To be bored in Tokyo means you’ve given up on life. It’s the most fascinating, bizarre, absorbing, frenetic, beautiful city in the world. Like any city, the main sights are there to be ticked off – but then it’s about finding your own little corner, taking it down to a micro-level, and unearthing all the quirkiness that exists in just one block – any block – of the city. Because it is so crowded in the urban areas, beauty is distilled in to minutiae and the senses are intensely experienced. But leave the cities behind, and you find a rural idyll of dramatic mountains, rivers, paddy fields, rural communities and expansive meadows – a tranquil, nature-filled Japan no one is ever quite prepared for.
That’s the idiosyncrasy of Japan – it is quite unlike anywhere else. When you are in Japan, you are travelling in a place that is utterly different to home – wherever home may be – and I think this enthralling and rejuvenating. It surprises afresh on every visit – whatever you think you know about Japan can be dashed in a moment, as the contrary turns out to be true. It’s fascinating…but never threatening, never intimidating, never horrid.
Hailing from the North of England close to the Scottish border, I grew up in the incredibly beautiful Lake District. After university, I did the typical “gap year” backpacking, but it turned into an unusual three years of travel, mainly in Asia. It was then, during the early 1990’s that I first visited Japan. I returned to the UK and in 1994 I started working in the travel industry, but soon headed back to Japan. For three years I lived in Tokyo, teaching English and exploring whenever I could. Being from a family of keen skiers, I instinctively headed to the mountains and a hidden world the outside had yet to discover – the amazing powder and slopes of Japan. This led me to create a ski club for ex-pats in Tokyo – we skied every weekend during the season and were the only foreigners on the slopes in those days.
After 20 years in the travel industry, mostly focusing (selfishly) on Japan, I’ve developed tailor-made travel programs for the world’s best travel outfitters. I’ve also visited Japan around 20 times. Now, I’m lucky enough to have worked my way to a place where I can run my own company and focus on my passions – Japan and skiing.
I specialise in getting my clients to see a bit of Japan that hasn’t been so packaged up. As soon as you have turned left, when all others have turned right, then Japan becomes something different. For those with a more intrepid approach, with an inquisitive nature, then Japan offers the ultimate travel experience. It’s not a country you just visit, instead you experience it – hands on. That’s what I know how to do. For years, I’ve been dreaming up novel ways to allow people to experience it. You are not restricted to the tourist tea ceremony experience (for example), but instead you can take a tea ceremony with the head monk in a private temple. I’ve organised two week holidays for guests who haven’t even left Tokyo and its environs….and I was still trying to squeeze experiences, places in! Experience a communal bath – it can be in in an ‘onsen’ in a ryokan, hot springs, or just in the local sento in the city . But it is so much more than that in Japan, the ritual, the etiquette, the reverence, the relaxation it induces. It is hard to understand how any other culture can function without it – it’s such a part of Japanese life.Based in: UK
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