Yuko Inamasu is the co-founder of TOKI, a Tokyo-based agency that creates unforgettable cultural experiences in Japan. After studying law and working for foreign companies, she left a conventional business career track to immerse herself in Japan's culture, art and craft. At TOKI, she combines her experience traveling and living abroad with a native Japanese perspective, balancing those different points of view to create unique experiences. She loves traveling, meeting people from diverse cultures and learning about unique traditions.
I was following the pre-defined career path of going from a law student to a consultant, and was about to apply for an MBA. After leaving my old company and becoming “unlabeled,” I felt a sudden sense of desired freedom. I could do anything with my life. Rather than focusing on what was efficient or not, I began to delve into what interested me: culture and service. Around the same time, I realized that Japan’s travel industry only caters to mass tourists. The real beauty of the culture and many of the treasures that come from interacting with the local people are left undiscovered. I felt I could become a bridge between the hidden cultures and the visitors. After meeting many different people, experiencing various arts and crafts, and guiding people to what we at TOKI find inspiring, I realize that there is still so much left to be discovered, which is why I will continue pursuing the opportunities that lie ahead.
Just follow your instincts so that you won’t regret the future. No matter how much you fail at any given point, you will always have another chance down the line. The only thing you can’t forget is the fact that you are aging, so if there is anything you can only do now or that you know you can enjoy more while you're young, just do it and don’t waste time thinking!
I do not have a mentor, but I occasionally seek advice from people around me such as family, friends, ex-colleagues, or even our guests. Everyone has different life experiences that I can learn from and use throughout certain life stages and struggles that I confront.
A bustling metropolis. Growing up in Tokyo and New York, I feel the most comfortable in the busiest and loudest city streets. I first realized this when I was studying in New Hampshire and felt surprisingly very anxious not being surrounded by the sound of cars or loud chatting in the cafes. I still remember the thrill and the feeling of my blood literally tingling with excitement when I saw the tall buildings and traffic jams when entering NYC after staying in the countryside for a just a few weeks. Once in awhile, I enjoy visiting robust cities such as Singapore and Istanbul to absorb the new energy and vibes.
All images used with permission of Yuko Inamasu.