Our team at Inside Japan Tours
The sun never sets on the InsideJapan Tours team (well, maybe on Sundays) as we have offices in Bristol (UK), Boulder, (USA), Brisbane (Australia) and Nagoya (Japan). On this page you can meet the people behind our Japan tours and holidays.
We have a wide range of backgrounds and interests, but you can be sure that the one thing that ties us all together is a love of Japan, Japanese culture and a passionate desire to share that with other people.
From the accounts department, through the travel consultant teams to the tour leaders and guides on the ground, you can rest assured that everything we do is to make sure you have the best possible experience of Japan.
This former Political and Economic Affairs specialist, fixed-gear bike builder, former rugby player, and classically trained cellist certainly has many strings to her bow.
Unlike most first-time visitors to Japan, Shakira didn't start her Japanese journey by exploring Tokyo or Kyoto. Instead, she immersed herself in the Tohoku area by volunteering to help with ongoing disaster relief after the devastating tsunami in 2011.
Born and bred on the side of a mountain southwest of Denver, Colorado, she felt most at home in the rural hills - particularly during Japan's famous koyo (autumn leaves) season. But her favourite place in all of Japan is the city of Ishinomaki which she "fell in love" with. After spending nine months there, she was struck by the kindness and can-do attitude of the community; even after suffering incredible hardship.
But for everything she loved about the area, Mexican food, and macaroni and cheese (staples at home) weren't to be found anywhere. Although these classic cuisines could never be replaced, she did find an alternative that was surprisingly delicious...
Imoni; a traditional soup containing mountain vegetables, tofu, pork and a jelly-like substance known as devil's tongue (yum). It's such a popular dish in Ishinomaki that people get together for imoni-kai - a party where you tuck in to imoni to celebrate the warmth of hot soup and old friendship.
You don't get that with macaroni and cheese.
Since being back in the US, Shakira hasn't lost her love for Japan. As well as joining us at InsideJapan Tours, she completed a degree in Japanese and music, and volunteers in the Japanese-American community in Colorado.
In her spare time she loves trying out new restaurants, watching cult films (her favourite of which is Harold and Maude), and playing fetch with Meep, her cuddly cat.