Who we are?

Russ Hewick

Founder / Operations

Russ has been living in Japan since 2002.  After working as an architectural technician in Aberdeen, Scotland, he set out on a global quest for adventure in 1994. Starting in North America, he found himself travelling all over South America and Asia. In time, Hong Kong found use of his skills in the construction business, and Asia slowly tightened its grip.

Soon after moving to Japan his parents came to visit him. Russ did the research, drew up an itinerary, booked the hotels and arranged the transport. Except for accidentally ordering a bowl of raw beef for his dad on one occasion, it ran more smoothly than he had ever expected. Bar a few modifications with hotels and timings, the Heartland Tour is pretty much that tour. It had been his parents’ first visit to Japan, and showing them as many of the classical must-see sights, while having fun experiencing Japan, was paramount.

Within a few months he guided friends of the family on a similar tour. The following year news had spread and friends of friends of the family came over. Modifying the itinerary to suit his visitors, Russ guided them around the country. On one of those tours, while leading a trek up a local mountain, he was tailing a dragonfly with a camera and the idea for Dragonfly Tours Japan was born!

Ai Hewick

Bookings / Hotels / Research

Ai spent 3 years in New Zealand learning Kiwi before returning to her native city of Osaka and a career in the hotel industry. Her inside knowledge of the somewhat peculiar workings of the trade has been golden within the Dragonfly team. She is an invaluable help with research and translation, loves travelling and often helps out with tours.

Ai's an avid taiko drummer in the summer between visits to the beach and she is a rather graceful snowboarder in the winter too.

Ai and Russ got married in 2008 and are now living in Shiga, to the north-east of historic Kyoto at the foot of the mountains next to Lake Biwa, Japan's biggest lake.

Mayumi Sorimachi

Guide / Translator

Mayumi has been guiding tours in Japan since 2006. She lived in the US and UK for six years working in the travel industry, before returning home to take up the chance to show people around her own country. Mayumi is a government certified guide and when not on tour she enjoys singing with her local gospel choir, history, food and sake. "I love travelling and meeting new people," Mayumi says, "One of the reasons I like working for Dragonfly is because of the relaxed style and down to earth way to see the Japan."

Etsuko Sakai

Guide / Translator

Etsuko specializes in tours around Kyoto and Nara and as a lifelong resident of the area knows all the ins and outs of the main streets and back streets of Japan's ancient capitals. She runs marathons and is often out on a run before a day on tour, although nothing seems to diminish her enthusiasm for guiding people around the towns she loves. "I feel like being a guide is my vocation," Etsuko says. "I'm always thinking about the best ways to show people Japan."

Kaori Sakai

Guide / Translator

Kaori found her passion for introducing people to Japanese life while she was studying in the US and the experience inspired her to become a guide in 2007.

As well as being an excellent tour leader, she is also a keen performer and has many of the skills used by geisha and maiko; she can perform a traditional tea ceremony; plays the stringed instrument the sanshin; and performs rakugo, the art of telling amusing conversational stories. Or sit-down comedy as she calls it.

This might explain her expressive, animated way of talking and her infectious laugh that soon spreads across the groups she guides.

Midori Fujimura

Guide / Translator

As well as being a guide to foreign visitors to Japan, Midori also leads tours of Japanese people around the country, meaning she has to be greatly knowledgeable about the traditions and culture of the areas she visits lest she be caught out by an informed local.

A capable ski instructor and one-time resident of the US, Midori’s life and work have seen her criss-cross the Kansai region and she has a great love for the area's people and attractions, particularly its onsen (hot springs).

"Kyoto,Nara, Osaka, and Kobe are my favourite places," Midori says. "In every season there's something special to see - that's why I love my job as a guide for Dragonfly tours."

Haruhi Makino

Guide / Translator

Born and bred in Tokyo, Haruhi worked for a trading company and then in the automotive industry before getting her guide’s license in 2006. Her grandparents are long-time residents of the area now dominated by the Tokyo Skytree and she enjoys the new downtown atmosphere that has sprung up around Japan's tallest building and discussing the changes to the region that she has seen.

"I hope that people coming to Japan will love it more for having come with Dragonfly," Haruhi says. "I want them to feel ‘omotenashi’. A sense of ambience, tranquillity and relaxation at which you experience unforgettable moments."

Nobu Hashimoto

Guide / Translator

Nobu’s too polite to say much about himself but he asked some of his colleagues for a personal description and, he says, they described him as “funny, outgoing and reliable with outstanding English.” 

He previously lived in the US working for a major company before becoming a licensed tour operator in 2008 and believes his international experience helps him adapt his tours to the needs of the people he is guiding. 
A registered interpreter, Nobu established a local guide association, as a place for fellow guides to exchange ideas and information about their work. This collegiate spirit extends to the tours he runs which get every member involved and having fun. 

Mary Miyamoto

Guide / Ronin

At the age of 40 Mary sold her house in Bristol and travelled to Japan in search of her childhood hero Lin Chung, the long-haired, sword-wielding, horseback-riding hero from the Japanese television series ‘The Water Margin’ (Sister series to ‘Monkey’). 

She finally tracked him down to Tokyo’s Diet building where, now doubly her hero, he had become a member of parliament, having started the first Green Party in Japan. Persistence led her to meet him and, four years later, marry a man who looks uncannily like him.

Mary has lived in Osaka since 2004 and in her spare time, when she is not correcting the nation’s grammar, she studies the Miyamoto Musashi style of Iaido and has become a specialist on ninja in the Kansai area. 
If you want a guide who will lead you away from the well-trod tourist routes to a lesser known Japan, then Mary will do it.

Yukiko Kosaka

Guide / Translator

Yukiko’s hometown is Yokohama, which is, appropriately for a tour guide, a historic gateway to Japan. Her origins may have contributed to her curiosity about the world and her wanderlust.

She says that when she was travelling around the world, she was helped by people in every city she visited and goes on, ‘I think it’s my time to show around visitors to Japan and make their visit a happy and rewarding one.’ She is also deeply knowledgeable and passionate about her own country, its arts and history — much to the delight and advantage of Dragonfly’s visitors.

As a seasoned guide, she knows how to adapt to the needs of the participants in her tours, is always cheerful and helpful, and ready to share that passion for her home country with anyone who is interested to find out more. And she not only imparts the ‘touristy’ history of Japan, but tries to give a rounded picture of the country. ‘I always pay attention to tell visitors not only good points and beautiful aspect but also the complete history of this country so that people can understand the true Japan,’ she says.

Giving her hobbies and interests as jogging, slow food, and environmentalism, she is not only a person of the world, but of the earth too.

Akira Ishida

Guide / Translator

Akira hails from Kobe, Japan’s most international city.

Historically, it was one of the first cities (along with close neighbour Osaka) to open to foreign trade at the end of Japan’s period of seclusion in the 19th century. The port city quickly became home and business base for traders from around the world, and the city very much retains that cosmopolitan flavour today. Many famous foreign companies still keep their headquarters there. Today the city is known for its vibrant nightlife, arts, fine eating (Kobe beef, anyone?), and all-round good vibe.

It is not surprising that from his upbringing in this milieu Akira has had his own cosmopolitan life, working for 30 years with Scandinavian Airlines and in the travel industry, getting out into the world that opened up for Japan so late its history.

He is applying this vast experience to your holiday with Dragonfly. In Akira’s words, he will ‘make sure the visitor’s trip is a pleasant and fantastic one, and be so arranged that it will be filled with memories to last a lifetime.’

 

Zen and Dan

The Destroyers

Collectively known as Zan, they are the youngest members of the team and have the incredible super power of not only being able to break the strongest elements known to mankind but they can make things disappear too.