When we think of Japan, we’re predisposed to conjure up the sights and sounds of Tokyo or Osaka, the common tourist hotspots that have grown weary with overcrowding and commercialism but the land of the rising sun is laden with hidden gems that encapsulate a truly authentic experience of the Japanese culture that most visitors tend to overlook because they aren’t typically in your travel brochures. Walk Japan takes you off the beaten path offering a far more memorable experience than you bargained for with their uniquely curated tours that showcase Japan’s natural beauty and allure.
As one of the walk curators and guides, Takuya Ugajin pulled himself out of the corporate world for a more fulfilling life doing what he loves most- travelling.
He has found himself on many adventures from the corners of India to Tibet but calls Japan his home and now guides visitors on remarkable tours through his beloved country. He shares with us about some of his favourite memories and the Walk Japan experience.
Why did you choose to return to and settle down in Japan instead of elsewhere?
Travelling overseas allowed me to realise how comfortable I felt in Japan. This then led me to a much greater appreciation for my country, although I will continue to travel overseas I now know that Japan is where I am most at home.
If you had to pick one, what would be your most memorable trip/adventure?
Iritahama Beach on the Izu Peninsula in Japan. I have been visiting the beautiful white sand bay there since my teen years to surf and enjoy the company of the relaxed locals. Another memorable experience (for a different reason) was having to run away from Chinese police officers in Tibet after I walked through a checkpoint without their permission!
What draws you to venture off the beaten path, would you say you’re an adrenaline junkie?
It all comes down to genuine curiosity. However, I do not think of myself as an “adrenaline junkie” per se, I prefer to explore at a more relaxed and laid back pace to soak up the natural, untouched surroundings.
Why should visitors go on a Walk Japan tour? What sets it apart from other tours?
Walk Japan tours are for anyone looking for a full immersion into Japan and authentic Japanese culture. As the pioneer of off-the-beaten-track walking tours in Japan, we are unique in that we were the first to successfully introduce the ‘real Japan’ – its geography, culture and nuances, that often remain inaccessible for most visitors to the country. In addition to showcasing the real hidden gems of Japan, we stand out due to our hands-on approach to tour creation, coupled with Japanese high standards of service and a great ability to impart our knowledge in an enjoyable fashion.
How do you go about planning and curating a tour? What do you look for in choosing the places you include on your tours?
Ideas for new tours stem from the Walk Japan team’s travel and insider knowledge of the country. We always bounce ideas off each other and share experiences from trips we go on to remote parts of the country, which is where ideas for new tours are formed from.
Although tours can take up to 5 years to develop, on average it takes us 2-3 years from the initial idea to the launch of a new tour. We only consider and create tours that we would want to join as customers ourselves – tours that really demonstrate a unique aspect of Japanese culture or geography. We set out to develop tours that reach into the figurative heart of Japan; deep into its community. Each tour needs to enable us to draw out and highlight the many wonderful attractions of Japan, which are otherwise too often overlooked by both visitors and the Japanese themselves. In addition to finding such places, we invest a significant amount of time into planning the routes to make sure they’re logistically sound and that the day-to-day flow is an enjoyable experience for the customers.
Please describe what visitors can expect on one of your Walk Japan tours?
They can expect to have their expectations exceeded! No two experiences with Walk Japan are the same, each traveller and each group encounters different aspects of Japanese culture on their journey, depending on the time of time of year, seasonal festivals etc.
What’s your favourite thing about Japan?
The civility and peacefulness of Japanese society.
For more information on their tours or to make a booking head on over to their website