The team here at Arigato Travel has recently had the privilege of talking with Josip and Mate, the two entrepreneurs behind Japanko, and we just couldn’t wait to share both them and their website here on our blog.
Hi Josip and Mate! Could you please introduce yourself and the story behind Japanko for us!
Hello, I’m Josip and I’m from Croatia. While I was still in university, I met Mate. Both of us shared an interest in digital marketing and Japan. One day, while we were studying, we got the idea that we could start a company together. Our main goal was to make enough money so we could visit Japan. We founded a company called Paradox Bay in 2016. Our primary service at that time was web design. We knew many people who needed a website, so we immediately started working on various projects. We were busy all the time. The first half of the day was dedicated to university and studying, while all of our free time was invested in work and personal development.
We were thrilled at the start of 2017 because we made enough money to go to Japan. We visited for the first time during the fall and it was a dream come true for both of us. As soon as we returned to Croatia, we wanted to go back. There were so many places we wanted to see but didn’t have enough time and I knew we wouldn’t be able to return anytime soon, so I included Japan in our everyday work. We were doing web design, but we expanded our services to SEO and social media. I got an idea that we could start an Instagram page where we could share all the best places in Japan. It would help us prepare for our next trip, and be helpful for people who are passionate about Japan, thus Japanko was born. It took us three months to reach 10k followers, we now have over 400k and are still sharing the best of Japan with the rest of the world.
When did you both first start to become interested in Japan?
Josip: I have been interested in Japan since my childhood. It all started with the Captain Tsubasa anime. I enjoyed it, and I wanted to learn more about Japan. Japan always looked different from Croatia and somehow special. When I visited it for the first time, everything was even better than I had imagined.
Mate: My first contact with Japan was when I had just started going to school. At that time, I was obsessed with video games and anime. I still remember coming home after school and watching all the anime that was running on TV at that time. That habit introduced me to some concepts from Japanese culture, and when I found out that my Playstation and TV were made in that amazing country, I was even more intrigued. Then as I grew and learned more about the world, history, and other cultures, Japan looked even more unique and exciting. I knew then I was bound to visit it once.
What do you love most about Japan and its culture?
Josip: I love Japanese cuisine and ryokans. When it comes to cuisine, it’s healthier than western cuisine. Every food I tried was incredibly delicious. When it comes to ryokans, I never had an experience more relaxing than staying in a ryokan. The traditional feel of Japan was just fantastic, the food was delicious, and what’s most important – the baths (especially the outdoor one) were one of the best and most relaxing experiences that I have ever had. Nothing is better than enjoying a hot bath, watching the stars, and enjoying the perfect sound of water and cicadas.
Mate: I love the fusion of modern high-tech society and Japan’s traditional culture. Somehow it feels otherworldly compared to most other places I’ve been to. One day you could be exploring the biggest city in the world, meeting interesting and friendly people and have so much fun, while the next day you can be relaxing in a remote village enjoying traditional dinners and my favourite thing, hot springs!
Out of all the places in the world, what do you feel makes Japan so unique?
Josip: I’d say that the Japanese mentality is unique. Everything runs so smoothly, and the people are polite and kind. For example, when I’m entering a train in Croatia, everyone pushes other people around while trying to enter first. It’s not the case in Japan, where everyone waits in line patiently.
Mate: In addition to what I previously mentioned, Japan is unique because everything is convenient and organized. I value those things in life, and no society embodies that more than Japan. Take Tokyo for example; despite being the biggest city in the world, it is perfectly organized, convenient, and also an extremely safe place. In contrast, most other such metropolises are the complete opposite.
What do you enjoy most about sharing Japan with your viewers?
Josip: I check our DMs on Instagram daily and respond to every message. I’m always happy when I get messages from people telling me that my travel advice helped them plan their visit to Japan. What’s even better is when I motivate people to visit Japan. That was one of my goals when I started Japanko Official, so it’s incredibly satisfying to see that people find the content I share interesting and valuable.
Mate: I love showing them new places and hidden gems they never heard of. Sharing knowledge with others has always been my passion. The feeling when you help someone learn about something new, especially something you are passionate about, is amazing!
For those who are completely new to Japan, what location would you suggest for them to visit and why?
Josip: People who don’t know much about Japan should visit Tokyo. It’s a city that never sleeps. Tokyo has everything, whether you are into Japanese culture, history, food, nature, or nightlife. I could spend a few years in Tokyo and still not experience all it offers.
Mate: Since Josip mentioned Tokyo, I will add to that and suggest a short trip to Hakone. It is a place where you can experience the other side of Japan. Historical monuments, ancient shrines, traditional ryokans and onsens, and of course, stunning nature. Plus, you get to see Mount Fuji close-up!
What is your favourite Japanese food that you would absolutely have to share?
Josip: It’s a bit basic, but I’m crazy for salmon sushi. I could eat it every day, and I still wouldn’t get enough of it. Luckily, there are a few sushi restaurants here in Croatia, so I can satisfy my cravings. However, I must say the quality of fish here in Croatia is not even close to the one in Japan. Japanese sushi is just so much better.
Mate: Even though I also love sushi, ramen is my favourite dish. I am a huge fanatic. I’ll have to try at least 20 different types of ramen on my next trip!
As someone with similar ideals with our team, what do you feel is the most important factor of being able to share Japan with the world in this way?
Josip: As in every business, I think that the first thing you need to do is to evaluate the problem people have. After that, you need to come up with a solution for it. In our case, we noticed that many people who want to visit Japan are overwhelmed with online information. They don’t know where to start. There is also a fear of missing out, which is stressful. We want to help people plan their trips efficiently and cost-friendly while ensuring they will visit the best places Japan offers.
I had many discussions with people planning their trip, and you wouldn’t believe it, but almost none of them were familiar with ryokans. When I mentioned it, they were like, “What is that?”. I’m a huge fan of ryokans, and I think it would be a shame to visit Japan and not to stay in a ryokan for at least one night (fun fact: when I visited Japan for the first time, I didn’t stay in a ryokan – what an enormous mistake it was!).
Mate: I agree with what Josip said. That is definitely important. But I would add that passion is another crucial element. My wish is that no matter what I do in life, I must be passionate about that thing. And sharing Japan and its wonders with the world is one such thing. That makes it so much easier and fun for me, while in the eyes of viewers and followers, it makes it much more genuine.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today, we truly appreciate you giving us the chance to share your story with our readers!
- Website: https://japanko-official.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/japanko_official/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/japankoofficial
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/JapankoOfficial
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFLJJjQCGBxu07TLDP9oR-Q
Read their guest blog post about 5 great places to visit in Japan during Summer!