Shoji Iizuka
Shoji was born in Chiba, close to Tokyo. He spent over 10 years working in the vicinity of Tokyo, designing product catalogues for a publishing company. Slowly his desire to get out of city life grew stronger, until a few years ago he decided he wanted to move to the countryside. He discovered the little paradise of Higashi-Sonogi and decided to settle down here with his family.

Shoji works for the local tourism association, promoting the beauty and treasures of this town. He is the coordinator of the Green Tea homestay programme, and has plunged deeper into the world of Japanese tea by obtaining the Nihoncha advisor certificate.

Yasuharu Matsumoto, ‘Matsu’
Matsu, a pioneer of tea tourism in Japan and a creative visionary, has worked more than 16 years with tea. He has worked tirelessly to promote Japanese tea to the overseas market, travelling the world to give workshops on Japanese teas. Matsu is a certified Nihoncha instructor and is also a co-founder of the Global Japanese Tea Association.

His vision is to open at least 7 tea tour experience locations spread all over the tea-producing regions of Japan, each highlighting regional specialties.

Marjolein Raijmakers
Marjolein found herself fully in love with tea before she realised it had begun. After following tea sommelier courses in both the Netherlands (where she is from) and the UK, she dedicated 7 months to travelling and working for tea in Japan & South Korea in 2018. During these travels she visited Higashi-Sonogi and was enchanted by the surroundings and the hospitality she found there. After chasing her thirst for tea through tea fields in China, Scottland and Sri Lanka in 2019, she is excited to return to Higashi-Sonogi and dig her tea roots deeper in the soils here.