Our team of expert travel designers are on hand at every step of the journey – from planning to welcoming guests on the day! – to ensure each experience is unique, meaningful and one that will stay with you for a lifetime.
In Japanese, the word for tourism is 観光 ‘kanko’:
観る (‘miru’, to see) + 光 (‘hikari’, light) = ‘to see the light’
At Tohoku Local Secret Tours, we’re focused on creating sustainable tourism that reflects this deeper meaning - beyond simply ‘tourism’.
We believe the essence of tourism should be
Enlightenment Empowerment & Enjoyment
We work closely with local businesses and grassroots organisations to create tours and experience packages that not only offer a culturally enriching and authentic off-the-beaten-path experience for visitors but leave a positive impact on local communities.
CUSTOMISED TRAVEL DESIGN
Our travel design team have the local knowledge and travel experience needed to create...
Our travel design team have the local knowledge and travel experience needed to create unforgettable itineraries and experiences that meet diverse needs of guests. We are lucky to work alongside a fantastic network of local guides, chefs, sake brewers, artisans, fishermen and more across the Tohoku region. Looking for something specific? We know where to find it! If we don’t? We’ll create it! Whether working with one of our overseas partners or directly with travelers, we take the time to really get to know the interests and needs of each guest and work together with them to design a uniquely tailored and fulfilling Japan experience. Sample itineraries are also available upon request (see below).
At the core of our activities is a dedication to the creation and support of sustainable tourism; that is, travel that leaves little negative impact on the natural environment and a large positive impact on local communities. We aim to encourage the economic revitalization of rural communities by leading our guests away from major tourist destinations, working with local guides and keeping our focus on independently run accommodation, restaurants and businesses. Where possible, the food offered during our experiences is locally sourced from sustainable farming/fishing and can be tailored to suit varied dietary requirements. Through direct interaction and exchange with locals, our experiences are educational, encourage cultural exchange and provide support for local traditions and crafts that may otherwise be in danger of disappearing. We believe tourism should never be a one-way street but an inclusive experience that leaves a personally enriching impact upon both traveler and local alike.
PRIVATE TRANSPORT & VIP MANAGEMENT
Our guests reflect almost every style of travel there is! From backpackers and solo-travelers, to family-groups, honeymooners and those looking for a more luxurious escape. Often some of the best attractions and hidden gems of the region can be difficult to access in terms of transport and/or language barrier. We offer both chartered transport (road vehicles/boats/helicopter) and private guides to navigate these logistical barriers and cater to diverse needs – however demanding – with an extensive repertoire of local knowledge, wide networks and, most importantly, flexibility! For more information about private charter services, click here.
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Our travel design team are all Tohoku locals or internationals who call the region home!
With the right balance of local knowledge and extensive travel experience, trust in us to create the perfect Japan experience for any style of traveler.
As well as working directly with our overseas partners and independent guests to plan itineraries and experiences, you’ll find us on the ground alongside our amazing ‘Tohoku Travel Concierge’ team of expert guides, ready to welcome you to Tohoku!
Goto Mitsumasa (MITSU)
NAME: Goto Mitsumasa (MITSU)
Mitsu is a Sendai local, born and raised, and between back-packing and working in the travel & PR industry for more than 20 years, he’s travelled overseas well over 30 times. As well as embracing his love of the outdoors, Mitsu is one of Tohoku’s biggest foodies and can follow his nose to the best local eateries across the region!
Licensed taxi driver (driver-guide), Sake Sommelier and (almost!) finisher of the ‘Michinoku Coastal Trail’ (1000km).
Jessica Hallams (JESS)
NAME: Jessica Hallams (JESS)
Jess arrived in Tohoku from Australia in 2013 with the intention of staying one year but – oops – seven years later she’s more in love with Tohoku than ever! When not guiding, you’ll find her sipping sake and throwing back gyoza in the alleyway bars of Sendai, soaking in an outdoor onsen or dancing at a local festival!
Sake Sommelier in training, amateur yogi, mochi & convenience store snack enthusiast.
Kyoko Onodera (NINJA SATSUKI)
NAME: Kyoko Onodera (NINJA SATSUKI)
Appearances can be deceiving…! Born and raised in Sendai, Kyoko might look like another friendly local but watch out!! She’s also a qualified bodyguard and real-McCoy Ninja! You’ve nothing to fear with Kyoko as your guide. She’s also multilingual after living in Seattle for a year as a student and studying French. When not guiding you’ll find her teaching local kids how to shoot blowpipes or driving through the countryside in her drop-top Roadster.
Actual trained and qualified Ninja, Iaido, SP, volunteer fire-fighter, Roadster enthusiast.
TOHOKU TRAVEL CONCIERGE
Chie Tamada (CHIE)
NAME: Chie Tamada (CHIE)
100% guarantee: you cannot spend five minutes with Chie and not break into a smile or end up laughing ‘til your lungs give out! Chie has traveled Japan (and overseas) as a ‘Rakugo’ performer (Japanese comedic storytelling) and has a hilarious story for every situation! Your Tohoku experience will be everything but boring with Chie as your guide.
Rakugo performer (comedic storytelling) and English teacher, Japan’s most expressive eyebrows.
Rie Shiga (SALLY)
NAME: Rie Shiga (SALLY)
A trip with Sally is more than just travel –with all the best insider local secrets up her fashionable sleeves, she’ll show you how to ‘live’ Japan! When not doting over her adorable pup ‘Hope’ or teaching English to her students, you’ll find Sally soaking in a local onsen, entertaining a homestay guest or being friend and confidant to local expats!
Local onsen expert, English teacher, poodle enthusiast.
Ritsuko Maro (RIKO)
NAME: Ritsuko Maro (RIKO)
Born and raised in coastal Miyagi, Riko is a fountain of knowledge of local history, art, culture and, most importantly, local food and SAKE! Affectionately known as our resident ‘sake master’ trust in Riko’s taste to find your favourite local drop. Even Miyagi locals will discover new secrets and stories on a town-walk with Riko.
Hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, Quinlan’s journey took him to Japan 20 years ago after a 10 month spell in China. After 10 years in Tokyo during which he took multiple back-packing trips to India and Nepal, he moved north to Iwate in 2010. You’ll most likely find him up a local volcano, hiking up a storm, fighting a bear (probably happened) or foraging for wild vegetables to feed his Airbnb guests / entertain his YouTube subscribers!
Avid hiker, past student of Tibetan Buddhism/Classical Tibetan language, coffee enthusiast, people person. YouTube celebrity in the making.
Mai Honda (MAI)
NAME: Mai Honda (MAI)
My-oh-Mai get ready to learn some things from the talented, ever-charming and worldly Mai! Well-read in Japanese culture, religion and local history, Mai also speaks fluent English and dabbles in Spanish and French. Having lived overseas with her family Mai knows all there is to know about travel and has plenty of stories to tell!
Culture and religion expert, wellness, (rumor has it she makes a mean Indian curry!)
Shunsuke Wakamatsu (SHUN)
NAME: Shunsuke Wakamatsu (SHUN)
Down with all of the Japan pop-culture trends, Shun is your guide for everything anime, manga and gaming! Between attending local school trips across Japan, he’s also welcomed guests from all over the world to the Tohoku region, even designing his own original pop-culture highlights walking tour in Sendai City.