2017 marks a significant milestone for Walk Japan, the pioneering operator of off-the-beaten-track tours of Japan, as they celebrate their 25th year.
Walk Japan, the pioneering operator of off-the-beaten-track tours of Japan, celebrates a significant 25th year milestone in 2017. As specialists in one country, Walk Japan provides meticulously planned and expertly led tours to immerse visitors in Japanese society, culture and history. Over the 25 years the company has developed a large range of tours delving into many areas of unexplored Japan and realised the potential of this otherwise largely overlooked market segment for travellers. In so doing it has created a successful and strong business that continues to set quality standards for tourism in Japan.
In 1992, Tom Stanley and Richard Irving, two academics at Hong Kong University specialising in Japan, established Walk Japan for people who not only like to walk, but to learn, understand and appreciate. With the ambition to introduce Japan in contexts that are informative, while making sense of sights and customs that often remain elusive to many visitors, the two founders pioneered one-of-a-kind walking tours for travellers to Japan, starting with what has now become the iconic Nakasendo Way.
Walk Japan has since created many tours that explore the little-visited regions of this varied country, and is continuously researching the far corners of Japan for new tours. The latest highlights include the launch of the Izu Geo Trail, unveiled to explore the Izu Peninsula – one of the most unique geological areas on Earth, and the launch of the Oita Hot Spring Trail to explore the Oita Prefecture – Japan’s mecca for onsen hot springs.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary, the life and soul of the Walk Japan company – its staff – share their wisdom on the lesser known aspects of Japan, their personal favourite tour, and what they love most about the fascinating country
Tom Stanley, Co-Founder, Walk Japan
- Favourite tour and why: Definitely the Nakasendo Way. Aside from pride of invention, the Nakasendo pleases and inspires me because it connects, in a crescendoing manner, ancient and old Japan with the magnificent transformation that occurred in the Edo period to make modern Japan. The story is wonderful and can be related in so many ways according to context, whether the highway itself or the developments of religion or craft industry. In addition, since I have been doing the trip for 25 years, there are layers and layers of personal stories connecting me to the people along the way.
- Something about Japan that continues to surprise you: Japan “works”. Public transport is thick on the ground; runs frequently; and runs on schedule. The same is true for nearly everything in urban and rural districts. What makes it work is an attention to detail as well as simple human kindness in every situation
- The highlight of your time working with Walk Japan: Clients and co-workers are equally fascinating to see and be with, day after day.
Llewelyn Thomas, Managing Director, Walk Japan
- Favourite tour and why: For me, it’s got to be the Basho Tour: Narrow Road to the North. I’m a history fan and I love the multiple historical layers to the tour. We’re following a literary hero in Basho, but Basho was also following his own literary and historical heroes, and so while following his story, we get involved in theirs too, from both his perspective and ours. As a tour leader, bringing these threads together and communicating them to the participants effectively is an exciting challenge.
- Something about Japan that continues to surprise you: The Shokunin culture – the satisfaction taken with mastering something, and furthermore, being content with not trying to scale it!
- The highlight of your time working with Walk Japan: I’ve been lucky enough to work with a small group of very dedicated, talented people who are passionate about what they do. We joke that you could put 6 tour leaders in a room and have them spend hours discussing how most effectively to run one day of a particular tour!
Naomi Addyman, Customer Services Director, Walk Japan
- Favourite tour and why: If I had to choose it would be The Kunisaki Trek. It has the adventure component along with stunning scenery, great food and fascinating people. I love being somewhere that feels so remote, somewhere almost hidden. When you stumble across a statue of Kobo Daishi or Fudo Myo on one of the ridges, it feels like you have made a great discovery.
- Something about Japan that continues to surprise you: the opposites, or the yin and yang. The Traditional and modern cultures, nature and concrete in the countryside – we encounter contrasts in everyday life in Japan that never fail to surprise me.
- The highlight of your time working with Walk Japan: Being part of a company that is constantly growing and expanding
Detailed information about all of Walk Japan’s tours can be found on their website (http://www.walkjapan.com/all-tours) and on the Walk Japan Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/walkjapan).