Meet the team
Matt first traveled to Japan at the age of 18, and has been exploring the archipelago ever since, living in Nara, Miyazaki and Tokyo for 10 years, working for an international magazine, leading outdoor trips and travel writing. He returned to the UK in 2005 and set up Oku Japan. He manages the day-to-day operations and has the envious job of researching new tours. An avid lover of Japanese onsen (hot springs), Matt is always on the lookout for the ultimate off-the-beaten track place to 'take the waters'.
Amongst his current projects are writing a book on the historic trails of Japan.
Adam has had an interest in Japan from a young age and he finally moved to Japan in 2008. Living in rural Okayama prefecture, he enjoyed the quiet life so much he ended up staying for four years. As well as hosting fundraising events following the Tohoku earthquake, Adam was very active in encouraging cross-cultural exchange in the local community. Personal highlights in Japan were visiting Bikan Chiku, a small market town maintained in the style of the Edo period, as well as the Setouchi International Art Festival, where over 200 international artists took to 12 small islands on the Setouchi inland sea.
Hiroshi was born and brought up in Osaka. He studied tourism management for his masters degree and since then, his interest has always been in the travel industry. He worked for inbound tour operators in his late twenties and thirties and coordinated many tour groups travelling all over Australia. He returned to Japan in 2011 to be a destination specialist in Japan and now works organising tours at our Kyoto office. Hiroshi is a keen birdwatcher and enjoys travelling far and wide in search of ones he has never seen.
Jeremy lived in Tokyo for three years during the heady days of Japan’s ‘bubble economy’. His travel highlights from that period include boat trips from Tokyo to Hokkaido and from Kobe to Shanghai. After returning to London, he worked for travel agencies specialising in Japan – Japan Travel Centre and the London branch office of one of Japan’s largest travel companies, Nippon Travel Agency.
Recent favourite hiking holidays include a three-month trip to Argentina and Chile, encompassing El Chalten and the Torres Del Paine national park in Patagonia. A week in the French Alps coincided with the spectacular spring flowering of the alpine meadows. Jeremy is a passionate gardener and holds a postgraduate diploma in garden design.
Agent Sales Manager
Kathie is originally from New England but also calls Scotland home. Following her studies in Canada and the United Kingdom, Kathie was a lecturer in political science at universities in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States. She decided it would be a lot more fun to help people see the world for themselves rather than stand at a podium telling them about it, so left academia to work in the travel industry 13 years ago. She has always had a passion for Japan, and visits frequently, always looking for new areas to discover. She is interested in traditional Japanese crafts, loves Hakata ramen, and enjoys working with our partners in the travel industry to help them introduce Japan to their clients.
Yoshiko was born in Nara and grew up in Gifu and Kyoto. In Kyoto she spent her childhood visiting Arashiyama and the temples around the city, and she got to know and love Kyoto. She has always enjoyed nature, especially the sea and mountains. After working at a travel agency for some years she moved to a small island in Micronesia where she worked for a local tour operator. After leaving Micronesia, she traveled in Asia, Europe and Australia. When she returned to Japan she worked at travel agencies for many years. Now she spends her free time walking in the Japanese countryside, camping and exploring the more remote villages.
Océane has been a travel-addict since she first learned to walk. That's why, passionate about the discovery of the world, she graduated with a master's degree in tourism management at La Sorbonne, in Paris. Three of her most compelling travel experiences were a road trip down to Key West on the East Coast of the US, a deep exploration of Europe and the thorough discovery of New Zealand where she experienced some of the Great Walks. From kayaking in the Milford Sounds to para-gliding in Provence, through guitar-playing in Croatia, she is an adventure-seeker. Freshly arrived in Japan, Océane is really enthusiastic about exploring the whole country and is enjoying living in Kyoto.
Andy was born and brought up in Hawaii and has had an interest in Japan from a young age. He studied tourism management, and first moved to Japan in 2007; living in Tokyo while exploring many regions around the country. Travel highlights include surfing off the coast of Shikoku, snowboarding in Nagano and enjoying outdoor onsen during the middle of winter. After working within Hawaii’s travel industry for several years, he then relocated to Kyoto in 2013. He is passionate about the outdoors and always on the lookout for new hiking trails to explore.
Tomoko was born and raised in Osaka. In her childhood, her parents took her and her brother to many places in Japan, including the beaches and mountains in the summer, and skiing in the winter. Her addiction to travel started with these experiences. After graduating from university, she worked as a wedding planner with a strong interest in hospitality.
She lived in London and travelled through Europe for 2 and a half years, where she experienced warm hearted people and heartfelt hospitality. She now seeks to return this warm welcome to visitors to Japan. Following her return to Japan, she has developed a new-found appreciation for wearing kimono and enjoys thinking about seasonal combinations.
Jacopo was born and raised in Italy, and has had a deep appreciation for modern Japanese literature from a young age. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology of Tourism in London, he first moved to Japan in 2013. Jacopo considers himself a back-packer and is always looking for new opportunities to see nature and also explore the small backstreets of Kyoto, where he now resides. He has a deep interest in Asian cuisine and has a wide collection of business cards from the restaurants and cafes he has visited. He is also self-taught in yoga and he recently started studying Kyudo, Japanese archery.
Chisato studied Agro-Ecology and Organic Agriculture for her masters degree in the Netherlands, and travelled around small villages in India, Bhutan and Japan to learn about each region's traditional food culture and ethnobotany from local elders (self-professed 'ground-mothers'). With over ten years experience in rural development, she is keenly motivated to work in the field of sustainable, community-based tourism, and joined Oku Japan for this same reason. In her free time, Chisato enjoys farming.
Natsuka was born and raised in Osaka. After graduating from Kansai Gaidai Hawaii College on Oahu Island in Hawaii, she spent 16 years supporting customers at Kansai International Airport.
She has a wide range of interests, particularly focussing on spiritual and body care.
She studied NLP psychology (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), which is designed to enhance insight and communication skills through private school, and she also visited Chang Mai in Thailand to learn the basics of traditional Thai massage. In addition to study, Natsuka likes traveling especially in Asia and often visits outdoor hot springs. Currently, she also makes accessories using natural flowers such as Hydrangeas and resin, and frequently participates in handmade jewellery events in Kyoto.
Kumano Kodo Branch Concierge
Yae Maeda was born and raised in Hiroshima. She majored in international trade at university in Kyoto and began working for a trading company in Osaka. After moving to Wakayama, she worked in the town offices with responsibility of tourism on the Kumano Kodo and was also an English teacher for 18 years. She enjoys painting and calligraphy. On a visit to Nepal 10 years ago, she saw a lot of poor children who could not afford to attend school and there were no school buildings in the poorer areas. They learned underneath a big tree. She donated a school building and every year travels to Nepal to help the school children, teachers, and pupils there.
Kumano Kodo Branch Concierge
Noriko was born and raised in Tanabe City, Wakayama. She majored in International studies at Kansai Gaidai University and in Australia at University of Canberra as part of their exchange program. She enjoyed travelling to many places in Australia, experiencing the local culture and meeting lots of people. She also worked for a major Japanese airline at Narita International Airport for over eight years in a wide variety of roles. After returning to Tanabe City, she obtained a renewed appreciation of the beautiful places and unique activities available in the region, which in turn sparked her interest in Oku Japan.
Yumiko grew up in Tokyo, majored in Chinese ancient literature in college, and studied at Qinhua univ.in Beijing. She lived in the U.S., and then taught English back in Japan. She has been a tour guide since 1999. In her free time she makes kakejiku (Japanese hanging scrolls), and writes stories for children and English haiku. As an exquisite story teller, Yumiko will show you various places and periods of Japan freely and enrich your journey.
Kana was born in Nagoya and raised in Kobe, studied in Kyoto and the US. She has studied the tea ceremony in Kyoto and the philosophy of Zen -- "Living in the moment" -- has been always the core part of her spiritual life. Kana is passionate about Japanese traditional culture, and about explaining it to foreign visitors through her guiding.
Her hobbies include singing; she regularly sings at concerts and including once at a sake brewery, where she sang and played the piano wearing kimono.
Kiyoko Se grew up in Osaka, but studied in the US and UK and has had a varied career in business over 40 years, working at the Japan offices of various foreign companies. She has been a guide since 2004 and has guided a wide range of overseas visitors including the Manchester United Football Club. She has a particular interest in the Kumano region around the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Her hobbies include mountaineering, ‘sawanobori’ (a type of waterfall climbing popular in Japan), diving and cooking. She has walked the Inca Trail in Peru and the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
Satomi was born and grew up in Nagoya, and has lived in Tokyo over 20 years since she became a professional guide in 1985. She has studied in the US (Tennessee) majoring in Communications.
Satomi has guided from Hokkaido, the Northern Island, to Okinawa, the southern-most prefecture, on a wide variety of trips for both tourist and business clients. Satomi is a keen cyclist, and guides our cultural and walking tours.
Emi was born and raised in Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. She holds a degree in foreign studies. After becoming a guide, Emi moved to Kyoto and lives in a traditional 'machiya' townhouse. She is a member of the Kyoto traditional musical art foundation and enjoys lots of geisha events every year.
On her days off she takes her young son by bicycle to various spots around Kyoto while her husband jogs along.
Tomomi was born and raised in Tokyo. After she finished her degree in international relationship she studied in the UK and the US. Later she lived in Hawaii and Israel for Years and travelled extensively in Europe, the US and Middle East. She now lives in Tokyo, close to its center and loves gardening, walking, cycling and Yoga. Tomomi enjoys guiding and sharing her knowledge of both traditional and urban cultures of Japan.
After working at travel agency for over 6 years as a branch manager, Naomi earned her master’s degree in sports tourism and marketing to expand her knowledge in the tourism industry. During her study, she organized and managed events for international students for the purpose of cross-cultural exchange. In 2014, she passed the national tour guide exam and since then, she has been working as a guide as well as a tour conductor. She is interested in Japanese history, food culture and sports. Currently, she is studying to be qualified as a Kikisake-shi (Master of Sake).