Here’s why Oku Japan can offer clients “incredibly rewarding experiences”

Travelweek: Oku Japan markets itself as ‘off the beaten track Japan.’ Why did you want to showcase other parts of the country beyond the traditional favourites?

Kawaguchi: “While we understand the draw to these popular destinations, going beyond these areas can result in incredibly rewarding experiences.

“There is so much beauty in the unspoilt nature in the less-travelled regions of Japan, and endless opportunities to create genuine connections with welcoming locals excited to share their customs with visitors. We want to encourage these kinds of experiences by giving our guests the tools and resources for their adventure.”

Takachiho Gorge on Oku Japan’s Land of Fire Kyushu tour


Travelweek: Can you highlight one or two of Oku Japan’s ‘off the beaten track’ itineraries that will really wow travellers, and why?

Kawaguchi: “We offer a variety of itineraries that suit travellers depending on their preferred level of hiking and interests.

“For example, our Nara Ancient Capitals self-guided walking tour takes guests through Japan’s two oldest capitals: Asuka and Nara. As they hike ancient roads, they visit historical sites and monuments from more than 1,000 years in the past. In the evening, they stay in family-run inns and enjoy delicious homemade cuisine.

“Our guided tour, Japan’s Culinary Heritage, takes guests around Japan with one of our expert bilingual guides, sampling regional delicacies along the way.

“This is a great tour for those with an adventurous palate who may be more interested in exploring the culture of Japan through its cuisine than via the ancient hiking routes we operate on.

“Different from your standard bar-hopping tour, our tour takes guests through Japan’s culinary traditions, highlighting a combination of quintessential Japanese dishes with local food markets and opportunities to learn about the long-standing traditions behind some of Japan’s most delicious cuisine (and of course, the chance to enjoy it firsthand!).

Enjoji Temple on the Nara Ancient Capitals tour

 

Travelweek: What percentage of Oku Japan’s clientele would you say are first-time visitors to Japan, and is that growing or steady?

Kawaguchi: “It’s difficult to say, as we have a pretty healthy mix of visitors who have been to Japan and are now looking for something a bit deeper, along with those who are excited to incorporate a trip of ours into their wider plans to allow for visits to some of Japan’s most famous sites and stops in Japan’s charming countryside.

“Repeat visitors of Oku have also increased, with many of them coming back to Japan as both an amazing destination and also wanting to experience more of our offerings in rural Japan.”

 

Travelweek: Oku Japan offers self-guided, guided and custom tours. What can travellers expect with each tour style?

Kawaguchi: “As the pioneer of self-guided walking in Japan, we feel a great deal of pride in our self-guided offerings. Self-guided adventure travel is becoming more widely known and sought after, experiencing rapid growth due to increased demand, while guided tours are sort of the ‘tried and true’ trusted form of travel that remains steady.

“On our self-guided tours, guests can expect to receive support leading up to the trip, as well as our documentation that includes our ‘Travelling in Japan’ and ‘Preparing for Your Trip’ guidebooks, as well as turn-by-turn walking directions, detailed maps, and bespoke day-by-day itinerary.

“The trips provide all of the tools necessary to get around independently and allow for guests to travel at their own pace while having the security of support from Oku Japan if needed.

“Our guided tours are kept to small groups with a maximum 13 people to ensure our guests get the most out of the experience. We use licensed bilingual guides with a passion and love for sharing their culture with visitors.”

On the Michinoku Coastal Trail self-guided walking tour


Travelweek: Japan’s popularity is soaring. Are there any stats you can share that highlight Oku Japan’s success?

Kawaguchi: “Spring 2024 has been our strongest season yet. Due to the nature of the communities in which we operate, there tends to be a natural ‘cap’ on the number of visitors, which preserves the atmosphere and prevents overtourism seen in other areas of the country.

“As a result of this growth, we’ve also been able to reach out to more communities and work with them on our plans for new tours in these destinations.”

 

Travelweek: What commission do you offer to travel advisors, and what’s your message to Canadian travel agents with clients interested in Japan?

Kawaguchi: “Commission varies by product and payment method as travel advisors have differing methods of servicing their customers’ needs and handling payments.

Kawaguchi on the hiking trail

“In recent years we have seen much more demand and visits from Canadian travellers with us than pre-pandemic levels.

“Japan has such diverse adventure options all year round, and outside of the snowy season, there are endless opportunities to enjoy trails and nature. If travelling with us, we allow room for travellers to create a deeper connection or experience with locals along the way. These experiences are often the fondest and longest-lasting memories and experiences to take away with you.

“Experience authentic Japan with us away from overdeveloped destinations and enjoy home-cooked meals, unspoiled nature, real locals, and some of the most fulfilling outdoor experiences available.

“If you have adventure-focused and experiential-focused clientele, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more details.”

For more information see OkuJapan.com.