Meet the Adventure Hokkaido Team

Say hello to your guides and meet the founders

You may think of Japanese people as shy, but that is the last word that will come to mind when you meet our guides. The Adventure Hokkaido team are an enthusiastic bunch who are very passionate about the outdoors. Meet our guides in this video, check out our profiles below and get to know your personal guide for your Hokkaido outdoor adventure!

Ayaka / Ayaka Yoshikawa

Owner & Co-founder

Ayaka is the driving force behind Adventure Hokkaido, bringing together this team of expert local guides to offer unforgettable experiences in the Hokkaido outdoors. Raised in Sapporo, Ayaka has always been an adventurer at heart. After graduating from high school, she decided to step out of her comfort zone and study abroad in New Zealand at Lincoln University. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Recreation Management and Outdoor Leadership which led to her first job at an adventure tour operator in Christchurch. From 2012, she spent 2 years in El Salvador working as a development-aid volunteer promoting community-based tourism. Inspired by the empowerment of community through tourism, she decided to return home to Hokkaido and set up her own tour company to bring more opportunities to local communities and share Hokkaido's unique culture with visitors.

Adventure Hokkaido founder Ayaka smiles into the camera while she sits on a wooden bench located on an outside deck

Kazu / Kazuhiro Arai

Co-founder & Guide

Kazu is a hi-energy bilingual guide! He attended Kapiti College in New Zealand which sparked his interest for indigenous cultures and later led him to help build connections between Maori and Ainu communities. Like Ayaka, Kazu also attended Lincoln University to study Parks & Recreation. In 2001, he established Daisetsuzan Nature School, an educational centre for children and adults with a strong focus on sustainability and environmental awareness. Kazu is very involved in the community, he’s the president of the Hokkaido Adventure Travel Association, a board member of the Japan Ecotourism Centre, an executive committee member of the Asian Ecotourism Network and father of three beautiful daughters. He's passionate about building sustainable communities and has initiated projects such as equine therapy and the forest kindergarten program, which are currently implemented by Daisetsuzan Nature School.

Adventure Hokkaido Guide & Founder Kazu Arai hiking in Daisetsuzan

Yasu / Yasuhito Arata


Yasu is a year-round mountain guide who has been guiding hiking, trekking and winter backcountry trips in Hokkaido for more than 15 years. He lives in Furano where he was born and raised, he loves being just a stone’s throw away from the Tokachi and Daisetsuzan mountain ranges. He’s also a super dad to three children and a PTA board member, he plays an active role in local school events and also provides children and youth with innovative outdoor learning opportunities. In his early twenties, he spent time in India and Bangladesh as a Red Cross volunteer, which profoundly impacted the way he sees the world. His passion for trekking and travelling has taken him to places as far and as high as Denali and Aconcagua. One of our favourite things about Yasu is his outstanding singing and special talent for speaking with bears!

Adventure Hokkaido Guide Yasu in Daisetsuzan National Park

Tobaji / Koichi Toba


Tobaji is one of the most experienced guides in Hokkaido with over 20 years in outdoor education & mountain tourism. Born in Chiba, near Tokyo, he spent his childhood and youth exploring the countryside. As a university student he was a member of the Explorer’s Club, giving him opportunities to explore the outdoors and travel overseas, including a trip to Nepal, where he trekked Annapurna and rafted down the Karnali river. He was once your typical Japanese “salaryman”, but decided to change careers and work for an outdoor education provider and later became a certified mountain guide. When he’s not guiding, he can be found canoeing or helping rice farmers and beekeepers in Higashikawa during spring and autumn.

Adventure Hokkaido Guide Tobaji in Daisetsuzan National Park

Ayu / Ayumu Makanae


Ayu has been guiding cycling and hiking trips throughout Japan for the past 10 years. He is originally from Aomori, just across the water from Hokkaido on the mainland island of Honshu. Together with his family, he moved to Sapporo when he was 15 and has called it home since! An avid adventurer, throughout his twenties Ayu travelled extensively on foot in India and Nepal, and backpacked from Los Angeles to Argentina in 6 months! In 2019, he took part in guide training in New Zealand with the Adventure Hokkaido team, where he became enchanted with multi-day sea kayaking and overnight trekking trips. Throughout his travels, he’s picked up a variety of skills: from automotive mechanics, commercial fishing and farming to carpentry. Whenever we encounter a problem, he’s the first person we call on, he’s basically our Mr. fix-it-guy! Currently living in the small town of Aibetsu, Ayu is excited to share his outdoor knowledge and insights into Japanese rural living and culture with you.

Adventure Hokkaido Guide Ayu smiles while wearing a yellow flat cap

Dai / Daisuke Kondo


Known as Dai to those around him, Daisuke is passionate about two things in life: the great outdoors and photography. Growing up in Tokyo on a street famous for its eclectic mix of local and foreign temples kindled his curiosity for the world and the cultures that lay therein. At 18, he travelled to Australia to study outdoor adventure guiding and after some years moved to America where he studied to become an emergency medical technician. Since then, Dai’s travels have taken him all over Asia where he has taught wilderness first-aid and taken many stunning photos of each country he’s visited. Dai’s drive to capture the natural world with his camera has seen his work awarded by numerous magazines and publications. Recently, he has been working with Michael Yamashita of National Geographic, and is our photo tour specialist. Renowned for his photography of Japan, Dai sees Hokkaido as a treasure trove full of hidden gems to capture on camera.

A cycling guide smiles to the camera while standing amongst flooded rich fields. In the distance is the jagged volcanic peak of Mt. Showashinzan.

Yuka / Yuka Obitsu


Yuka was born and brought up in the countryside of Saitama Prefecture next to Tokyo. Since her early girlhood she's enjoyed being outdoors in nature, which led her to a college of medicine and sport. After graduating from the college, she worked as an athletic trainer for athletes and people in the entertainment industry for eight years. In her free time she liked going out for hiking and walking in nature. Her growing passion for mountain climbing eventually took Yuka all the way to the Down Under in 2018. For a year, Yuka worked as a nature guide on the foothills of Aoraki Mt Cook in New Zealand. She's recently found her new nest in Furano where she continues working as a nature & hiking guide. Yuka is looking forward to hosting the visitors to Hokkaido and helping them discover the natural beauty of Hokkaido and Japan.

Adventure Hokkaido guide Yuka smiles at the camera while standing in front of Mt Asahidake.

Gen / Gen Terayama


Gen is a local outdoor enthusiast who's lived in Utoro, Shiretoko over 15 years. He grew up in snowy Niigata Prefecture before moving to Hokkaido for university, where he spent his student life adventuring in Hokkaido’s outdoors. After dabbling in software, Gen worked for a travel agent, where he developed and lead tours, such as trekking in the Himalaya and horse trekking in Mongolia, before another career switch saw him join the Shiretoko Foundation in 2006. In his 13 years with the foundation, Gen managed conservation programmes for Shiretoko National Park. He subsequently moved on to the Shiretoko Shari Association, a DMO working to promote tourism to the region. When not at his desk, Gen can be found skiing or bushwhacking with his brave dog Chai.

Adventure Hokkaido guide Gen poses high on a mountain while skiing in Shiretoko. He is with his dog, a tea coloured Shiba Inu. In the background, drift ice floats on the surface of the Sea of Okhotsk.

Richard / Richard Smith


Growing up on the Isles of Scilly in the Atlantic ocean, Richard had freedom to explore the outdoors from a young age. Initially following a career on the ocean teaching sailing for eight years, he traded the sea for the mountains, ending up in Hokkaido after two years in the Canadian Rockies. Originally planning on spending one winter here, he got hooked by endless opportunities for learning and exploring. The next five years were spent chasing winter between Japan and New Zealand ski patrolling and ski guiding, whilst also picking up Japanese along the way and fitting backpacking and bike touring trips in between winter seasons. Richard is now back in Japan (with his Hokkaido born wife) year round, working and playing in the Daisetsuzan National Park. He is looking forward to helping visitors connect with Hokkaido and the people who call it home.

Adventure Hokkaido Guide Richard smiles to the camera while standing in front of a view of Mt Rishiri

Hattie / Harriet Hirasawa

Customer Service

Since childhood it had been Hattie’s dream to live surrounded by mountains, forests and lakes. She grew up in the UK, surrounded by farmland, always wondering what lay beyond the hills. When she first visited Hokkaido in 2017, she realised she had found a beautiful place where that dream could come true and she made the jump up north from busy Tokyo in 2019. She now lives in Biei, a picturesque town on the doorstep of Daisetsuzan National Park. Hattie’s passion (other than eating every single food in Hokkaido) is photography and, of course, she loves hiking and walking. She is now married to her husband, himself a Japanese photographer. These days, nothing can stop her from heading out to Hokkaido’s mountains, forests and coastlines to take photos for any content we might need. She is always ready to jump in and help out our guests from behind the scenes!

A female hiker wearing a cute white hat beams into the camera. In the background the first autumn colours in the Daisetsuzan are reflected in a still pond at Kogen Onsen.

Zac / Zachary Kurtz


Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Zac moved to Japan at the age of 18. Coming from the flat plains of the American Midwest, he was in awe of the mountainous countryside of Japan. Only a few days after settling into his new life in Japan, he decided to hike a nearby mountain in Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, a short hike that would lead to an obsession with mountains. Zac spent his college years hiking in every corner of Japan, from volcanoes off the coast of Kagoshima to the Alps in Nagano before making the move up to Hokkaido at the start of 2020. For 2 years Zac lived at the foot of the Tokachi Mountains in Furano, but now lives in Asahikawa with his wife. As a guide, Zac wants nothing more than to see people fall in love with the mountains of Japan in the same way he did.

Adventure Hokkaido guide Zac stands in front of birch trees. It's winter and the trees have no leaves.

Michael / Michael Arthur

Customer Service

Having grown up in the sweltering wetlands of Northern California, Michael certainly experienced a shock when he moved to snowy East Hokkaido in 2018. But on his first snowshoeing trip around the grand cliffs of Lake Mashu, he became entranced by the island’s terrific, indescribable beauty, and he’s been in love with it ever since. He now lives in the small town of Shimizu, located in Hokkaido’s Tokachi region, renowned for its agriculture and delicious cuisine. But for Michael, what makes this region so great is its central location. He can access most of Hokkaido’s mountains with ease! You will see him on mountain trails crouching down to admire the flowers, trying to take pictures of the elusive birds, or merely gazing out upon the scenery, soaking in its endless majesty. Michael wants nothing more than to share with guests that special quality which makes Hokkaido such a fascinating place.

A hiker flashes a peace sign while posing on the slopes of Mt Asahidake. The Daisetsuzan mountains can be seen in the background.

Yuto / Yuto Hirasawa

Photography Guide

Hailing from Chiba prefecture, a bikepacking adventure across picturesque New Zealand with a compact digital camera in hand sparked Yuto’s profound interest in photography. It wasn’t just the photography bug he caught on the trip but the travel bug too, and upon returning to Japan he successfully applied for a working holiday visa in New Zealand. After New Zealand came two years in Australia, but by this time Yuto knew that photography was his calling. To study the craft in greater depth, Yuto moved back to Japan and settled in Biei, Hokkaido on account of the town’s large population of resident photographers. Yuto decided to share his passion for Hokkaido and photography with visitors and began photography-guiding in 2018. Today, he is an award-winning photographer, with experience in many genres - from wildlife to weddings, landscapes to lonely minimalism, his camera knows no limits!

Yuto Hirasawa, an adventure Hokkaido guide, smiles at the camera. He is stood behind a camera mounted on a tripod. His hand rests on a large zoom lens.