Anna Hunter

Travel Coordinator - Gold Coast

Anna was born and raised in Tokyo for 12 years, therefore is a native Japanese speaker and has a strong understanding of Japanese culture. With a love of exploring Japanese pop-culture and adventurous sights she is waiting to assist you in making an exciting trip to Japan! 

Favourite Ski Field in Japan
Appi Kogen as it offers great slopes for all levels from children, beginners, intermediates and advance skiers/snowboarders, as well as providing many friendly English-speaking staff at all times! If you are looking to have Ski or Snowboard lesson, instructors at Appi provides very clear instructions and are highly experienced, therefore I very much enjoyed all my lessons there. 

Resort in Appi is well facilitated with helpful room services and superb rooms especially in the Grand Building that provides ski-in ski-out access, I recommend Appi Kogen 100%!

Where do you recommend to experience pop culture?
Harajuku - Takeshita Dori the centre of pop culture and the best place to catch-up on the newest hot trends! You will be surprised to see all the beautiful vivid colours and quirky fashion Harajuku stores have on offer!

One of my favourite thing to do in Harajuku is definitely checking out local's funky pop culture fashion! You can come across many unique Japan-only fashion styles which are Gyaru, Cosplay, Lolita, Decora and many more!

What is your Favourite Japanese Festival? 
Sumidagawa Firework Festival due to its variety of traditional street food and 90-minute firework extravaganza! This is my must-go festival, you cannot experience Summer in Tokyo without Sumidagawa Firework! Wearing beautiful Yukata and watching firework with some Umeshu or Asahi Beer is the way to go! 

Aya Hendriks

Travel Coordinator - Gold Coast

Aya grew up in Japan therefore likes to consider herself as knowing Japan inside out. She cannot wait to help you explore the culture, history, food, and many more hidden gems of Japan.

Recommended Secret Location!
Tachinomi ‘Maruken suisan’ in Akabane where you can taste the best ‘oden’, do not be afraid to try the speciality of warm oden liquid in your sake onecup! Yes, it is strange but sure is delicious.

Recommended time of year to travel to Japan and why?
September to early October is the perfect time to experience moderate temperatures minus the hot humidity and see’s less tourist compared to other peak seasons. 

What was your favourite experience about Japan?
Enjoying some great sake while soaking in a warm onsen!

Communal bathing doesn’t really sound appealing to some people, but in Japan it is a beloved part of traditional culture.

If you are a beginner at onsen and not unwilling to have a bath in a peculiar way, I would recommend you to stay a room with private open-air onsen.

This way you will still be able enjoy an amazing experience with no concern for others.

Bianca Hockey

Sales Manager - Gold Coast

Bianca first fell in love with Japan when she went abroad as an exchange student to Yokosuka Sogo High School at the young age of 14. Fast forward 6 years to 2013 when she landed her perfect job as a Travel Coordinator at Travel Japan, a place that would allow her to share her love and passion for Japan every day! Bianca loves to search for hidden off the beaten path locations or experiences, to ensure your trip can be unique and one of a kind.

How many times have you travelled to Japan?
30+ trips and I still cannot get enough! My colleagues tell me I am crazy, but Japan will always hold a special spot in my heart and there is always somewhere new to visit.

How many ski fields have you visited in Japan?
Although I cannot stand winter within Australia, I absolutely love a winter trip within Japan to chase the famous “Powder Snow”.

I have been lucky enough to experience Hakuba, Nozawa, Myoko, Zao Onsen, Alts Bandai, Niseko, Furano, Rusutsu & Tomamu my all-time favourite.

Next on the list is Shiga Kogen or Appi!

Where is your favourite hotel or ryokan in Japan?
My most favourite ryokan is in Wakura Onsen an iconic seaside hot spring town within Ishikawa prefecture.

Kagaya a traditional ryokan that was established in 1906 and was a stay, a part of our companies President Award trip, it is a ryokan highly rated for its hospitality and service and has been chosen as one of the highest ranking accommodation facilities in Japan.

I’ll never forget the amazing sunset from the large room window looking onto the Noto Peninsula, absolutely delicious kaiseki of fresh local produce and relaxing in the open-air baths.  

Han Nguyen

Travel Coordinator - Gold Coast

Han originates from Norway, however, now lives and breathes almost everything about Japan. With love for their endless attractions, amazing hot springs, services, food heaven and beautiful culture and traditions, Japan is his number one destination! Ask Han about anything and tailor your magical trip together.


Favourite moment in Japan?
Lost in Shibuya on my first Japan trip, two local non-English speaking schoolkids went the extra mile and walked me all the way to the targeted shop, located about 1km away. Service in Japan is second to none.


Recommended Secret Location!
Enjoy breathtaking views on the scenic train ‘Resort Shirakami’ between Aomori and Akita.


What would you like to do for your next Japan trip?
Go on a family ski trip to Zao Onsen, enjoy amazing hot springs, local food, powder snow and checking out the snow monsters.

Mami Brincat

Travel Coordinator - Melbourne

Mami is from Kanagawa, Japan and has been working as a travel agent since 2009. She loves traveling herself and enjoys putting together a great holiday package like a puzzle. Clients’reactions after their trips are what encourage her the most.

Recommended time of year to travel to Japan and why
Mid-May after “Golden Week” for the lower price, less visitors, and the comfortable weather, not too hot and not too cold. Also there is less chance of hay fever which is an added bonus for some!

Recommended Secret Location!
Kawasaki Open-air Folk House Museum located only 20 minutes train ride from Shinjuku city centre but somehow feels like a rural area. There are 25 preserved buildings from the Edo Period (1603-1867) which were relocated from all over Japan including a gasshozukuri farmhouse from the Shirakawago area.

What is your favourite Japanese beverage?
Oronamin C an energy drink in a small brown bottle with red label which is delicious. You can buy it at convenience stores, vending machines, chemists or supermarkets. 

Melanie Nicholas

Travel Coordinator - Christchurch NZ

Melanie studied Japanese language for 10 years through high school and University. She has been to Japan several times and studied abroad in Kyoto for a semester, so if you want recommendations for Kyoto or surrounding areas, she's your gal! She has a keen interest and good knowledge of historical locations, art, naturalistic spots, and shopping! 


What about Japan excites/ surprises/ interests you?
I am very much interested in art and history. Japan has such a rich culture and many more years of history compared to a young country like New Zealand, so being able to see buildings that are hundreds of years old is really fascinating to me.


Where do you recommend for amazing shopping?
I really enjoyed Nishiki markets/Teramachi area in Kyoto. So much variety, lots of great local street food and a few vintage /second hand shops (if you’re into that kind of thing its very popular in Kyoto!).


Why did you become a Japan specialist?
There is just something so special about Japan that differentiates it from any other country. I think it is an amazing, unique place and I want more people to go there and have great experiences like I have.

Orie Gronow

Sales Assistant

Orie came to Australia in 1998 as working holiday maker and now has a family with 9yrs old twin sons living on the beautiful Gold Coast. She often travels back to her hometown in Tokyo with her family and enjoys food and culture in Japan. Whilst living in Japan Orie was a freestyle skier so every year she stayed in Hakuba for the whole snow seasons

What is your favourite ski field in Japan?
Hakuba!! There is just so many fields you can choose in Hakuba as well as having a village feel.

What was your most unique experience in Japan?
Watch Aerial Olympic Game in Nagano! You cannot beat watching the game just front of you!!

What is your favourite Japanese festival?
The Danjiri Matsuri which isheld in the city of Kishiwada, Osaka prefecture and is renowned as one of Osaka’s rowdiest festivals. Danjiri are large, heavy wheeled carts that resemble small temples.  Orie hasn’t seen it yet, however it is on her bucket list!!

Sonya Hopper Popal

Travel Coordinator - Brisbane

Sonya has lived and worked in Japan for several years as a primary school language teacher. She had the great opportunity to travel over 15 prefectures and is well versed in Japanese language and culture. She would love to help you on your next adventure to Japan!

What is your favourite location in Japan?
Mie Prefecture! This beautiful prefecture has so much to offer, amazing beaches, tall mountains and crystal clear rivers!

What’s you’re favourite food?
Tebasaki (Japanese-style chicken wings). Highly recommend going to Nagoya to try their famous Tebasaki!

What was your favourite experience about Japan?
I was lucky enough to live in rural Japan for around 3.5 years, in that time my favourite experiences have been hiking through some amazing trails,  finding incredible beaches, going to different natural onsens (hot springs) and meeting incredible people!

Yuko Honjo

Planning Coordinator

Yuko was born and raised in Yokohama before then moving to Australia in 2001. Having worked in the travel industry for about 17 years she is passionate about Japanese food and traditional culture. Yuko heads back to Japan every year and enjoys travelling to seek out new and exciting locations to share with you all. 

Favourite season and why?
Yuko’s most favourite season is mid-May, as you can see both cherry blossom and snow at the same time in Northern Japan. 

How many prefectures have you visited in Japan?
36 prefectures 

Where do you recommend for amazing shopping?
As a Japanese food lover, I recommend shopping for Depa-chika food. Located in the basement floor of most department stores and there is a vast amount of gourmet food at reasonable prices.

Vanessa Zaitoku

Planning Coordinator

Vanessa first travelled to Japan on a whim and was so mesmerized by its intriguing juxtaposition of history and culture, chaos and colour, and idiosyncratic curiosities, that she ended up staying for 10 years. After taking in the obligatory ‘must see’ tourist spots, she focused on learning the quirkier cultural traditions and experiences unique to Japan.

What is your favourite Japanese word, and why?
Kuchisabishii (口寂しい) – it’s not the most profound, but it’s high up on my list because, when precisely translated into English it is both accurate and adorable (and often applies to me!). Kuchi (mouth) sabishii (lonely) is literally when you are ‘mouth lonely’ and eat out of boredom, rather than hunger.

What is your favourite Japanese festival?
Hiroshima City's Saijo district is famous as one of the three great sake brewing districts of Japan. The Sake Festival is held here each October, and you can walk around from brewery to brewery sampling various types of Japanese sake. Normally a sleepy little town, during the festival, Saijo comes alive with vibrant energy as the main boulevard is crowded full of people flocking toward the 5,000 Person Izakaya - an outdoor Japanese-style pub seating 5,000 people; and hosting the Sake Plaza, where people can sample well-known regional sake brands from all over Japan (and many do – with one of the main novelties including counting how many people you see lying on the ground fast asleep after drinking too much!) Event stages line the streets and the festival features a Shinto ritual ceremony, performed to celebrate the bounty of that year's batch of sake.

Recommended Secret Location!
Many Japanese anime and manga feature yokai (monsters and spirits of the supernatural world), and Shigeru Mizuki is considered the Godfather of the yokai culture trend. His works bring the yokai of Japanese folklore to life as cute and beloved characters. In Sakaiminato, Tottori, you can experience that world on the Mizuki Shigeru Road - extending from Sakaiminato Station into the city proper, is an 800-meter-long arcade with over 155 statues of fantasy creatures on display. Walking the street can easily take all day and, during the night, the streets and statues are lit up, transforming the town into an eerie and spiritual wonderland. In addition to the maze of statues, there’s a healing Kappa Spring, the Yokai Jinja fantasy shrine, and the Yokai Post, where mail is delivered with a fairy postmark. The most fun way to get there is via a colorful “ghost train,” complete with a glaring eyeball on the front and a creepy version of the typical Japanese railway station announcements.