Walk Japan, the pioneering operator of off-the-beaten-track walking tours of Japan, is delighted to announce that its CEO, Paul Christie, has been appointed by All Nippon Airways as ANA Nihon no Michi Taishi (ANA Ambassador). In this role he will advise ANA on inbound tourism into Japan and the sustainable revival of the nation’s countryside.
Paul’s appointment as ANA Ambassador recognises Walk Japan’s success both in developing tourism in Japan, particularly in the nation’s provinces, and also with its Community Project, promoting revival of the rural community on the Kunisaki Peninsula in Kyushu, since its founding 25 years ago in 1992.
Paul’s relationship with Walk Japan began in 1997 when he became a freelance tour leader. He was made a partner in 2005 and is presently the CEO. He has resided in Japan for much of his adult life since he first arrived there in 1987 and currently lives in Kunisaki, Kyushu.
In late 2007, Walk Japan established a Community Project in Kunisaki. Since then it has increasingly become a potent symbol of the company’s corporate social responsibility. Kunisaki is a region that faces an uncertain future as the local population continues to shrink and age. Walk Japan provides funding for local labour to work on the project and staff also help when they can. Current work is centred on the revival of plantation forests; the re-establishment of mixed forests and natural environments; and the rehabilitation of long disused fields. The long-term aim is to help the communities of two small neighbouring valleys maintain their environment and provide for a more vibrant and prosperous future. Between now and then, though, there is a lot of work to do and the company continues to provide details of progress and future plans on their website, walkjapan.com, and on their blog.
Walk Japan’s local base in Japan is in an old farmhouse in Kunisaki that was specially converted for the purpose. The building had been empty for over 17 years before Walk Japan took it over and is, so far, symbolic of what the company has achieved.
The office has been reconstructed with the aid of local craftsmen using locally-sourced timber. An excellent natural air flow through the building means that in the summer months there is no need for air conditioning and rarely the need to use fans. A wood-burning stove for warmth in the winter months has recently been installed. The wood for the stove is sourced from a nearby coppice. Coppicing is an ancient technique that was common throughout the world helping to sustain and protect woodlands. A simple but effective composting toilet has also installed and all lighting is low-energy LED.
Other planned additions, including solar air and water heaters, will make the office one of the least energy-intensive work environments possible. The office is the first of a series of environmentally low-impact and low-energy intensive structures, including accommodation for customers, Walk Japan plans to build over the coming years.
Other activities in Kunisaki involve all the Walk Japan staff assisting in finding long disused and lost, old trails; maintaining established trails; and lending their time and effort to support other local community groups planting trees and picking up rubbish. Customers on the Kunisaki Trek, Kunisaki Retreat and Kunisaki & Yufuin Walk tours have the opportunity to see first-hand what the company is doing, and welcome anyone interested to come and see what they are up to in this beautiful part of Japan.