Newsletter: Summer 2023
03rd Aug 2023
Since the reopening of Japan to overseas visitors we have literally been running fast to keep all our guests walking and relishing Japan. A massive thank you to all who have joined us on tour since then and to all those who are booked on tours for the rest of the year and into 2024. As we added new departures for 2023 they were booked up and now we have only about 10% availability from September through to the end of December for both our guided and self-guided tours. For 2024, however, we have many more departures available across our whole roster of tours. Please note, however, that they are also all being booked up fast especially for the first six months.
It has been a real delight to be back working with so many of our staff again and welcoming many more new colleagues to every area of our business. After a four-year enforced break, we resumed our Summer Seminar, an annual three-day gathering of our staff on the Kunisaki Peninsula, bringing together colleagues who are spread far and wide throughout Japan and overseas.
Besides our tours we have been busy elsewhere throughout our operations. We have refurbished Koumori-tei, our first and now iconic office in Kunisaki, increased the size of our Hong Kong office and reinstated our Tokyo office. To keep pace with the growth in our business we have significantly upgraded our communications in Kunisaki.
The Community Project continued unabated throughout the pandemic but is now running at a great pace with more staff working on it. Highlights include a slew of visitors including the many guests and students on our tours to Kunisaki, volunteer Peter from Australia, intern Louis from the UK, journalists, and colleagues. We also reaped our first wheat harvest and planted out our rice paddies. By the way, this newsletter’s top image is a view across our village, where our Community Project is focused. The mountain in the distance beyond the recently planted rice paddies is Yufu-dake, one of Japan’s most impressive volcanoes. Fortunately, it has long been dormant.
Soon we will welcome Cara from South Africa. She will help us finally establish our English-language education academy, which has been long delayed by Covid.
We have also resumed our travels beyond Japan. Our CEO, Paul, has visited Sydney, Melbourne, London and Singapore doing the media rounds, with further visits planned for elsewhere across the world over the coming months. Led by Llew, our Managing Director, Walk Japan on Tour Near You restarts again towards the end of this year when our Customer Service colleagues visit guests in their home countries around the world.
Meanwhile, Paul has also been busying himself in his new role as President of the William Adams Club, which celebrates and promotes the legacy of one of the first westerners to visit Japan.
Tour Availability 2023~24
Try as we might, we are unlikely to be able to add many more tour departures for the rest of this year. This is mainly the result of some accommodation not yet returning to normal staffing levels after the pandemic. We have some availability through to the end of December 2023 but please be quick if you wish to join a tour this year as we expect these to be sold out sooner rather than later. For 2024, however, we have many more departures available across our whole roster of tours. But please note that we are already receiving bookings at a good pace.
To more easily understand the availability for each tour we have added a check box to the scheduled dates. When this is checked, which is the default, only those dates with places still remaining appear.
Teaser alert: Please look out for two new tours to little-explored regions of Japan that we have been working on through the pandemic. More details soon.
We are very pleased to welcome Amy Chavez as the host of the latest in our series of Talk Japan events for an informative and witty take on Etiquette in Japan.
Any country’s etiquette can be fraught with problems for novices, but Japan, perhaps, presents all newcomers with bewildering, if often pleasing, conundrums. Amy provides us with a humorous and practical introduction to doing it right and being polite in Japan. Vital for first-time and frequent visitors to the country, her talk draws on her best-selling book Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan.
A long-term resident of Japan, Amy has lived for several decades on a secluded island in the Seto Inland Sea. From here she has taken a deep dive into Japan’s society, observing it in detail for her career as columnist for The Japan Times, journalist and author. Amy also runs the Books on Asia website and podcast, which introduces quality literature on Japan and Asia.
To register for this event please click the button below. Also, each Talk Japan event is recorded and available on demand at Walk Japan’s YouTube channel.
Walk Japan on Tour Near You
Towards the end of this year we restart our annual visits overseas to see old friends, greet new customers and meet anyone who is interested in visiting Japan with us. Destinations scheduled so far include Singapore at the end of November, and Australia and New Zealand during the first two weeks of December. Please look out for further details and more destinations as we finalise them over the coming months.
Our annual Summer Seminar, where we bring our Tour Leaders, customer service and booking teams, administration and senior managers together, is an event we all look forward to at Walk Japan. This year was extra special as it had been four years since the last time we could gather in such large numbers; over 80 of us.
Our staff are spread throughout Japan and overseas in Hong Kong, Australia, France, the USA and UK. Held over three days on the Kunisaki Peninsula, this event allows us to bring together as many of our staff as possible in person. For the first time ever, this year many others who could not make the journey joined us online. The seminar helps us clearly understand each others’ roles, share ideas, resolve problems, hatch new ideas and introduce future plans. It is also a time to renew friendships, become acquainted with our new colleagues and for everyone to fully appreciate each other’s work and efforts.
Community Project Update
Komouri-tei was the first of the many akiya, an unused and dilapidated building, we have brought back to life. We did this 20 years ago and it quickly became much-loved in the local region, an iconic emblem of Walk Japan and a symbol of our Community Project. Most recently, we completed a large-scale improvement program that saw the roof being completely refurbished. We also bid farewell to the compost toilet, which had served us well but was less and less able to cope with the greater than first anticipated numbers using it. A chic modern bathroom is now installed as its replacement.
The local villagers were most concerned when the scaffolding was first erected around Koumori-tei. But we quickly asssured them that we were not going to pull it down! On completion they happily joined us for the re-opening ceremony since when our booking team have taken up residence once again bringing a welcome added vibrancy back to the immediate neighourhood, a tranquil hamlet set in a beautiful valley. Chaku-san, our local go-to building maestro, co-ordinated the works program. To see how he went about the task please see the video on our Instagram channel.
We welcomed Peter from Australia, who joined us in February for six weeks to volunteer his labour on the Project. Bringing his knowledge and experience from his career as a ranger for Parks Australia, which looks after the country’s national parks, he helped us extensively with our 30th Anniversary Forest by clearing undergrowth and creating trails. Peter kindly wrote about his experience about his time with us. This coming autumn, we welcome him and his wife back to Kunisaki, this time for a leisurely sojourn in our Kawasemi Guest House, after they have completed a Self-guided Shikoku Wayfarer tour with us.
Louis has been with us for six months creating video materials for our website and social media feeds. A recent graduate from film school, Louis joined us on a Turing Scholarship from the UK as an intern. Throughout he has been resident in our Share House, where he has set up a studio to edit the footage he shot around the Community Project, on our scheduled tours and school trips.
Although the internet is available throughout Japan, our local service in Kunisaki is showing its age and becoming less reliable. So, we have invested in upgraded communications, which includes an ultra-fast and robust fibre-optic cable and a microwave link. A Starlink satellite dish will follow very soon. It has been disappointing that our local city office has not shown our community any support in this regard. Not least, this is because of the employment we are generating, the growing numbers of people we have encouraged to move to the area, the visitors we bring on tour here and the rest of the positive community-building activities the locals and ourselves are deeply committed to. Great communications is paramount for our business to remain successful and grow, but is also a necessary and vital key to a resilient self-sufficient future for the wider community. Gripe finished!
Doing the Rounds
This year has seen us recommence our media trips overseas with Paul, our CEO, so far visiting Australia, the UK and Singapore. This has led to a great deal of interest in our tours and also the Community Project. He is also scheduled to visit Hong Kong, New York, Toronto, New Zealand and the Middle East over the next six months.
Paul has also been kept busy giving presentations and doing the rounds with the Japanese media. The year started with the broadcast of the third and final episode for NHK World’s Where We Call Home, he was a featured guest on How to Lead Sustainable Tourism for the Foreign Press Center Japan, and he was the keynote speaker at the Japan Long Trail Association’s annual gathering. Paul was also featured in a series of five articles in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei), Japan’s leading financial newspaper. Most recently, filming has wrapped up in Kunisaki for Tokoro san! Jiken desu yo, a very popular show on NHK’s mainstream TV channel.
In the first six months of this year, we welcomed schools from Singapore, New York, New Jersey, Columbus, Hong Kong, Seoul and Seattle. More are due from across Southeast Asia in the second half of 2023.
We are very pleased that the majority of the school trips that we run visit Kunisaki and, besides exploring this beautiful peninsula, students add their efforts to the Community Project. The activities they are involved in include planting saplings and bushes, innoculating kunugi sawtooth oak logs with shiitake mushroom spores, planting rice, and clearing trails.
Etchan, who is very much at the centre of these activities, probably has more overseas visitors to her home than any other family in the whole of Japan. Her warmth, humour and sharp mind has made her quite the idol of everyone including the students who come here. To learn more about our School Trips please click the button below.
William Adams Club
Paul was appointed President of the William Adams Club, a.k.a WAC, late last year since when he has been making regular trips to sites around Japan associated with Adams. Who he? you may well be thinking.
Adams is a largely unsung hero outside of Japan, where he is known as Miura Anjin. However, he was the first British person to arrive in Japan after a perilous adventure around South America and across the Pacific Ocean on a Dutch East Indies galleon in 1600. Adams went on to be a confidant of the great shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa and was made a samurai warrior. His lifestory is fascinating and became the inspiration for James Clavell’s best selling novel Shogun, which has itself inspired massive interest in Japan.
For further information about William Adams and WAC please see the club’s new website.
New members of our staff include Roxy, who has joined our PR & Marketing team. A native of Melbourne, she emigrated to Japan with her husband and you may recall them from the June 2021 Newsletter. With Roxy’s help and the four PR companies we have engaged around the world we are upgrading and expanding our communication with everyone. If you have not already done so please do engage with us on our Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn channels.