Preparation and optimism for the future
07th Feb 2021
In common with so many people around the world, we are looking forward greatly to the end of the pandemic and being able to restart doing what we all love so much; welcoming our customers to Japan on tour with us. Although we all have cause to be optimistic with the rollout of vaccines, it still remains unclear when we will be able to resume. To be honest, at times it has been disheartening to face such a lengthy period without running tours and with such uncertainty about the future. Nevertheless, it has also proved to be a time to allow us to reflect on and savour our achievements in maintaining Walk Japan as the leading company specialising in walking tours of Japan. In turn, we have strengthened our resolve to return with an even better sense of the great reasons as to why we care so much about our customers and business, and how we can surpass our efforts to date.
Besides being necessarily busy sustaining our business through this unprecedented time, we have also been preparing for the eventual opening up of international travel again. Most recently, some of these efforts have come to fruition with two new tours, the Michinoku Coastal Trail and Tohoku Aizu Explorer. Soon we commence our series of Talk Japan online public events, which will cover a wide range of subjects on the nation from the sacred to the profane, from the historic to the modern, and much else besides. Of course, our agricultural activities, which are a major element of Walk Japan’s Community Project, are proceeding regardless of the pandemic. We have also made significant progress in rehabilitating two sizeable tracts of land in Kunisaki that had for many a year been strewn with rubble and rubbish.
Even though we know it will be many months before we can resume our tours, we are prepared for and optimistic about the future. We hope that each one of you has during this unsettled time also found that the positives outweigh the negatives and, if needed, been able to remain optimistic in mind and spirit.
Paul Christie, CEO
Llew Thomas, Managing Director
New Tour: Michinoku Coastal Trail
Walk Japan’s 11-day, 10-night Michinoku Coastal Trail tour follows Japan’s dramatic eastern Sanriku coastline in the northerly Tohoku region. Over 11 days, we travel south through Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures exploring the best sections of the newly established Michinoku Shiokaze Trail, which has a total length of 1,025km (637 miles). Making the most of the spectacular walking found here aside the Pacific Ocean, this trail has been specifically created to draw visitors to the region and help reinvigorate the many communities that were so severely impacted by the earthquakes and tsunami that struck dramatically here in March 2011. Besides wonderful walking, it also provides us with the opportunity to appreciate the resilience of the locals, the efforts they continue to make in rebuilding their communities, and their warmth and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.
The Sanriku coastline has been wrought by the forces of nature since time immemorial into coves, soaring cliffs, and intricate bays. Our path through this beautiful scenery set against the expansive backdrop of the shimmering Pacific Ocean leads us from forests to remote beaches, bluff-top shrines and fishing ports, both small and great, and on to our accommodation, which is most often aside the sea. Here we relish our meals that always include freshly caught local seafood. On mornings of fine weather, the sun rises brilliantly from the horizon far across the ocean providing a spectacular and inspiring start to any day’s walking.
As we make our way south along the trail, signs of the destructive forces that are visited on this region from time to time become more apparent. Yet the locals, who have lived for generations with a deep respect for the ocean that provides them with an unceasingly rich bounty but also very intermittent traumas, show a quiet hard-working spirit, ingenuity and tenacity that can only but inspire visitors.
During our research for this tour we were delighted to be introduced to Caroline Pover, a British entrepreneur and author with long-established connections to Japan. Caroline has worked industriously since the disaster of 2011 to provide effective and efficient support to the community on the Oshika Peninsula. She inspired us to include a visit to Oshika over the last two days of our Michinoku Coastal Trail tour. Most recently, Caroline has written and published One Month in Tohoku. Her book is an inspiring read relating in a humorous and honest fashion the pleasures, successes, sadnesses and frustrations of the Oshika people and herself, their work together and the support she found in the UK.
New Tour: Tohoku Aizu Explorer
Walk Japan’s Tohoku Aizu Explorer takes us through the verdantly picturesque Aizu region, which is centred on Aizu-Wakamatsu. This quietly dignified city was the home of a formidable samurai clan and to this day the locals are still deeply proud of their warrior heritage. Aizu-Wakamatsu was once a strategically important location and the old highways, which emanated in all directions from here, now provide us with greatly varied walking trails to enjoyably explore the surrounding Aizu countryside.
Our journey takes us to towering Tsuruga-jo, the old castle seat of the samurai clan, to Sazaedo, a double-helix wooden pagoda that serves as a mini-pilgrimage, and to Ouchi-juku, a centuries-old and picture-perfect post-town of thatched-roofed dwellings where travellers over the ages have found rest and nourishment. We also venture to Showa-mura, considered one of Japan’s most beautiful villages, and to Urabandai, a scenic lake district created in the 19th Century by an explosive eruption of Bandai san, an active volcano that dominates Aizu.
Our passage on foot is abetted charmingly by rides on local trains, which thread their way at a gentle pace through the Aizu countryside. Each day ends at accommodation that delightfully sustain us with elaborately delicious meals of local fare and soothing onsen thermal hot springs baths.
In case you missed it...
Shio-no-michi: The Salt Road
Almost a year ago, during the early days of Covid-19 we launched our Shio-no-Michi: The Salt Road tour, which ventures along another old highway of Japan, from Matsumoto through the majestic Northern Alps to the Sea of Japan.
Since the early days of the pandemic we have been holding regular online talks given by Walk Japan colleagues and friends to promote our knowledge about Japan and help maintain the bonds between our community and staff. After honing our online presentation skills, we are now delighted to make these public and extend an invitation to anyone around the world who would like join our experts on eclectic and fascinating illustrated verbal journeys into Japan.
Talk Japan events scheduled so far include the hidden history of Tokyo’s Ueno Park; water and the intricacies involved in the cultivation of rice; and an introduction to sake and how to best imbibe Japan’s subtly flavoured libation. For more information on Talk Japan and to join an event please see the Latest News section on our website.
Community Project Update
Life on the Kunisaki Peninsula, Walk Japan’s home in Japan, continues quietly unabated. We are using the northern hemisphere’s winter months to complete some labour-intensive projects including the restoration of derelict land for aesthetic reasons, ease of its maintenance and to provide recreational space. We are also working on our forests and making improvements to our gardens. This spring we are expanding further our acreage of rice paddies and have just bought another, larger tractor to help us cope with the extra work.
Our Community Project has many objectives, which includes the promotion of the beautiful and sacred Kunisaki Peninsula. Since well before the pandemic Kunisaki has been attracting visitors and new residents for its relaxed and comfortable way of life. Our CEO, Paul Christie, was an early arrival making his home here in 2002 and brought Walk Japan’s Japanese centre of operations with him. The peninsula has also attracted many skilled artists and artisans. Toyokazu Ono, a textile designer, produces Walk Japan’s Nengajo new year’s card each January, and Sari Anton, a botanicals mist blender, is the wife of Mario, one of Walk Japan’s most experienced Tour Leaders. Along with with other creative locals, introductions to their art and products are now available through the new Empty Gallery website created by another talented local, Yuji Ota, who has also worked with us creating videos.
Ono san’s most recent nengajo for the Year of the Ox is shown in this newsletter's top image and has a literal translation of ‘We all remain on a journey’.
We have also been pleased to welcome some recent arrivals to Kunisaki, who decided to decamp from Tokyo bringing their IT business with them. They have taken up temporary residence in our Beach House, which is in an idylic, seaside hamlet surrounded by mikan orange groves, on Kunisaki’s northern coast. We wonder how much work they will manage given the delightful views they are enjoying overlooking a tranquil bay on the Seto Inland Sea.
Walk Japan on a virtual tour near you
As we are unable to travel internationally and meet in person, instead we will be delighted to speak online with anyone who would like to learn more about their bookings, our tours, our future plans, and the Covid-19 situation in Japan. We will also be delighted to learn of your interests and activities or to just say hello. To book an appointment please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Revised booking conditions
To help reduce any worries surrounding Covid-19 and make it easier to book tours with us we have temporarily revised our booking conditions. We have relaxed conditions 13 and 14 to offer more flexibility when cancelling a tour booking and to make it easier to transfer to another tour. For further details please contact: email@example.com