March 27 2019
A Short Interview with Simon Richards of Audley Travel
This is the second in our series of interviews with Japan-travel experts from overseas.
Simon Richards is a Japan Product Executive at Audley Travel in London, a travel agency that specialises in providing tailor-made tours. We asked Simon some questions about his experiences of travelling in Japan.
PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TRAVELLING IN JAPAN
I first visited Japan in 2009 on a group tour with my family. We visited all of the classic spots and even hiked up Mount Fuji. I found it vastly different to any country I had visited in the past and was very keen to learn more about it. I then went on to study Japanese at university and was lucky enough to study in Osaka for a year. During that time I was fortunate to have the time to see a lot of the diverse sights that exist in Japan. This spurred me on to go and seek out a career in Japan travel, and here I am!
WHAT AREAS OF JAPAN HAVE YOU VISITED?
As well as lots of the main sites of the mainland, I have travelled to Shikoku, Kyushu, Hokkaido and Okinawa. I love how each island offers a completely different landscape and culture. There is still plenty of the mainland that I am still to explore, especially the Tohoku area.
WHAT MEANS OF TRANSPORT GIVES YOU THE MOST PLEASURE WHEN YOU ARE ACTUALLY TRAVELLING IN JAPAN?
Japan is a fantastic destination for keen cyclists. One day I hope to cycle from the top of Hokkaido to the bottom of Kyushu so I can really experience the rural areas of the country. The bullet train is also an incredible way to get around and fantastic value with the Japan Rail Pass.
ARE THERE ANY SITUATIONS THAT STILL PRESENT DIFFICULTIES FOR YOU WHEN ON YOUR TRAVELS?
The cultural challenges get gradually easier, but the language is always a tough one to get around in the really rural areas. Things like regional accents make things harder, but for me it is part of the fun of exploring an incredibly diverse country.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY TRAVEL MISHAPS THAT OUR READERS CAN LEARN FROM?
I have spent many hours of my life on a train going in the wrong direction in Japan. All I can say is do your homework before getting on a train and double check with a station attendant. Citymapper (in Tokyo) and hyperdia.com are lifesavers and will help you prepare for all train journeys.
WHAT PLACES IN JAPAN ARE THERE THAT YOU STILL WANT TO VISIT?
I am really keen to explore the Setouchi area as there are a lot of hidden gems in that part of the country. Setouchi is an inland sea which separates the mainland from Shikoku, and is often referred to as the Mediterranean of Japan. It’s a place which isn’t too far from the tourist trail, but still offers a window into traditional Japan.
FINALLY, PLEASE TELL US ABOUT ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES IN JAPAN.
My favourite place in Japan is without a doubt the Shimanami Kaido (see main photo), which is a cycling route from Hiroshima prefecture on the mainland to the town of Imabari on the north coast of Shikoku. The route is 77km long, so it is a full day of cycling over several impressive suspension bridges. If the weather is pleasant, you can expect one of the best cycling experiences you’ll ever have.
You can find out more about Audley Travel here: www.audleytravel.com