Walk Japan

Walk Japan is the pioneer of off-the-beaten-track walking tours in Japan. We offer authentic and enjoyable tours designed to discover Japan, its people, society and culture. Beginning in 1992 with our innovative and best-selling Nakasendo Way tour, we were the first to successfully introduce the real Japan, geographically and culturally, that often remains inaccessible for most visitors to the country. Since then, Walk Japan has created numerous tours throughout the length and breadth of Japan.

Walk Japan is an independent organisation offering a different vision of how to create and manage tours in Japan; how to provide service to our customers; and how to carry out our business as a whole. Our purpose is:

  • To provide the best tours, ones that set the benchmark for quality, available in Japan.
  • To maintain and improve the three fundamental qualities of our tours; namely, interest (education), entertainment (attractiveness) and efficiency (best use of our customers’ time and money).
  • To clearly recognise and act accordingly that our product is not just tours but the complete service from first enquiry through the tour itself to post-tour follow up.
  • To operate our company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth consistent with long-term development and success. We do not seek short-term gain.
  • To expand the opportunities for development and career growth for all our employees.
  • To thoroughly imbue everything that we do in our work with our values of respect, integrity and quality.

Our tours are created for people who not only like to walk but also to learn, understand and appreciate. We introduce Japan in contexts that are informative and make sense of sights and customs that otherwise too often remain elusive to many visitors. Our tours bring this fascinating country up close by mixing in with its people and their way of life. We use public transport with its many varied and efficient guises; and also use delightful, local inns, the occasional temple and family-run restaurants.

All our tours are thoroughly researched and planned for experiences of Japan without peer. They are original, well-paced and carefully balanced for activity, interest and pleasure. Our extensive planning and attention to detail ensures that our tours provide a rich experience that runs exceptionally well. We set standards far above the norm in Japan with our western approach to tour research and creation combined with our high Japanese standards of service.

We take our Corporate Social Responsibility seriously. We operate our company in a way that recognises the important role and responsibilities that business has in society. Foremost for us this means being committed to and supportive of the communities in which we operate. This commitment is embedded in our core values, which include respect for all people and a belief that everyone deserves full and equal civil rights. We are committed to our customers, suppliers and colleagues and run our business without reference to age, gender, race, sexual orientation, creed or nationality.

It also means that we work hard to make sure that our tours have a positive impact on the areas that we visit. Wherever possible we use and support family-run and other local businesses. This is not just because we think we should, and we do strongly, but because we also know that collaboration with these entities is an essential element in providing authentic and enjoyable experiences of Japan.

In late 2007, we established our Community Project in Kunisaki. Kunisaki is a region that faces an uncertain future as the local population continues to shrink and age. We provide funding for local labour to work on the project and our staff also help whenever they can. Current work is centred on the revival of plantation forests; the re-establishment of mixed forests and natural environments; and the rehabilitation of long disused fields.

The long-term aim is to help the communities of two, small neighbouring valleys maintain their environment and provide for a more vibrant and prosperous future. Our local base in Japan is in an old farmhouse that we have converted. The building had been empty for over 17 years before we took it over, and is, so far, symbolic of what we are achieving. It is the first of a series of environmentally low-impact and low-energy intensive structures, including accommodation for customers, that we plan to build over the coming years.

All the Walk Japan staff have long association with Japan and we all feel a great affinity and commitment to the country and its people. An expression of this is to use local businesses. Over twenty years we have provided a stable source of income to many family owned restaurants and accommodation in Japan’s rural areas.

In some instances we have become the main client for some ryokan, Japanese inns, in remoter areas we travel through. In at least one instance because of our sustained custom over twenty years, an historic inn and the only accommodation left in the immediate area has been able to remain in business. Although we remain this ryokan’s largest customer it is now a thriving business again attracting many others and acting as a social focus for the local villagers. Not only have the son and his wife decided to continue their family tradition they have invested in upgrading the facilities in a fashion sympathetic to the building’s uniqueness and age.

We have to recognise that most of our customers are reliant on flying to Japan to join our tours. On top of which, we regularly fly to where our customers live and to our colleagues – we are spread over four continents and six countries. That being the case, however, we do try hard to balance our business interests with environmental concerns.

Walking tours, by their very nature, generally have a small environmental footprint. We use public transport wherever possible. Again we see this as not just as a virtue but vital in providing authentic and enjoyable experiences of Japan.

There are number of ways we could ameliorate the impact of our flying with carbon offset schemes. We have, however, decided to take a more immediate and personal approach by caring for and creating woodlands ourselves as part of our Community Project, as well as developing environmentally low-impact and low-energy intensive structures, including accommodation for customers, that we are starting to build.



About the author

Kai Ulrik

Hi - I joined tourism concern as a volunteer in early 2014 and have been assisting with research and membership. I have a background in environmental management and business administration; with a Master's degree in Environmental management and policy. I am an avid traveller with key interests in community based tourism & highlighting the impacts of All-inclusive holidays.

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