Founded by Julia Maeda in 2015, Tokyo Personalised aimed to introduce Tokyo and beyond to visitors on a deeper, more personal level than standard tours companies. After meeting Lauren Scharf at a luxury travel event in mid-2017 and realising they shared a vision of introducing the “hidden” regions of Japan, Julia and Lauren teamed up to form Okuni: Japan Unbound in Spring 2018. Operating on a referral basis only with an emphasis on customisation and personal service, Okuni has welcomed close to 100 VIP client groups, including A-list celebrities and captains of industry and sent them everywhere from the vast National Parks of Hokkaido to the sub-tropical beaches of Okinawa, the sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan to the remote Sado Island, and many points in between.
Now, as the planet deals with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel has changed significantly, and at least until countries relax their vigilance toward admitting international visitors, does not look like returning to ‘normal’ anytime soon. The immediate result is that around the world, people are rediscovering their own countries, or in the case of the global expat community, their adopted homes. It is into this altered reality that Okuni would like to offer our services to assist international residents of Japan venture beyond what they know and explore Japan’s infinite and incredible destinations.
Armed with an insatiable curiosity, a keen eye for the detail and a passion for new experiences Julia has hiked, climbed, run, swum, sailed, driven and generally combed the length and breadth of Japan, loving to delve deeply into each new place, and sample as much of the incredible and varied cuisine as possible. Her mission is to ensure that any visitor leaves feeling like they have discovered something of the ‘real’ Japan, and for them to want to come back to experience more. English by birth, Julia has lived in Japan for over 23 years (in Tohoku and Tokyo) during which time she has raised three boys. Alongside her family and company, Julia continues to work as a consultant for the Japanese government and local tourist authorities to assist them in promoting and developing their regions for international travelers.
Originally from the US, Lauren has lived in Japan on and off for many years, starting in Hakodate, then Saitama, and finally Kanazawa. In 2011, she co-founded a Japanese-American DMC to introduce high-end international travelers to the authentic arts and culture of Japan. After five years, she left the company to become an independent consultant, developing and promoting destinations and experiences around Japan to the international media, international travelers, and travel agents. Clients included Nara Prefecture, Shikoku, Toba City/Ise Shima, Sado Island, and a number of traditional properties throughout the country.
If you want to know more, please drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org