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!"
Featured trips & expertise
Japan is made up of hundreds of islands that extend for nearly 2,000 miles. How many days should you spend exploring, and where should you focus your time? From an action-packed four days in Japan to a leisurely three week itinerary, here are some suggestions for making the most of your time in the Land of the Rising Sun.
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.
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
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