Like most of Lonely Planet’s readers, I’m an inveterate traveler. I’ve traveled widely in North America, Europe, Asia and South America. My true passion is hiking and climbing and I’ve climbed in the Rockies, the Alps, the Japan Alps, the Himalayas and the Patagonian Andes. I’m also a keen diver and snorkeler, and my idea of heaven is floating over a coral reef somewhere in south-east Asia. While Kyoto is my home these days, in the past I’ve lived in New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne, and Tokyo. I’ve also spent long periods of time in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Paris.
I have lived in Kyoto for over ten years and have traveled widely throughout Japan and the rest of Asia. I have been leading tours of Kyoto and Japan for several years, and started my own tour company at the beginning of 2005. I speak and read Japanese fluently and I am an expert on all aspects of Japanese culture. When I’m not traveling, I enjoy seeking out new restaurants, bars and hot springs in and around Kyoto.
1. How long has the business been operating and how did it start?
I started the business in 2005. It was a natural outgrowth of my work as a writer for Lonely Planet Guidebooks. I have been based in Japan since 1992, so I know the country extremely well. Also, I spend a lot of time each year in Hong Kong and Thailand, so it was natural to expand my business to these countries.
2. What is your company's mission?
Simply put, my company's mission is to allow travelers to really get inside a country. We want to be like a savvy friend in each of the cities in which we operate - someone who takes you to the secret places only locals know (as well as, of course, a few of the famous sites). Our tours are strictly private: we don't think that going around by bus with a group of 30 strangers is a good way to get to know a country. We also offer travel consulting for people who want to plan really special trips, but don't want to be tied to a group tour. We offer personal and attentive service that few if any travel agents can provide.
3. What does your company specialize in?
Our company specializes in small private tours of Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara etc), Bangkok, Hong Kong and Macau. We also specialize in personalized trip planning and consulting. We can do anything from arranging geisha entertainment in Kyoto to finding the best street food in Bangkok.
4. Who is the founder or owner of the company and briefly describe his/her past activities?
The founder of Chris Rowthorn Tours is Chris Rowthorn. Chris was born in the UK and raised in the United States. He moved to Japan in 1992. Initially, he worked as a reporter for the Japan Times, then he became a writer for Lonely Planet guidebooks in 1995. He has written guides on Japan, Borneo, Malaysia, the Philippines, Victoria (Australia) and he even coordinated one edition of Lonely Planet's famous "Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" guide (the so-called "Yellow Bible"). Chris also wrote a book in Japanese with one of his Japanese guides about the philosophy and practice of guiding. It explains our philosophy of guiding, which can be summed up in two expressions: "heart of service" and "sense of wonder."
5. What is your most popular travel package and why?
Our most popular tours are our Classic Southern Higashiyama Walk in Kyoto. This walk takes in some of the city's most famous sites, but it also includes a lot of secret spots. Our main Hong Kong Walking Tour is also popular for the same reasons: it covers some of the city's famous spots, but it also includes some great backstreets.
6. What is the best compliment you received from a client?
"My wife and I just returned from our trip to Hong Kong and I wanted to provide feedback on the tours that were guided by Jim. We have experienced guides from tours throughout Europe and Japan and I am pleased to tell you that Jim is in a class by himself. His in-depth knowledge of the history, culture and points of interest are eclipsed only by his genuine enthusiasm for satisfying the interests of his clients. He is a consumate professional. Our entire party, which included both a chairman and a CEO of a global NYSE company, are in complete agreement with this assessment. I will follow-up with AMEX concierge service to ensure they are also aware of how pleased we are with the quality of your organization."
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