Today we are really excited and happy to interview a very special guest for our “Expat in Japan” series: the co-founder of Arigato Japan, Anne-san! Anne, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Elizabeth Anne Kyle, originally from the Philippines. I live in the Minato area and I’m the CEO/Founder of Arigato Japan.
How long have you been living in Japan? When did you arrive? What was your first goal when you come to live in Japan?
I have been living in Japan for almost 22 years. I first came to Japan when I was traveling with my family at 12 years old. From then on, my love story with Japan started and I promised to return as soon as I graduated from university.
Wow, 22 years! Can you please tell us about the first time you came to Japan? What surprised you the most? Was it like you expected?
Coming to Japan at 12 years old was an unforgettable experience for me. Even at a very young age, I was impressed with the cleanliness, discipline, and great hospitality everywhere. It was my first time riding a train, and I was very excited about it and took so many photos with our Kodak camera.
As a young kid, the convenience stores were like an amusement park for me! The ice cream, rice balls, and all sorts of snacks were just extremely fun to try and I couldn’t get enough of everything in just one day.
Also, the vending machines are incredible! I can’t remember how long I stared at the first vending machine I saw. It was the perfect Kodak moment–something I had never seen before. I remember asking my mom for coins (the drinks were around 50 yen back then) and coming back with drinks I picked at random without knowing what they even were. I was just having so much fun!
What do you like the most about living in Japan?
Safety, high level of service, and efficiency–it’s wonderful to live in a country with all three of these, and Japan has them in spades. Pretty much everything in Japan runs with a heavy emphasis on efficiency.
What about the food? Of course, it’s obvious that you love it since you own a food tour company, but what are your favorite Japanese dishes?
My first up-close-and-personal encounter with Japanese food at 12 years old was a huge bowl of Ramen. I always say that “Ramen had me at hello.” I could never forget how delicious it was and it helped ignite my love and passion for Japanese food even at such a young age. I truly think Japanese cuisine is THE BEST food in the world!
When did you have the idea to organize food tours in Japan? Do you personally join food tours in other countries?
It was almost 3 years ago after coming back from a trip to Europe. At this point, I had traveled to Europe and joined different food tours on numerous occasions. The experiences I’ve had and the fellow travelers that I have met were the ones that inspired me to open my own food tour company. On a night food tour en route to Monaco, I helped plan the trip of a Canadian couple who were traveling to Japan. I suggested many itineraries and was very excited talking about Japan. I remember them saying, “Thank you for helping us, it seems you are really passionate about Japan. Why don’t you open your own tour company there?”
The rest is history.
Such a great story! Why do you think people should definitely join a food tour?
There is no better way to discover and immerse in a country’s culture than through its food. Food is a universal language that connects people from all over the world, so joining a food tour will help you discover hidden gems you wouldn’t find on your own, expose you to many unique flavors, and will allow you to connect with locals in a way you can never imagine.
Definitely! If you had one place you would recommend to people coming to Japan for vacation, what would it be and why? Also, what is the best season to come and why?
I love Kyoto–to me, it is a magical place that I will always cherish coming back to. It has the oldest history in Japan, so it’s like taking a step back in time. The food in Kyoto is of the highest quality and you should really indulge in a nice Kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal). The best time to go is during autumn, because Kyoto has some of the country’s most beautiful foliage.
Do you have any funny anecdotes to share with us? Any lost-in-translation or culture shock moments?
I was really shocked to see how expensive fruits are in Japan–they’re a true testament to how exquisite and expensive any product can be!
Personal message: feel free to add anything you want to share with our readers and followers!
Having lived in Japan for more than half of my life, I am truly grateful for all the opportunities and wonderful things this country has given me. The name Arigato Japan sums up more than 2 decades of great experiences I am incredibly fortunate to have. Even though I have been here for a while, Japan still excites me with so many unique and wonderful things. I am extremely privileged to have a channel that allows me to share my love for this country through our food tours. My continuous goal is to help make delicious memories with those who come and join our food tours.
Thanks very much Anne-san for your time and for sharing your experiences, it has been a pleasure to have you as our first guest of 2019!
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