We are so excited that you're visiting us at Japan Family Travel.
Our passion is helping families research, plan, and experience a fun, memorable, and authentic trip to Japan.
If you are looking for inspiration and practical tips for vacation, backpacking, or extended stays in Japan, then you’re in the right place.
We are the only family-oriented travel website focused exclusively on Japan and written by [super lucky] foreigners that lived in Japan for years, speak Japanese, and have traveled with our three [loud and happy] kiddos in this great country!
Our love of travel, foreign languages, and culture started decades ago. Maria was born in Africa, speaks five languages, lived in Spain, and has traveled to 31 countries. Chris studied in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Panama, speaks three languages, and has traveled to 23 countries.
And then we arrived in Tokyo!
Who could have imagined that a small town Kentucky boy and a US immigrant from the Cape Verde Islands in Africa would meet in Japan’s biggest city?
But to our surprise, that’s where our family began — at a four-star hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Maria and Chris
Cooling off at Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, Senso-ji
(with our teenager giving a thumbs up in the background to mess with us)
Maria had made the tough choice to turn down a Peace Corps opportunity in Africa, while I unexpectedly postponed my full tuition to graduate school.
That put us both in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching, or JET, Program. On the surface an English teaching program run by the Japanese government’s Ministry of Education, our role was really that of cultural ambassador.
As an example, Chris taught 5,000 kids over a three-year period in a town with a population of just 40,000. Those students could not possibly learn English with such little class time with a foreigner. Instead, they [hopefully] learned about American culture, that foreigners can be nice and fun, and that the world is a big place worth exploring.
During our three years in Japan, we had such a varied and authentic Japanese experience. As examples, we...
Chris & the Kids:
A stroll in in Kyoto's famous Arashiyama bamboo forest
(they are smiling, but they did NOT want to stop for another picture)
Since living in Japan, we have become university professors, with flexible enough schedules to allow us to return to Japan four times, traveling to Japan’s big cities as well as the small town that I call my second hometown, or furusato.
Even while living in the U.S., I spoke to our first son in Japanese for the first four years of his life. In addition, we brought him to Saturday school for Japanese children, ate often at our favorite Japanese restaurant in town, and hung out with our Japanese friends.
Because of all this Japanese exposure, at the age of four, he told us that he thought he was actually part Japanese! As the son of an African immigrant and rural Kentuckian, this made us laugh out loud!
Chris and our super hungry teenager:
Racking up plates of deliciousness at Sushi Katsu Midori (Tokyo's Shibuya district). The 45-minute wait for this "kaiten" or "conveyor belt" sushi was well worth it.
The country is a magnet, and we are excited for our next trip back!
To help you plan your next trip, below is a list of some ways we can help you. Some of these are already created. We're still working on some others, so check back on this website in a few weeks. Or sign up above to get updates.
Finally, we believe that travel and business should be forces of good in the world. As such, we allocate 25% of profits from Japan Family Travel* to organizations that help families in Asia, African, and Latin America rise out of poverty through microfinance to grow their own small businesses.
Chris and Maria
Top photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash. Other photos from our adventures in Japan.