Newsletter: January 2023
16th Jan 2023
Full of bounce for 2023
Walk Japan’s Nengajo New Year card celebrates the Year of the Rabbit, the opening up of Japan to overseas visitors and the restart of our tours. In September 2022, we woke from our enforced hibernation and have barely been able to rest since then. It is a delight to have seen so many on Walk Japan tours and to know that so many more of you are signed up to join us in 2023. Already many of our tours for the coming year are sold out so we are working hard to add new departures as quickly as we can. ‘Tours to go’, which follows below, lists departures for which we currently have availability from April 2023 onwards.
It is an absolute joy to welcome back not only tour participants but also our colleagues. Walk Japan’s office on the Kunisaki Peninsula in Kyushu is once again humming with activity. To help us cope with our growing body of staff we are hurrying along the refurbishment of Koumori-tei, our original and iconic base in Japan. It provides the backdrop on our new year card of a visitor being welcomed while a couple of bunnies bounce around the garden.
Our Community Project helped keep us active in mind and body and sustain us over the last three years, although we suffered a setback with the rice harvest. The Project embodies our commitment to Japan and role as a business in wider society. Plans for an academy, which have been on hold for the duration of the pandemic, are now being dusted off so we can finally bring tuition in the English language to local students. We are about to welcome an intern from the UK who will bring his media skills to help us document both our tours and the Project, and also an Australian who will visit for six weeks to work with us on our 30th Anniversary Forest and much else around Kunisaki.
NHK World have visited us repeatedly since our tours restarted and the TV channel’s latest program on our activities is due to be broadcast worldwide on 16th January. Thereafter, it will be available on demand.
A final note, we are maintaining our eased booking conditions for all tours starting in 2023.
Wishing you a happy and fruitful year.
Paul Christie, CEO
Llew Thomas, Managing Director
Tours to go
We have created 34 scheduled tours exploring a wide variety of regions during Japan’s four seasons from easy strolling to more active walking and hiking. We are well on the way to restoring our business fully (and then some) and have brought back many of our tours into operation. While many are fully booked out for Spring 2023 the following popular tours still have some availability. Meanwhile, we are working hard to have departures for the rest of our tours soon and additional dates for those sold out.
Inland Sea Odyssey
11 Days, 10 Nights
This gentle walking tour explores the Seto Inland Sea and its islands with an emphasis on Japan’s fabulous modern art and architecture. In the 1900s, Thomas Cook stated that ‘[It] surpassed all my dreams of beauty of that island- and mountain-studded lake...’ and this placid sea thoroughly impresses to this day. Please click here for further details.
Nakasendo Way: The Kiso Road
5 Days, 4 Nights
Follow in the footsteps of travellers over the ages through Japan’s central mountains in peaceful rural surroundings far removed from the modern bustle of Japan’s megacities. This shorter version of our pioneering and now classic Nakasendo Way tour explores this ancient thoroughfare's central section of picturesque historic post-towns set in verdant and bucolic scenery. Please click here for further details.
Self-Guided Kunisaki Wayfarer
6 Days, 5 Nights
An exploration at your own pace of the gorgeous Kunisaki Peninsula, which has been a place of pilgrimage for over 1,300 years. Your path over idyllic countryside through forests and aside rice paddies leads you from quiet hamlets to ancient temples. At the day’s end, relax in your accommodation nearly all of which have onsen hot spring baths. Please click here for further details.
Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage
11 Days, 10 Nights
A fascinating journey visiting the most scenic and enjoyable sections of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, one of the world’s greatest religious rites of passage. Pilgrims make their way from temple to temple over 1,200km (746 miles). Follow them on the path for 87km, stay in temples and enjoy the renowned hospitality of the locals. Please click here for further details.
First, the bad news; our woeful rice harvest, which highlighted just how fickle a business farming can be. Our paddies were looking splendid when Super Typhoon Nanmadol, the fourteenth tropical cyclone of 2022, barrelled through Kyushu including Kunisaki in mid-September a few weeks prior to harvest. 90% of the rice was, literally, flattened over a 24 hour period. Sheaves of rice that had been standing tall swaying gently in the breeze, were razed leaving us with a sodden organic matted carpet.
The harvest, which normally takes one full day, took four and required four additional staff. The harvester continually clogged with mudded straw causing malfunctions as it tried to scoop up the rice, and consumed far more diesel fuel than would normally be the case. It was a labourious, exhausting and expensive process that left us with 50% less rice than we could have expected otherwise. The grain of comfort we gained from this debacle was that our rice tasted as good as ever. We also took on a greater respect for the world's farmers who too frequently have to struggle to provide our food.
Fortunately, we have plenty of good news too. Etchan - who is very much at the core of the Community Project and makes guest appearances on our Kunisaki tours at her farmhouse - has welcomed her son, Kunitaro, back home from Tokyo after he retired. Besides helping his mother out growing shiitake mushrooms alongside his brother-in-law who also recently retired.
In late January, we welcome a film graduate as an intern with funding from the UK's Turing Scheme. He will join us for 6 months to bring his media production skills to our PR team while also lending a hand with the wider Community Project. In February, an Australian with a long career in his nation's national parks joins us for six weeks bringing his ecological knowledge and horticultural skills to our Community Project.
Paul, our CEO, somehow found the time to build an ishidatami stone paving. Inspired by the ishidatami he first trod in 1997 on the Nakasendo Way, his effort fills an empty patch of ground in front of our share house and one of our offices, improving the surroundings while providing guest parking.
Finally, we are completing outstanding electrical work on our classrooms in anticipation of beginning schooling in English for local youngsters. Our small academy will supplement the students' studies at elementary and middle schools. Besides providing access to an education that otherwise is not easily available to locals, we know it will prove attractive to families thinking of moving to the area.
Our Talk Japan series of online talks, presented by colleagues and friends with expertise on an eclectic range of topics, provide fascinating illustrated verbal journeys into Japan. Our most recent Talk Japan presentation was given by Diane, one of our veteran Tour Leaders, who led us on a virtual tour of the Kiso Road. Upcoming presentations include virtual tours of Walk Japan’s Oita Hot Spring Trail and Kunisaki Trek.
We record each talk and make them available on demand at our Vimeo channel. For more information about Talk Japan, future presentations and to register for an event please see our website.
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. These revised conditions will remain in place for bookings on all 2023 tours. Tours starting in January 2024 and thereafter will be subject to our original booking conditions. For further details please click here or contact: email@example.com