Journey to the East is an independently owned travel company providing carefully crafted small group tours and customised private tours for travellers from around the world.
We are Japan specialists and focus exclusively on experiences that immerse you in the local culture by taking you away from the tourist hotspots and revealing the true heart of this fascinating country. Our long association with Japan allows us to draw on our own knowledge and experience to deliver a truly authentic journey for all who travel with us.
To find out more about our range of trips, go to Small Group Tours of Japan.
Journey To The East is a member of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) and has met the strict accreditation requirements of ATAS, the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme.
Over the years, we’ve met many travellers fascinated by the people, landscapes, history and art of Asian countries, but language barriers and unfamiliarity with the cultural context stopped them from making the decision to go. These people were well travelled and inquisitive by nature; all they needed was access to local experts whose country knowledge could unlock a destination and make a truly amazing journey come to life.
We felt there was an opportunity in Japan to offer an extra small group tour format, which could open the door to some very special discoveries and experiences – something that would appeal to those who enjoy the freedom of independent travel but also want to delve deeper.
Journey to the East was launched in 2012 to bridge the gap between independent travel and the conventional group tour approach. We aim to provide travellers with a more personal and insightful journey through Japan with a friendly, knowledgeable guide at their side.
What Drives Us
We’ve had the good fortune to have spent 20 years travelling the length and breadth of Japan. Our natural curiosity to find out what’s around the next corner has meant that we’ve stumbled on some breathtakingly beautiful places. It’s our passion to share these hidden treasures and take travellers beyond the busy tourist spots.
Throughout the journey, we want our travellers to feel comfortable and at ease, knowing they don't need to worry about the logistical details that can take the fun out of travel. We aim to deliver a travel itinerary that works seamlessly, yet still allows for an unscripted detour or the time to simply stop, absorb and enjoy.
There’s nothing more rewarding than to see our customers so happy and enriched at the end of their journey that they're moved to describe their time with us with one simple word - “Wow!” See what our travellers say about us here: What They Said - Journey to the East Customer Reviews.
Journey to the East is based in Brisbane, Australia, and is owned and run by husband-and-wife team Yuki Takano and Col Beardmore.
Although based in Australia, we spend a great deal of our time in Japan with our staff from our local Japan operation visiting our hotel and restaurant suppliers, researching new travel routes, fine-tuning itineraries and catching up with our tour guides. Periodically we also participate in our own tours to ensure we’re consistently meeting our high quality and safety standards.
We love connecting with travellers and talking with prospective customers. We know that sometimes it helps to talk with someone directly about itinerary details or the focus of our different tours. Wherever you are in the world, please don't hesitate to connect with us by phone or our contact form.
Meet Col Beardmore
Col grew up in Kenya and had an idyllic childhood exploring the nature and wildlife of the African bush. His love of the natural environment kindled in Africa very much remains with him today – he enjoys walking in the bush, practising yoga, spending time with family and fiddling with an electronic gadget or two!
Col spent most of his adult life in Brisbane, Australia, working in the IT sector in sales and marketing roles. His background in IT has given him a strong appreciation of the importance of robust systems and efficiencies in running any business. He also believes that offering something special, backed by impeccable customer service, will bring people back and encourage valuable word-of-mouth recommendations.
An inquisitive person by nature, Col has an insatiable appetite for travel – in Japan alone, he has been to all of Japan’s 47 prefectures and indeed has seen more of Japan than most Japanese! Col loves sharing the beauty of Japan – a favourite spot being Miyajima, a small island near Hiroshima, known for its verdant green forests and stunning floating torii shrine gate.
Meet Yuki Takano
Yuki was born and raised in Fukuoka in Kyushu, one of Japan’s four main islands. After graduating in English Literature from university in Tokyo, Yuki moved to Australia to undertake a Master of Arts degree in Japanese Interpreting and Translation at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. For many years she worked as a professional conference interpreter, servicing clients from the public and private sectors across the Asia-Pacific region and travelling regularly to Japan on assignment.
Since founding Journey to the East with her husband Col, Yuki has continued travelling regularly to Japan for work and leisure, while managing to find time to continue to explore other parts of the world. She believes her passion for travel and many years on the road have given her valuable insights into the best way to ensure a comfortable, stress-free experience and avoid the travel traps.
When at home in Brisbane, Yuki loves spending time with friends and family, practising yoga, going to the beach and enjoying long walks through the Australian bush. In Japan, one of Yuki’s favourite experiences is soaking in an outdoor rotemburo bath in winter looking out on a snow-covered forest in remote Tohoku (northern Japan).
Meet Ritsuko Stronach
Ritsuko is our Client Support Officer based in our Australian office in Brisbane. Many of our travellers will talk with Ritsuko in the course of finalising a tour booking with us. She is unfailingly caring and thorough, and we often receive comments from our travellers about how helpful she is. Ritsuko also has a meticulous eye for the crucial details that can mean the difference between a great experience and an ordinary one.
Now a mother with two small children, Ritsuko grew up in Osaka before moving to Australia. She loves tennis, swimming and walking, and likes to practise chado, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. One of her favourite experiences in Japan is exploring the old town of Kurashiki, west of Osaka near Okayama, spontaneously popping into one of its atmospheric bars to hear live jazz played by local musicians and sample some local craft beer.
Meet Kaori Shimoto
Kaori is Journey to the East’s very own Superwoman! Married with three children under 10, she deftly manages a full-time job with us and is the definitive 'go to' person.
Based in Fukuoka, Kaori looks after our local operations, managing our relationships with local suppliers and organising the bookings for accommodation, restaurants and guides. Her proactive and resourceful approach, combined with her natural efficiency and precision, make her a very valuable member of our team.
Kaori gets great satisfaction from reading the happy and positive comments in our customer feedback forms and knowing she played a part behind the scenes. When she has time, Kaori loves exploring the history of local towns and discovering old temples with her goshuincho in hand– a special book for collecting the vermillion-red stamps available at temples in Japan.
Meet Yayoi Ishikawa
Yayoi is based in Fukuoka and helps run our operational side. She is an indispensable member of the Journey to the East team, establishing productive relationships with many of our local suppliers. She is also a great researcher and has helped us find some fabulous new restaurants and boutique hotels to include in our tours.
Yayoi has an IT background and is now enjoying the more people-focused nature of her role in the travel industry. Yayoi is into marathons and, on special occasions, loves trading her compression tights and running shoes for traditional kimono and geta! One of Yayoi’s favourite Japan experiences is participating with her husband in Fukuoka’s annual Yamagasa Festival, a World Intangible Cultural Heritage festival known for its high energy and spectacle.
Meet Misa Singh (currently on maternity leave)
Misa was born in Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku and grew up in Tokyo. After graduating university in Tokyo, she worked for Tokyo Disneyland for 7 years, where her passion for customer service and giving her guests best possible experience was nurtured.
Now married with one child in Brisbane, her role at Journey to the East is Operation Coordinator. You may not hear directly from her but she is the one behind our itineraries, which are often referred to by our clients as “work like clockwork”. She makes sure that transport, luggage transfers, hotels and restaurants all seamlessly fit with one another.
Misa also loves travelling in Japan and overseas. Her favourite spot in Japan is Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama (Shikoku) where a special treat for her is going to the onsen early in the morning wearing yukata.
She enjoys playing piano and dancing (she was a cheer leader at university), and she loves sushi more than anything in the world! When she is back in Japan, she eats sushi everyday to satisfy her craving.
Meet Eri Tamai
Eri was born in Hiroshima but spent most of her childhood in Tokushima on Shikoku Island. She loves travelling and experiencing different cultures. So this led her to move to Sydney after graduating from a university.
She lived in Sydney for almost 14 years and worked for the travel industry for a decade as a retail consultant where she truly enjoyed creating some special moments for clients.
Recently she moved back to Hiroshima with her husband and 2 kids to start a new adventure. After living away from Japan for almost 14 years, Japan feels like a new fun place to be rediscovered again.
Her family loves discovering beautiful scenery, fun outdoor activities and tasting the local delicacies in the cities or towns near Hiroshima. Japan never fails to impress, there is always something unique or amazing.
One of her favourite places to visit is Ibusuki onsen in Kagoshima, the southernmost city on the island of Kyushu. Here you can try a warm black sand bath. Eri found the healing sand covering her body a unique and interesting experience.
Eri started working for Journey to the East in July 2018 as a member of the operation team in Japan, hoping to share some of her experiences and knowledge about Japan.
Angus is our Senior Travel Consultant based in our office in Brisbane, Australia.
For many of our clients Angus is their first point of contact when they have queries on our Small Group Tours, or when seeking a custom Private Tour with Journey to the East.
He first fell in love with Japan during a student exchange program when he was in high school. Since then, Angus has continued to travel back to Japan on a regular basis and enjoys exploring places off the beaten path with his family.
Angus has assisted many travellers to Japan over the past decade with itinerary planning and is passionate about helping people to enjoy their time in Japan as much as he does. He has a background as a photographer and in Information Technology and is a welcome addition to the Journey to the East team.
He is pictured enjoying the view of the drift ice aboard the icebreaker boats off the coast of Abashiri in Hokkaido, part of our Snow Spectacular Tour of Japan.
Sachi was born in Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu and spent her childhood and wild teenage life there. After finishing high school, she came to the sunshine state Queensland, Australia as an international student and studied Tourism Management at university to pursue her career in the travel industry where her passion is. Sachi has been living in Brisbane for more than 10 years now.
When she was living in Japan she never realised how beautiful and convenient Japan was, but she found that seeing Japan from outside is very interesting. She loves showing her friends, from different countries who she met in Australia, around Japan too.
Her favourite destination in Japan has always been Kyushu, the southern west island of the Japanese archipelago. Kyushu has many faces. It is rich in nature and history, is blessed with many onsen towns and fresh tasty food and most importantly, people are very friendly. She believes interactions with local people and learning about their culture and lifestyle through experiences will add great fun to your travelling,
Sachi loves ramen noodles and has tried many different types of ramen in Japan but she thinks Kumamoto ramen is still the best! Sachi highly recommends you to try ramen if you haven't yet 🙂
We are very fortunate to have very high calibre of guides. All of our guides are government qualified, higly experienced and hand-picked by Col and Yuki. Their dedication, professionalism and level of care for our customers is second to none, and without doubt they are an essential part of our tours. They often go beyond their call of duty to make sure that our guests have the best possible time in Japan. Here are some of our main guides who worked with us for many years.
Hiroko currently lives in Fujisawa City, a seaside town located 50 km south of Tokyo, but she was born and raised in a small town in Saitama Prefecture (north of Tokyo) that is famous for ancient tombs constructed in mid 5th century. She studied international communication at a college in Tokyo where she lived in a dormitory and met students and faculty from different parts of the world. After graduation she worked for an American bank’s Tokyo branch for 6 years and also worked as an English teacher. It has been 18 years since she started working as a licensed tour guide. Now she sometimes work as an instructor for novice guides.
Nobody would believe that she was once a shy girl but now she loves meeting people very much, especially those with different cultural backgrounds. For her being a tour guide is ‘discovering her own country’, which she really enjoys.
Her interests varies from pop music to traditional theater such as Kabuki and Bunraku (puppet show), tea ceremony and gardening. She is a regular Kabukiza theater goer and a big fan of certain Kabuki family. She has enjoyed watching actors in four generations of this family. As for gardening Hiroko believes her sister and she have inherited the love for flowers from their father who used to have an impressive bonsai collection.
Masako was born and raised in Sapporo, Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan.
After graduating from college, she married and taught flower arrangement at home. In her 30s, she moved to the USA with her family when her husband was transferred to Washington DC. Three years later she came back to Japan and started teaching English-Japanese translation classes at Sapporo University, which she enjoyed for 20 years.
After obtaining her national guide license she began working as a freelance tour guide and was invited by Yuki to work for Journey to the East (JttE) for tours in Hokkaido and Tohoku, and eventually in other areas. She has found working as an English speaking tour guide very rewarding and inspirational. Masako enjoys traveling with fun-loving and well-travelled JttE guests and showing them the beautiful places in her beloved country.
She lives with her husband in Sapporo. Her three grown-up children are all married and work in different places in the world, Tokyo, Shanghai and Frankfurt. When not working, she enjoys taking swimming classes, walking, reading books, listening to the Beatles, checking out new restaurants with her friends, or watching foreign films.
Fumiko is our specialist guide for Kyushu, located south west part of Japan. Kyushu is blessed with pristine nature, unique culture and rich history, and is particularly famous for its high quality food. Fumiko's passion is to introduce Kyushu's food culture to her guests who visit this fascinating part of Japan. Her guests often tease her because when she talks about food her eyes beam! She also likes hiking and cycling.
Here is one of the testimonials from a guest.
"Fumiko introduced us to the many wonders of Kyushu with great enthusiasm while creating a truly seamless and worry-free trip and we were taken care of with care, kindness and friendship."
Hitomi was born in Nagano Prefecture, and lived in Tokyo and other parts of Japan before coming back to Nagano to become a tour guide. During the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano in 1998, she worked as a volunteer interpreter in English at the Olympic Village.
Hitomi majored law at a university following her father’s advice, however, she found her love was in foreign languages and became a teacher of English. After further developing her English skills, she chose a career of English speaking tour guide.
Now Hitomi works in Nagano and the central parts of Japan, and loves showing her guests places with historical significance and beautiful nature. When not working, she enjoys walking in a forest in summer and skiing in winter. The great views in the national parks all around Japan especially from the islands off the coast are her favorite parts of the country. There are more than 6,500 islands in Japan, and Hitomi wonders how many of them she can visit in her lifetime.
In her spare time, Hitomi creates Tanka poems, a Japanese traditional style short poem. She is also a dedicated tea ceremony practitioner and regularly takes lessons wearing a kimono, and thinking about a perfect kimono and sash combination is fun for her. Cooking and reading are also her favourite pastime.
Mizue lives in the mountains of Hyogo near Osaka, and enjoys the mountain life walking her dog early in the morning hearing birds singing in the fresh air.
She was a teacher before becoming an English speaking tour guide, but her childhood dream was to become a cartoonist publishing in Japanese comic books. She would drew Manga or cartoons all day in class at school until she found English at middle school.
Now, in addition to drawings and paintings, she also appreciates other forms of art such as architecture and interior design. Mizue is happy to share her knowledge of art on a tailor-make tour to match particular inerests of her guests. She also would like her guests to feel subtle difference of culture between different parts of Japan. For example, Kyoto, as an ancient capital of Japan has a distinct culture compared to its more lively and flamboyant neigbour Osaka. These are just two examples, and Mizue looks forward to showing you many more attractive destinations of Japan to Journey to the East guests.
Nobu has been working as a tour guide for English speaking travellers mainly in Hiroshima since 1999. In the beginning she was very nervous but loved talking to people from different parts of the world. Now she feels very lucky to do the work she loves.
Hiroshima is her home town and she is very proud to share its history and special spirit with her guests. Miyajima Island is where her father was born and raised, so it is always a joy to show her guests the scenery of this special island and to describe its history and culture. Seeing her guests smiling and relaxing is her greatest joy!
She met Yuki and Col just after they founded Journey to the East and instantly empathised with their personality, vision and passion. Since then she has been enjoying working on their tours and loves JttE guests, finding them very kind, cheerful and humorous. She is especially impressed that a lot of the guests who participate in JttE group tours become great friends really quickly.
She looks forward to meeting her next Journey to the East guests and doing her best to give them a most memorable and enjoyable tour.
Meet Miki (escort)
Miki works for Journey to the East as an escort meeting guests on arrival at Narita or Haneda Airport. When guests arrive and see her friendly smile, they instantly feel at ease.
Miki spent her childhood in three different countries, England, Japan and the U.S. This upbringing made her interested in difference of cultures so she majored in intercultural studies at university. After graduating she joined Nissan Motors and looked after the company's expats and foreign employees working in Japan.
Her marriage took her to Okinawa, the southernmost island of Japan where she raised her two sons in the idyllic subtropical island. As you may know, Japan is a small country but it is quite long and the climate differs quite a bit from north to south. Not only the scenery, but it is quite diverse in its culture with variation in dialect, tradition and customs. Miki's husband is from Hokkaido (the northernmost island of Japan) and she is from Kobe. Miki has become familiar with both the East (Kanto) and the West (Kansai) of mainland Japan. She is happy to share with you the stories of how different it is to live in different areas of Japan.
Since her sons are grown up, she now has time to enjoy her many hobbies. She loves to draw and paint as you can see in the photo. She also practices yoga and loves traveling, especially to foreign countries. Her most recent favourite pastime is going on fishing trips to Hokkaido with her husband.
Meet Masayo (escort)
Masayo is also an airport meet-and-greet escort for Journey to the East. Masayo grew up in Tanashi city, Tokyo. After finishing university education, she joined Bank of America Tokyo Branch and worked there for over ten years. Then her husband's company transferred him to their New York Branch, where they spent next four years.
Masayo loves going to see ballet performances, like practicing Taichi and walking.
Since her grown-up sons moved out, she now lives with her husband and a cat.