Despite the many challenges faced over the last few years, Kyoto-based tour operator Oku Japan used the time to establish even deeper roots in the communities in which it operates its various tours.
Fureai, which refers to the “formation of emotional connections between people of a different age group and/or profession within the community,” is the new concept that is now featured as part of Oku’s self-guided itineraries along the Kumano Kodo and Nakasendo Trail, ancient pilgrimage routes where the company’s branch offices are located and, as such, where it enjoys the strongest ties to the local community.
“We used the opportunity to bring in more local people and focus on deeper connections,” said Hiroshi Kawaguchi, General Manager, Oku Japan. “We started by integrating these more immersive, local elements into our traditional, self-guided products for the domestic market and are now rolling it out to our international guests as well.”
Sit down for a drink and a chat with the owners of this cozy guesthouse on the Kumano Kodo. Run by a local man and his wife (pictured above), their story is a unique one. Hear all about it and what drew them to this region.
This local man (main photo) from Chikatsuyu on the Kumano Kodo is always busying himself with various work around the community, including farming. His passion for his community is palpable and he frequently invites guests to join him at a lovely lookout just outside of town.
Ebiya Japanese Sweets Café
Hirata-san (pictured below), the owner of this sweets shop in Tsumago on the Nakasendo, often sits with guests as they enjoy their sweets. Other family members may also join, creating a fun atmosphere to share stories, cultural practices, and more.