Staff

Ayami

I worked in accounting before getting a job in the Philippines as a planning coordinator, translator and Japanese teacher. It was fascinating to learn the language and communicate with the local staff and I loved learning to dive on the islands.

I also had the opportunity to live in Oxford for a year when I became part of Into Japan. I am now based in the Tokyo office and I assist the tours on the Japan side. I look forward to having the chance to meet you and making your time in Japan special.

Fukuoka is my favourite place in Japan because the seafood is very good and also cheap. There are many local specialities which I recommend you to try.

My favourite food is tonkotsu ramen which is a kind of noodle soup with a strong spicy flavour. I also have a weak spot for shochu which is a distilled spirit made from potatoes.

One experience I would recommend is eating at a food stall (yatai) which you will see all over Japan. It is good quality and value but especially you will appreciate the characters that often run these 'yatai'.

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David

Many people are surprised to learn I studied mathematics at university before going to Japan to learn Japanese. They say it seems like a total change of direction.

Travel became a passion at university and I had always wanted to learn a language 'properly'. I found Japanese to be very logical and the 'kanji' characters give the language another dimension which is not possible in European languages.

Thirteen years on, it is always a thrill to go back and I love that my job allows me to do that at least four times a year. It has been especially rewarding to show others the exotic culture, tradition and sheer excitement of Japan. I am always reminded of my amazement and bewilderment when I first arrived. I really look forward to helping you plan your trip and possibly escorting you on a tour.

If I were pushed to choose a favourite place in Japan it would probably be Mount Aso. I think the thrill of seeing an active volcano is easy to understand coming from somewhere where it is so foreign. Yet the awesome panoramic views of the caldera and the mountains beyond simply take your breath away.

My favourite Japanese experience is the outdoor hot springs. There is nothing to compare with dipping in and out of these pools surrounded by the bracing air and Japanese garden complete with bonsai trees. I have been know to spend hours there (when I am not a group escort!).

When it comes to food, sashimi (raw fish) has got to be the best of Japanese cuisine although sukiyaki (a kind of sweet soy sauce flavour beef hotpot) is hard to beat in the winter. I have to admit it took a while for me to like sashimi but now I love the simplicity, freshness and vividness of the flavours.

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Maco

I am from Mie prefecture which is near Kyoto. I trained as a school teacher and taught when I was living in Japan. I lived in Wales for 2 years when I first came to the UK, and I have now been in Oxford for 4 years. I really enjoyed learning Welsh and also improving my English and using it for work. Recently I have taken up French. I love travelling and especially using other languages when possible.

I feel really lucky to have this job as it is a great experience to work with people of different nationalities. Japan offers a huge range of alternative and more traditional or contemporary experiences. I will certainly do my best to help you and ensure that your time in Japan is as enjoyable as possible.

Naoko

I've been working in the travel business for over 15 years and much of this was as a group escort. I find it so exciting helping clients to plan and sharing their pleasure during the tour.

My work has taken me to many countries including Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I especially enjoy taking clients to special hidden places that most tours do not see, and I love seeing how much clients appreciate this. I look forward to using what I have learnt to make your trip to Japan really special.

Shiga prefecture is one of my favourite places in Japan. It is home to Japan's largest lake, Lake Biwa, but otherwise very mountainous with numerous hot springs.

I love Japanese food and while you are in Japan I hope you will try sushi, okonomiyaki, tempura, sukiyaki.…and so many others!

For me one of the best experiences to be had in Japan is a days trekking in the mountains followed by good soak in a hot spring. This is my paradise!

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Tad

I'm Tadahiko Ehara but please call me Tad for short. I grew up in Saitama ( about an hour north of Tokyo) until I was 18 and then lived in Tokyo for nearly 10 years. After working at a travel agency in Tokyo for 5 years I took 6 months to travel around Asia and Europe. I realised how much I love the travel business and meeting people from different cultures. Since then I have been working for Into Japan and I love welcoming our clients to Japan, my home country.

Obviously my favourite place is Tokyo. It's huge and full of people, but such an energetic place. You can of course enjoy modern Tokyo but at the same time, you can enjoy very historical parts of Tokyo such as the Imperial palace, and Asakusa. For me the most interesting part is the city! Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ueno! They are so exciting for shopping, eating, walking around and just looking at the people.

Japanese fast food is my favourite! It's inexpensive and delicious! I love ramen, gyudon, monja, okonomiyaki, takoyaki. Even though there are plenty of them I enjoy trying to find the best one.

There are so many great things in Japan and each season brings a different pleasure. In the summer I love cold beer on the beach. Autumn and it's the colours in the trees. Winter and it's the hot sake and clear skies. However it's the cherry blossom in the spring that is my favourite - simply breathtaking.

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Guillaume

I've worked for several years as journalist specializing in the Middle East and Asia and been editor of magazines specializing in health and Asia. I've also been a tour guide for French travel agencies.

I'm now based in the Oxford office and I do my best to help the European travel agents.

Here are some experiences in Japan I recommend: biking in the isolated Amakusa islands, western Kyushu; hiking in the Shiretoko peninsula in Hokkaido (but be careful of the bears!) and walking in the peaceful atmosphere in Hagi, southern Honshu.

My favourite foods are the Japanese gyoza, the vegetarian meals in the temples of Koyasan sacred mountain, and the aboriginal rice served in some Taiwanese restaurants in Japan.

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Naomi

I was born in Japan and started learning English when I was at junior school. Some of my relatives emigrated to the US before the war so I have many relatives there and have visited many times.

When I was in Japan I took the travel qualification required to establish a travel business. There is no equivalent in the UK but this knowledge has been extremely useful in understanding how the travel industry works in Japan. In 2002 I decided to come to England and I was interested to discover the differences between the UK and US. I really enjoyed it and decided to stay. I still visit Japan at least once a year.

My favourite place in Japan is Hokkaido, the most northern island. Hokkaido is less populated than the main island and the countryside is magnificent. The winter is a particularly good time to visit; the skiing is spectacular. Last time I was there, we went to the top of an active volcano and we could see steam coming out of the snow.

My favourite Japanese foods are yakitori (barbequed chicken on skewers), tempura (lightly fried battered king prawns etc.), sashimi (raw fish!) and especially Kobe beef sukiyaki (lightly cooked beef dipped in raw egg). But you have to eat them in Japan, because the Japanese restaurants here in the UK don't quite manage to get them right. I would also recommend Japanese beer, especially Sapporo black beer.

My favourite activity in Japan is going to an onsen (hot volcanic baths). I find there's nothing more relaxing than enjoying one with friends, before a proper Japanese traditional feast.

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Megumi

I took my undergraduate degree in Law but moved towards education, spending several years as an English teacher and instructor in Japan before doing a masters degree in education at London University. I have been a tour conductor for 4 years and I have continued this work while also acting as a consultant for Japanese students wishing to enter the UK education system.

Nikko is my favourite place; water falls, marshlands, streams, and the authentic hot spring baths all inside the National Park. It also has the Toshogu Temple with all its great history, and a particularly old and famous hotel where the Japanese Royal Family often stay.

Gyoza is my favourite Japanese food. It is like a small dumpling with juicy meat and vegetables inside.
For me the best experience in Japan is the hot spring baths. This is best enjoyed after a day cycling in the mountains and a traditional lunchbox.

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Skye

I first visited Japan when I was ten, and I keep on going back. I’ve now lived in Japan for a total of four years – one as an exchange student in Yokohama when I was in high school and three more in Nagano Prefecture before coming to the UK last year. I studied East Asian Studies at University and am thrilled to be able to share my knowledge of Japan with people going there for the first time.

I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite place in Japan – each season has its own ideal location and though I’m fiercely loyal to the places I’ve lived, I adore Kyoto for its history and culture. Its one of those cities you could explore for years and not see all of, but it’s also possible to only spend three days there and not come away feeling like you’ve missed too much.

One of the things I enjoy most about Japan is the regional specialties and variations in food, which means that the soba noodles really are best where the buckwheat is grown, the sushi is best on the coast, and the beef is best in, well, Kobe.

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Lizanne

I was born in Japan and lived there for 16 years. I've been in the UK now for over 20 years.

My favourite place in Japan is an island called Miyakejima. Unfortunately it had a volcanic eruption in 2003 but the locals are just beginning to move back now.

Although I haven’t lived in Japan in a while, it still holds very fond memories for me and I am delighted to help share my knowledge of Japan to make your trip as interesting and pleasant as possible.

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Lucia

Japan and the Japanese language have fascinated me since my school days. I followed a joint course of International Relations and Japanese studies and it was during this time that I finally got a chance to visit Japan for the first time. I must say that it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life to date and I will be more than happy to help you explore those elements of Japan that you are most curious about.

Being a European girl, many people ask me why I like Japan and what is so interesting about it and the first thing that jumps to my mind is: "Gosh, where should I start?" and even if I start talking about places and things I like, I cannot help but feel that words are quite limited. My best advice is: Go and experience Japan for yourself!! I am sure your memories will be unforgettable.

Whether you are looking for exoticism; the contrast between the traditional and the modern; peculiarities that we simply do not know in the Western world, I am certain that Japan has much to offer. If I was asked which place I found the most exciting, I think Tokyo would be one of the top ones, as I have spent some time there. However, if you want to experience the real Japan, I suggest you don't limit yourself to super-modern big cities. Local towns and villages are beautiful and definitely worth exploring. My favourite would be the Takayama area, where walking through the town, you can still experience the old Edo period atmosphere.

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Maiko

Before starting work for Into Japan, I worked in the flower business and restaurant industry and before that, I twice stayed in the UK for studying and work experience. My view of life completely changed since I met people of various nationalities during my stay in the UK and had such a valuable experience.

I am very glad to have the opportunity to meet our clients now and I would like everyone to make wonderful memories of their trip to Japan.

Asakusa where I live is known as downtown Tokyo and festivals and other unique events are held here throughout the year - this town is very lively!! Another sightseeing spot I recommend are the Japanese gardens in Kyoto. There are all sorts of beautiful Japanese gardens and you can enjoy the seasonal flowers there. The beautiful scenery is sure to fascinate you.

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Mariko

Having moved from Japan to the UK when I was six years old, Japan has for me always been a land of both nostalgia and mystery. Even though I ended up staying in the UK beyond university, my trips back to Japan are the highlight of any year, packed with excitement of seeing my family and making discoveries about the culture which seems simultaneously familiar and distant. My love for Japan keeps growing and I’m thrilled to be working in a company that delights in introducing clients to all of its attractions, both popular and unusual.

One of my favourite locations in Japan – and there are so many! – is my home prefecture, Chiba. Where my family lives is only an hour's drive to the easternmost coast of Honshu, the main island of Japan. We would spontaneously decide to get up at 3am so that we could race down to the coast and watch the sunrise before everyone else on Honshu! Chiba is also home to Disneyland, a popular location with our younger clients… and Narita International Airport!

Japanese food in its entirety notches up as my ultimate favourite cuisine! A lot of variety, healthy, sociable and cheap (at least in Japan!). For the more adventurous, I recommend takoyaki (dough balls with octopus inside) from the little street vendors and downtown restaurants in Osaka – tasty and bite-size, perfect for a meal or a cheeky snack!

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Robin

I returned to the UK in 2007 with my Japanese wife and 2 daughters, after spending 15 years living and teaching English in the city of Gifu in central Japan.

Having spent a third of my life living there, I’m now happy to be able to share my knowledge and love of this fascinating country with our clients.

My favourite place in Japan is probably anywhere upstream on the Nagara River, where the crystal clear water in the mountains forms rockpools that are perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day!

Foodwise, I pretty much love it all and encourage you to try as much as possible and to be adventurous in Japan – make the most of your time there!

I look forward to talking to you and helping you plan the trip of a lifetime!

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Yuko

I am Yuko from Fukuoka which is in the north of Kyushu Island. I have been here in the UK since April 2003. When I was in Japan, I worked at a travel agency for 3 years, as a tour coordinator, tour conductor and doing counter sales as well.

The reason why I came to the UK is to study English and Accounting. I realised when I started living abroad that Japan has a unique culture and I like it very much. I like travelling to experience different cultures and eat traditional food. I would like to recommend you all to visit Japan to experience Japanese culture and to eat excellent Japanese food, such as Sushi, Sukiyaki, Japanese hot pots and Ramen!!

There is a popular and well known ramen in Fukuoka called Tonkotsu ramen. If you ever have a chance to visit Fukuoka, you should try it!

I am delighted to work for Into Japan here in Oxford.

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