Being the pioneer of off-the-beaten-track walking tours in Japan, we sat down and chatted with WalkJapan's CEO Paul Christie to talk about first-time travels, ultimate travel tips, the best ways to explore and maximise our future Japan trips and more!
Did I ever say that? I do have a great love of the country and its people. Both have been very kind to me and I appreciate it all the more as I become increasingly attuned to the ways of its society and, as a businessman, its bureaucracy. I feel very much at home in Japan and always look forward to returning from business trips overseas. So I suppose I must have become a Japanophile of sorts.
Can you share with us an interesting fact about the first time you went there? How about your most memorable memory to date?
On my second day in the country I was taken to a home in Kawagoe, just outside Tokyo, where a party was in full swing. Even though I was a stranger and a foreigner with still limited language ability the family, whose home it was, and their friends welcomed me with genuine warmth and generosity. Soon after, the family invited me to stay with them while I continued my studies for the following 24 months. They allowed me to share in their family life to the extent that I felt adopted, at least in spirit. Nearly thirty years later I feel still very much part of their family.
Japan’s cuisine, history, culture, refinement, fashion, scenery, architecture are all top-notch, wonderful draws to the country. However, Japan’s greatest asset is its people, whose friendliness and kindness are second to none. Japan is a country where dignity and humanity thrive and a place for travelers who love to mix and mingle with locals.
Do not be too prescriptive about your travels in Japan; make the time and space for life to happen. Walking and using local transport is one of the best ways to do this. It is, necessarily, at a slower but at the same time a very human pace. Doing so allows anyone to be part of Japanese society, to mix readily with its people; some of whom will take you into their lives for often otherwise unplannable, delightful mini-adventures.
Undoubtedly, our Nakasendo Way, which is the classic walking tour of Japan and, I am sure, the benchmark for all other walking tours in the country. It is the best way I know to be introduced to and quickly come to appreciate and enjoy Japan.
Last but not the least, if anyone is still having second thoughts about visiting the country, what's the one thing you’d tell them about Japan to sway their decision?
Besides being most hospitable, Japan is also one of the safest countries in the world to visit.