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.