Andres Zuleta, Founder
The Boutique Japan story really began when I (almost by chance) signed up for a Japanese literature class at Columbia University in New York. I ended up loving the course so much that it inspired me to begin studying the Japanese language, and ultimately move to Japan.
I founded Boutique Japan to share my passion and enthusiasm for the country, and over the years we have had the opportunity to help hundreds of wonderful travelers from around the world experience Japan in a truly personal and immersive way. Read more about Andres Zuleta.
Piper Christian, Operations Director
My love of travel started in college, when I studied abroad — twice! — first living for a year in Madrid, Spain, then continuing my education overseas in Brazil. Ever since, I’ve worked in the travel industry, crafting client journeys to some of the farthest corners of the globe.
My intimate knowledge of and personal passion for travel has led me on my own adventures in over 40 countries. From sleeping under the stars in the Sahara and wandering among the ancient ruins in Eastern Turkey, to trekking with gorillas in the Virunga and connecting with the masses in the Golden Temple of Amritsar, I’ve had some magical experiences around the world.
But I keep going back to Japan because it is one of my favorite destinations. As much as I love the bustle of Tokyo, I enjoy wandering through the quiet backstreets even more. Every time I visit, I look forward to indulging in the amazing and varied cuisine (did someone say okonomiyaki?). And whenever possible, I love venturing to the countryside for its unique and serene beauty. One of my favorite memories is an early-morning soak in an outdoor onsen during a light snowfall. There is nothing more rejuvenating than the soothing hot springs in winter weather.
When not on the road, I love going on new adventures with my husband, Matt, my son, Barrett, and our dog, Otis.
Roni Sivan, Lead Trip Designer
Travel has been a huge part of my life since I was a child. I grew up traveling frequently between Israel, my birthplace, and Texas where I was raised. I have been fortunate to be exposed to new countries often throughout my life, and to date I’ve visited 40+ countries across 5 continents.
After graduating from NYU, I navigated solo backpacking trips throughout South America and Southeast Asia. I’ve also pursued study, work, and volunteer experiences in Italy, Israel, South Africa, and Cambodia.
Japan never ceases to delight and surprise me no matter how many times I visit — from strolling the backstreets of Tokyo’s hip neighborhoods to staying in a remote farmhouse in Shikoku’s stunning Iya Valley, each time I visit I feel inspired to return.
I’ve been in the travel industry since 2008, and love nothing more than helping adventurous people bring unique trip ideas to life. When I’m not working or traveling, I love spending time with my pup, unwinding with yoga, and taking advantage of Austin’s dynamic culinary scene.
Vanessa Miller, Operations Specialist
I moved to Japan after studying the Japanese language in college. During my nearly five unforgettable years there, I had so many adventures — from seeking out countryside onsen and festivals, to exploring the fascinating city of Tokyo where I lived. I also trained in the art of ikebana (flower arranging), earning my Advanced Certification from the Ohara School.
I now call Austin, Texas, home and spend my free time with my son, daughter, and two sweet cats.
Even after years of living in and traveling around Japan (which I consider my second home), I still find it to be so rich with mystery. I discover something new and wonderful each time I visit, and I’m thrilled to be able to help others experience this amazing place.
Natalie Watenpaugh, Sales Assistant
My favorite part of travel is the personal transformation that comes with the journey. There is nothing quite like being in a new part of the world surrounded by new people, cultures, experiences, and food to spark a metamorphosis, whether big or small, in one’s life. Since studying abroad on Semester at Sea, travel has been my passion and led me to circumnavigate the world twice by age 25!
Japan is one of the places that continue to call me back, thanks to its beauty and depth. From the diverse and stimulating environment of the cities, to the still and quiet peace of the countryside, every place I’ve visited in Japan has given me delight and wonder.
My favorite thing when I am not traveling is to be outside skiing, hiking, or biking in my hometown of Telluride, Colorado, with my husband, our two children, and our husky dog.
Megan Fussell, Operations Specialist
My love for travel began after graduating college when I booked a one-way ticket to Paris. For nine months, I immersed myself in French culture, studied the language, and explored nearby countries such as Norway, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland.
A few years earlier, I’d been introduced to Japanese culture by my brother when he convinced me to watch an anime. I was drawn to the emotions depicted by the characters, and even more so when I began watching the Studio Ghibli films.
After France, I backpacked through Japan for five unforgettable months. As part of my trip, I had the opportunity to participate in a volunteer work exchange with a group of young adults in Awa, Tokushima. We attended local festivals, hitchhiked to onsen, hiked Mount Tsurugi, and biked for miles alongside endless rice fields.
While I find major cities like Tokyo, Sapporo, and Osaka to be very exciting, it’s the countryside and nature that draw me in the most. From skiing down the powdery slopes in Furano, and gazing at the picturesque Lake Chuzenji in Nikko, to hiking the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, these are some of the memories that stick with me the most.
Winnie King, Executive Assistant
I’ve always been inspired by travel to learn more, think more, and serve our world community better. I enjoy the anticipation of a trip. Looking ahead, planning experiences, researching, all makes the trip a greater adventure.
I currently reside in Southern California, though my husband and I are snowboarding enthusiasts. We look forward to planning international powder trips in the years to come!
When I’m not glued to my computer screens collaborating with an awesome team, you can find me following the sun around the house, usually with a YETI in hand and two pups, named Finn and Yoda, trailing after me.
Julie Begley, Accounting Specialist
My first international travels were to Cameroon and Kenya. While there, I stayed with local families and had the opportunity to live away from common tourist routes, getting instead a sense of real lives and communities. For the last 10+ years I have set down roots in Ireland with my 2 daughters, and I’m hoping our next journeys will involve an old VW bus and an open road!
Doris Melecio, Operations Assistant
I am a work-at-home mother and wife who loves travel, the beach, exploring new places – and food! I aspire to travel abroad as much as possible with my family, to experience different food, cultures, and lifestyles. In my spare time, I love reading, watching movies, and Japanese manga and anime.
Lola, Support Team
Lola is a playful Chihuahua-Dachshund rescue who is obsessed with cuddling, sunbathing, rolling around in grass, and playing with her pet monkey doll, Toyo.
Otis, Support Team
Otis is a loving, mischievous, energetic, somewhat-smart, cuddly, playful, protective rescue. No one really knows what breed or mix he is, but that just means there’s no one else quite like him.
Popsi, Support Team
Popsi is a quirky German Pointer rescue who excels at sleeping like a contortionist and fancies herself to be a wonderful, 70 lb. lapdog.
Cookie and Mole, Support Team
When sisters Cookie and Mole aren’t trying to walk across the keyboard to help compose emails to clients, they can be found climbing trees and chasing one another and basically living their best lives as the best kittens ever.
Chance, Support Team
Chance is a Jack Russell rescue who excels at lazing about all day, except when he’s tirelessly chasing his tennis ball or sneaking into bed.
Lincoln, Support Team
Lincoln is a wild orange tabby whose favorite activities are playing out in nature and circling up in a family member’s lap. Aside from the desire to proofread and edit emails, he makes for the sweetest little co-worker.
Lena, Support Team
Lena is the best husky around 😉 She is happiest when she runs through deep powder on a still winter day. Lena loves stealing snacks, a good belly rub, and occasionally taking herself on an adventure.