#Japanspiration: Instagrammer of the Month

While many visitors to Japan are content with only seeing major tourist spots, those who want to experience the real Japan away from these well known areas sometimes don’t know where to look.  This month’s #Japanspiration feature is Tokyo based @hubjapan, who aim to get visitors to experience the land of the rising sun through the expert knowledge of local residents.  We caught up with Mari from the Hub Japan team to find out more.  

Hi Mari, can you tell us a bit about why you started up Hub Japan?

The number of visitors to Japan is rising, but most of them leave only seeing major sightseeing spots.  When we went to Italy, we had a chance to talk to a local lady, and the restaurant she recommended had the most delicious pasta ever.  We loved Italian food and had a lot of expectations, but restaurants we went before that did not satisfy us. We felt deeply that locals know about the town the best.

Then decided that we would like to do the same; we want visitors to Japan to feel local Japan.  So we established "Hub Japan", the concept of which is to 'be a part of real Japan'.

Can you tell us more about the Hub Japan team?

We are based in Tokyo currently.  On Hub Japan's website, we focus mainly on the Tokyo and Tohoku regions. Our founder is born in Tokyo, but his roots are in Tohoku.  I was born in Osaka, but I have been to multiple countries since I was a small child.

Hub Japan offers various activities where foreign travellers can meet Japanese locals.  What sort of activities are available? What activity would you recommend for a first time visitor to Japan?

Basically, there are two kinds of activities in our BE A LOCAL service - interacting with locals or experiencing something from a skilled local.  

Interacting with locals - We go to a restaurant, enjoy a meal and conversations. We aim for travellers to feel Japanese culture by matching local Japanese and travellers.

Experiencing something from skilled locals - these are held mainly at the hosts' house. For example, sushi making, Japanese calligraphy, and tea ceremony experiences. These experiences are operated by a person, not a company, to create the opportunity to interact with locals.

For a first time visitor to Japan, either plan would be fun

Is there a favourite activity you enjoy doing? Are there any activities you would like to do in the future?

The 'Be a Local' service provides lots of opportunities to talk with travellers from various countries and we at the Hub Japan team, enjoy this a lot. We limit the number of Japanese participants because we are testing the service right now, but we would like to involve more in the future, so that we can provide more chances for travellers and Japanese locals to meet each other. 

What has been your best memory/experience meeting visitors?

On one occasions we enjoyed talking so much that we missed the last train, and talked at a bar until 3am in the morning!

What time of year do you think is best to visit Japan?

One of Japan's attractions is that there are always something to see in every time of year. 

In spring, sakura cherry blossoms are really beautiful. Sakura starts blooming from the south and lastly the flower blooms in Hokkaido. In Hokkaido, people can enjoy sakura until early May.  Tokyo's summer is humid and hot but summer in Tohoku and Hokkaido is dry, and the weather is very nice.  In autumn, we can enjoy beautiful leaves coloured in red, orange, and yellow.  In winter, the northern part becomes all white and quiet. I always lose words when I see all-white sceneries.

Thanks to Hub Japan for a great interview.  Hop over to their website to book an authentic Japanese experience, ask questions and read articles and answers posted by locals.  Hub Japan is always developing and improving the content of their services, so there may be changes in the future.