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Grant Ekelund

A Colorado native, Grant was sold on Japan after just two weeks spent visiting a friend. Within six months, he was teaching English in Nagoya – and would spend seven out of the next ten years living in Japan.

During his first stint in Japan, Grant split his time between Nagoya (the home of our Japan branch) and Kanazawa, citing the latter as his favorite place in Japan. With so much to see and do - from beaches to mountains, hot springs, a castle, geisha districts, samurai houses, great shopping, and one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan - Kanazawa deserves much more attention than it currently gets!

After returning to the USA for two-and-a-half years, Grant headed back to Japan for another stretch - this time to work as an English teacher in Gunma Prefecture. After five years in Gunma, in 2015 he decided to return to his home state of Colorado and joined the InsideJapan team as a travel consultant.

If you're interested in Japanese history there's nobody better placed to put together your itinerary! Having studied history at university, Grant has a keen interest in Japan's feudal past - particularly its impressive castles, of which he has visited five of the remaining 12.

When he's not buried in history books, Grant is also a keen hiker (particularly of Colorado's 14ers), has a penchant for geology, and enjoys home brewing and blogging about beer. His top tip for first-time visitors to Japan is to bite the bullet and visit an onsen (Japanese hot spring bath) or sento (public bathhouse). He explains that while your first visit can be very intimidating, the experience is so central to Japanese life and culture it is very much worth it. Sitting in an open-air bath while the snow falls from the sky is an experience like no other.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"I specialize in all of Japan, but my heart truly resides in the city of Kanazawa on the north coast. Kanazawa is well known for its amazing garden Kenrokuen, and the well preserved Geisha and Samurai districts. It also has a highly developed craft scene, the freshest fish this side of Tsukji Market and a world class modern art museum. The city has something for absolutely everyone. "

How did you get involved in travel?

"My mother loved to travel, and I visited France, Germany, the UK, and Ireland all before I graduated college. When the opportunity to live in Japan came up I jumped at the chance. I still travel as much as I can, and I love having the opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences with as many people as possible. "

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"High in the mountains north of Tokyo is the hot springs resort of Kusatsu. Several years ago I had the opportunity to be relaxing in a huge open-air bath during a heavy snowstorm. The falling flakes mixed with the rising steam, making each bather into an island unto themselves. My hair and beard froze, but it didn't matter as the water kept the rest of me quite warm! It's one of my favorite memories of Japan, a unique and magical experience. "

Featured trips & expertise

Brilliant momiji maple at Nanzenji, Kyoto in late November
Best Time To Visit Japan

Japan is famous for its Spring cherry blossoms and its changing colors in Autumn, but there are beautiful places to see in every season. Japan stretches from subtropical southern extremes to the northern reaches just across from Siberia, so with a little planning, you can find the right place to explore any time of year.