After graduating with degrees in business and Japanese from university in New Zealand, Mike has been involved in adventure tourism in Japan since the early 90’s. As one of the pioneers of the industry he created Japan’s first canyoning company, Canyons, and is also credited with introducing international safety standards and best practices.
His 25 years in the Japan tourism industry at multiple levels have lead to a deep understanding of tourism marketing and management. He currently works at the national level for the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Tourism, Cool Japan Awards and Japan National Parks League, advising in areas of tourism strategy, operations and marketing.
Mike also works at the local level as a board member of the Minakami Tourism Association (DMO), chairman of the Minakami Outdoor Association, and also consults in many rural areas for adventure tourism, inbound tourism and destination development.
When he has free time you can find him exploring new canyons around the world, backcountry skiing or enjoying a few craft beers while watching the rugby.
Charles first came to Japan from New Zealand in 1994. Initially planning to stay for a year he became involved in the set up of Japan’s first bridge bungy jump operation in Yamagata Prefecture and was excited by the opportunities and potential of what was then the early stages of Japan’s outdoor tourism industry.
Charles spent a number of years thereafter working in the bungy jump industry in both Japan and New Zealand, learning best practice and safety standards and gaining his Jump Masters certificate from New Zealand Safety Standards Association. He moved to Minakami Gunma in 2004 and, working closely with the local tourism board, established the Minakami Bungy site and the Bungy Japan brand. Bungy Japan currently has 7 operations throughout Japan including the 100m jump from Ryujin Bridge in Ibaraki.
Charles currently works as a consultant for local and prefectural DMOs in Japan helping with Inbound specific marketing, promotional and operational strategies using best practices and standards from around the World to help create sustainable tourism and provide visitors the best possible experience.
Director | Editor-in-Chief
Prior to the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, Gardner was writing for various newspapers and magazines about travel in Japan. He quickly realized there was a lack of coverage of off-the-beaten path travel and adventure travel in Japan. He founded Outdoor Japan in 2000 to fill the gap and connect travelers with local travel and outdoor companies in beautiful rural areas of the country – the real Japan.
In 2005 he launched Outdoor Japan Magazine, the first bilingual publication on travel and outdoors in Japan. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami the magazine was renamed Traveler, continuing its focus on travel and adventure while promoting inbound tourism in Japan as the country recovered from the disaster. Gardner has managed and consulted on various projects with the Japan Tourism Agency and the JNTO, as well as documentaries with NHK World and worked with various outdoor and lifestyle brands in Japan.
Gardner was born and raised in Oregon and studied journalism and English at the University of Oregon, his alma mater. While there he pulled off a flyer from a light post advertising a term abroad in New Zealand and Australia studying “Leisure Studies and Eco Tourism” while rafting, kayaking, canyoning, bungy jumping, rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking. Realizing this was too good to be true, he went back a second time as a guide for the program and has been living and traveling abroad ever since.
In 2011, Gardner combined three of his passions (snowboarding, hot springs and craft beer) and opened The Craft Room, a ski-in ski-out taproom in a quaint hot spring village called Nozawa Onsen. He continues to live in Nozawa Onsen with his wife and two sons while also running Yoji Nozawa, a property with a rental house and self-contained private apartments for travelers. He and a friend recently opened Winterland Lodge & Taproom, a boutique hotel and gyoza bar in the village. Gardner has lived in Japan for more than two decades.
Born in Malaysia, raised in Japan and graduated from the University of Hawaii, Rie is the creative force behind the multi-media production at Outdoor Japan both behind the camera and in front of the lens in many of the videos produced for our readers, sponsors and destinations.
Rie works closely with tourism organizations in Japan and overseas developing strategies to create exciting content to promote their destinations to our readers in Japan and round the globe. She also regularly works with outdoor and lifestyle brands and NPOs to provide video, photo and editorial content while supporting travel and tourism in Japan.
Rie regularly represents Outdoor Japan at conferences, panel discussions and on television, presenting in English and Japanese.