A country rich in customs and tradition, Japan has a reputation as a place you can travel to multiple times without feeling that you’ve even scratched the surface of the unique experiences it has to offer.
We recently sat down with Plan Japan Director, Rachel Lang, to hear about how she’s built a successful travel consultancy that specialises in creating bespoke itineraries that allow corporate travellers to experience the real Japan.
What inspired you to create Plan Japan?
“Well-travelled friends asked for my help with organising a family trip to Japan. My knowledge and contacts allowed me to create an unforgettable itinerary for them – and I really enjoyed building a bespoke experience that catered to their interests. I realised that there was an opportunity to deliver a similar service to corporate groups looking for something different for their next conference, incentive or team building trip.
“As a fluent Japanese speaker and expert in Japanese culture and customs – I usually spend around 2 months each year living in Tokyo – there are very few non-Japanese who know the country as well as I do. Plan Japan allows me to share my passion for Japan with clients by taking them far beyond the standard English-speaking tourist trail and delivering authentic culinary, sightseeing and cultural experiences.”
How is Plan Japan different from other corporate travel companies?
“Most Australian companies offering corporate trips to Japan engage a destination management company to provide local knowledge and networks. This Japanese company then works alongside the Australian-based tour company to coordinate with local suppliers and organise itineraries which are usually focused on tourist-friendly experiences that are tailored to an English-speaking audience. Not only is this process time consuming as the tour operators go back and forth, but it’s expensive for the client as they’re essentially paying for the efforts of two companies.
“In my experience, seasoned travellers are looking for something unique and different – not an experience they can read about in the Lonely Planet or organise themselves – and that’s what we deliver.”
How do you organise such special experiences for your clients?
“As an Australian who speaks fluent Japanese, I can make requests that a Japanese travel company wouldn’t dare to. In Japan, it takes years to develop relationships and build trust – because I spend so much time there, I’ve been able to create a huge network of contacts who I can call on to help me create truly unique, out of the box experiences for my clients. My network of Japanese suppliers is generally willing to go above and beyond for me and make my requests a reality.”
What’s your favourite way to spend a weekend in Tokyo?
“I enjoy exploring the neighbourhoods for new and exciting places to try myself and share with my clients. Food is a large part of the culture – Tokyo has more than 160,000 restaurants (compared to Paris’s 40,000) and an infinite number of bars. The best ones are hidden and require an introduction; it’s my mission to not only know these venues but build strong relationships with the owners, chefs and staff so that my clients can experience the very best of Tokyo’s food scene.”
And if you’re spending time outside the major cities?
“I love skiing and my husband is a golfer. We either stay at one of the many exclusive member-only golf courses or at the snowfields. I also love spending time in the mountainous area of Hakone, not too far from Mount Fuji. There’s nothing more relaxing than staying in a traditional Japanese ryokan with a private onsen and enjoying an in-room massage followed by an elaborate multi-course meal with matching sake served in the room for dinner.”
Why do you think Japan is becoming such a popular destination?
“It’s an incredibly safe place without the terrorist threat of other parts of Asia and increasingly, Europe. Tokyo reminds me a bit of an indescribably clean New York, and the people are incredibly polite, kind and helpful. I recently left my iPad on the bullet train; when I realised hours later, I simply called the lost property number who answered immediately and took my details. Within half an hour they had located the iPad thousands of kilometres away and sent it to the ryokan I was arriving at the next morning. Sure enough, it was waiting for me at check in at the cost of just $11 for overnight freight!
“As a travel destination, Japan really does have something for everyone – skiing, golf, sumo, cherry blossoms and the beaches in summer. It’s becoming a popular location for international sporting events such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics; the Formula 1 Grand Prix and Japan Cup attract a worldwide audience each year. And it’s also a foodie’s paradise – Tokyo boasts the most top-rated eateries of all cities internationally with more than 14 three-star Michelin restaurants.”
Contact Rachel today to discuss how the Plan Japan team can work with you to create a first-class corporate travel itinerary that’s guaranteed to receive rave reviews from your employees and important customers.