two ancient routes: the Kumanokodo (pictured right) and the Nakasendo. I also have to squeeze in a few private tours, so it's going to be a busy year. I'm going to release dates and prices for tours in the next month or two, so look out for my next post.

Time to rug up!

Returning to Sydney for winter is always a shock. Why does it feel so cold here when it isn't so cold? I think I'll take a short detour for the tropical islands of Okinawa ... for research.

And lastly - a cat

Atlas is always happy to help unpack.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

Happy New Year everyone! I've just woke from a nap to sleep off a little more of last night's celebration. I think I enjoyed it a little too much. This morning though, I was lucky to join my dear friend, Masa-san (on left) in Sydney for a Japanese New Year's breakfast. Traditionally, we have Ozouni, which is a clear soup with rice cakes, and also other things like seafood and root vegetables...
As a kid growing up in Kyoto, I remember watching the popular music program kohaku uta gassen on television with my family on New Year's Eve. We would also visit a local temple around midnight to hear the bell being tolled. Unlike Australia, fireworks are not commonly seen on New Years Eve in Japan. Although last night's fireworks in Sydney were spectacular, I'm not really sure what it's for or if it's needed...

Availability into 2016

Most spots for the first part of 2016 have now sold out, which is great news for my little company. However, there is just one twin spot remaining for a lucky pair on my Tohoku Sakura tour, which takes in the beautiful cherry blossoms of northern Japan... Later in the year, my Earth and Fire tour in October (for ceramics and art lovers), and my Autumn Colours tour in November still have places available too.

Thank you for 2015

2015 was quite a big year for me with every tour selling out, and a couple of private tours held as well. I'd like to thank all my fellow travellers who have made my business possible and given me many great memories and experiences... We changed many things in the way we operate as well, upgrading from sole trader to company status in the middle of the year, and also updating our accounts system. I'd like to thank Jason Longmore, who helps me with so much of the back-end work.

Autumn tours review

I enjoyed two of my favourite tours a lot at the end of 2015: the Autumn Colours tour and Spirit of Japan walking tour. A particular highlight on my Autumn Colours tour was staying at Benesse House on Naoshima Island, where the food and views of the inland sea were excellent.... On my Spirit of Japan tour, it was great to see Cathy-san and Peter-san again (taking bento lunch break above right). It was also fun to see the way my four fellow female travellers enjoyed the riverside hot spring at Kawayu Onsen. Thank you for walking the Kumano Kodo with me.