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Audley specialist Manon


Japan Specialist

After high school I decided to go travelling and went to Japan on a working-holiday visa. With the travel bug well and truly caught, I spent the next eight years after that living abroad and planning my life around which destination I'd settle in next.

I spent three (cold) years in Finland doing my bachelor’s degree in tourism. This gave me the opportunity to go back to Japan for another year as an exchange student. Upon graduating, I became a scuba-diving instructor and spent some years in the tropics, before deciding that I'd like to refocus my career on Japan.

Now back in the UK, I've joined Audley as a Japan specialist to be able to share all the breathtaking things I experienced — from diving in the turquoise waters of Okinawa, navigating the wilderness of Hokkaido, relaxing in soothing onsens, and face-planting in fluffy powder snow.

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Audley specialist Manon

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Q&A with Manon

Scuba diving around Yonaguni

What's your most vivid travel moment?

I was staying on the tropical island of Zamami in Okinawa. One night, I went down to the small port to chill out, stargaze and have a few drinks alfresco style. Every now and again I noticed that the water seemed to shine and sparkle. It turned out to be bioluminescent plankton. It was so strong that the water completely lit up when disturbed. There was no other light source except the stars and the bioluminescence itself — no light pollution whatsoever. Swimming through this bioluminescence, which created a myriad of shimmering, dancing lights around me as I moved, was awe-inspiring. It was a moment of complete wonder, so much so that I went back to the port every single night.

Anime art

Which book, film or artwork captures Japan the most?

The manga/anime series ‘Inuyasha’ offers interesting insights into Japan. The plot follows a spirited teenage girl who accidentally travels back in time to the feudal era and helps a young half-demon recover the shards of a jewel of great power. They have many adventures along the way and of course, there’s some romance thrown in there as well. Sounds corny, but the underlying themes and strong female characters (which is rare for anime) are what elevates this story. It's simultaneously historical and modern, has many Shinto, Buddhist and folklore references with an overarching nostalgic feel running throughout the series.

Maiko or apprentice geisha in the streets of Gion, Kyoto

Your best piece of travel advice?

My tip concerns, quite naturally for a Japan specialist, the Japanese language. Learning a few words prior to your trip goes a long way there. Even if it’s just please and thank you, the locals will be impressed. “Sumimasen”, which can mean excuse me, thank you or sorry depending on the situation, will be your best friend.