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Natalie Collar

As a team of well-travelled people who speak at least two languages and have all lived in Japan, it's difficult to stand out as an InsideJapan travel consultant.
But our jaws nearly hit the floor when we found out Natalie has 8 marathons (including one in Tokyo), two 50k races and one 100k under her belt. We're exhausted just thinking about it.

While it's difficult to imagine now, Natalie's language skills stretched little further than 'konnichiwa' on her first trip to Japan. We've all got to start somewhere! Despite minimal chances at holding conversations in the beginning, with the help of her host family in Sapporo she learnt quickly, and found a deep connection with the culture (as well as a taste for tonkatsu).

After a year in Sapporo and a summer in Kyoto, Achi Village in Nagano became Natalie's home for three years. As an English teacher at a small elementary school she developed relationships with local people and learnt about traditional Japanese culture, such as calligraphy, alongside her students.

Though originally from the flatlands and cornfields of Indiana, after this experience in the Japanese Alps and teaching Japanese at the University of Colorado Boulder, she's never more at home than in these mountainous landscapes.

When she's not wearing out her running shoes, Natalie busies herself knitting for family and friends, and winding down with the occasional board game. Well deserved if you ask us.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"I have lived in Sapporo, Kyoto, and Nagano for a total of four years, so I definitely know the ins and outs of these places. I traveled to Tokyo quite a bit, so I am very familiar with it as well. I spent my free time in Japan running and exploring the mountains, shrines, and temples. After all that exercise, I would refuel with my favorite Japanese sweets!"

How did you get involved in travel?

"I initially started travelling with my grandmother as a child. I enjoyed what I saw and did in various parts of the U.S., so I took the plunge in high school to travel to London with a friend. Our adventures together were exciting, and I knew I wanted to experience travel in more countries in college. When I was 20, I decided to travel to and live in Japan, speaking no Japanese and unable to use chopsticks. I planned for a semester abroad and stayed for a year. The rest is history. "

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"I was travelling in Barcelona with classmates and professors on a college trip, and we were at the Sagrada Familia taking pictures. I heard something, but I didn't trust it at first. What I heard was four women speaking Japanese. When I looked over towards them, I could see that they were taking turns as the photographer, so when I offered in Japanese to take their picture, they were overjoyed and very surprised! This was slightly before the world of selfies was born, and I will always remember this token opportunity to use Japanese in Spain!"

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Self-Guided Walking Tour on the Nakasendo Trail - 10 Days

Take a walk through time on this 10-day self-guided tour of the Nakasendo Trail, part of feudal Japan's original network of highways. Travelers on the mountain path between Kyoto and Tokyo took several days to travel the distance, staying overnight in Juku post towns. You'll retrace their footsteps as you travel through serene forests, stay in historically preserved local inns by night, and explore the vibrant cities of Kyoto and Tokyo.

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Hike Japan's Nakasendo Trail - 5 Days

Step back in time and immerse yourself in nature on this five-day hiking trip along the historic Nakasendo Trail. Feudal lords and samurai once walked this mountain path connecting Kyoto and Tokyo, stopping at some of the historic 69 post stations to rest for the night. You'll follow in their footsteps as you trek through picturesque valleys, stay in idyllic villages, and relax in the thermal waters of hot springs along the way.

Recent trip reviews for Natalie

Ninja trip · Japan - Mar 31 - Apr 12, 2019

Traveler: Linda O. - Local specialist: Natalie Collar

I liked working with KimKim because I always felt in control of our trip. I liked being able to add experiences which allowed us to make the trip personal. We could make decisions along the way and not have a tour guide telling us to get on the bus.
Our first tour guide in Tokyo (name?) was wonderful. She interacted with the children and they learned so much. She took the time with them and let them set the pace somewhat, making adjustments to places and time easily if needed.
The second... read more

I liked working with KimKim because I always felt in control of our trip. I liked being able to add experiences which allowed us to make the trip personal. We could make decisions along the way and not have a tour guide telling us to get on the bus.
Our first tour guide in Tokyo (name?) was wonderful. She interacted with the children and they learned so much. She took the time with them and let them set the pace somewhat, making adjustments to places and time easily if needed.
The second tour guide in Kyoto was very nice but seemed more intent on getting us through everything rather than creating an experience.
The experiences such as tea ceremony and ninja lessons, and cooking lessons were wonderful. One of the highlights of the trip.
Our only complaint was the time schedule in Hakone. We were unable to fully enjoy the area due to the bus schedule. We didn't realize how far away from the train station was the hotel. We figured we would drop off our overnight bags and then explore. But we were 25 minutes out of town. However, the inn was wonderful and the children had a great time playing in the room and attached hot spring bath.
The support team was wonderful in helping along the way with questions and suggestions.

I loved that my grandchildren were immersed in the culture and loving every minute. My grandson even asked if he could live in Japan ! We bowed at every torii gate, prayed at every shrine, admired the cherry blossoms, and became pros at public transportation.
Thanks for a wonderful trip.

Natalie Collar profile photo
Natalie Collar, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you for writing about your trip in great detail, Linda! I enjoyed reading through your travels and how everyone enjoyed them. Thank you for also sharing pictures from the trip, I can see the enjoyment in your grandkids' faces! It really sounds like you all were able to have rich, cultural experiences that will last for many years to come--how amazing that your grandson grew so fond of Japan that he wants to live there! I recommend it :)

Having a one-night stay in Hakone makes it tough... read more

Thank you for writing about your trip in great detail, Linda! I enjoyed reading through your travels and how everyone enjoyed them. Thank you for also sharing pictures from the trip, I can see the enjoyment in your grandkids' faces! It really sounds like you all were able to have rich, cultural experiences that will last for many years to come--how amazing that your grandson grew so fond of Japan that he wants to live there! I recommend it :)

Having a one-night stay in Hakone makes it tough to fit in sightseeing as well as relaxation at the ryokan accommodations. This is great feedback for future trips, and I am glad to hear you all enjoyed the hot springs.

Again, it was a fantastic experience working with you and your family, Linda! Please don't hesitate to contact us again if you take a second trip to Japan.