One late afternoon in early 2017, I was moseying among the stalls of Kyoto Station when someone behind me hesitantly said, “Sumimasen.”

“Hai?” I turned around. Two teenagers reading from what must’ve been a smartphone phrasebook slowly asked me in Japanese, “Where is the platform for the Osaka train?” Behind them was her family, and I could overhear them conversing in Tagalog. They were Filipinos just like me, but they’d mistaken me for a Japanese. I could continue replying in Japanese, and they’d never have known. Or … I couldn’t resist. So I deadpanned in Tagalog, “It’s over there, by that cafe.”

She screamed. Her family screamed. Then we all had a good laugh. To that family – if ever you read this, I wasn’t able to get your names because you had to hurry to catch your train, but my wifey and I owe you one. We have other stories like this of travelers who could have used a friend on the ground in Japan, some of them not so happy, so it got us thinking that just maybe we could help.

Hi! We’re Dariel and Cathy Quiogue, a couple of Japanophiles, foodies, culture junkies, writers and photographers, and we’d like to be your personal bridge to Japan. That’s why we’re Sunrise Bridge Travel. This isn’t our first venture into the travel business, though. When we moved to Davao City, we started an outfit called Tide and Tribe Travel and Tours, with which we conducted tours exploring the tropical wonders and indigenous culture of the region. For example, we created the first chocolate farm-to-table tour in Davao, and also the first food tour focused on the food of the indigenous tribes. It made us different. However, that was always just half the concept: the other half was to share our other great passion, Japan. Since it sounds a bit weird to be looking for tribes in Japan, we changed our name to Sunrise Bridge, because a bridge has two ends.

We’re absolutely nuts about Japan. We love the tranquility of the temples and gardens, the food, the fascinating culture and arts, the food, and the warmth of the people. Like Tide and Tribe before, Sunrise Bridge is all about niche, focused, small-party experiences that allow us to share the aspects we love most about the place, and always something out of the ordinary. We like to focus on just one region and reveal its hidden delights. That’s why our Japan tours concentrate primarily on Kyoto. This historical and cultural heart of the heart of Japan is just so rich in beautiful, hidden delights to share!

We’ve learned that the ideal way to savor Japan is like the way you eat with chopsticks: slowly, and in small bites. Why spend so much on a tour from one end of the country to the other, where most of your time and money goes to transport, and you barely have time for a few selfies at huge temple complexes like Kiyomizudera? Why not take the time to explore deeper, take the trains and walk, and see so much more for much less?

Long morning walks by a lovely riverbank, feeding the ducks along the way, lunch at a temple flea market on home-style goodies bought from their makers, golden afternoons in out-of-the-way temples to soak in the Zen, and chocolates at a hidden chocolatier’s – that’s our style. And Kyoto’s the city for it. And since we are photographers as well, it’s but natural that we also want to help other photographers to see and explore the wonders of Kyoto and nearby areas. We’re both experienced in handling photography classes and workshops, so if you’re a beginner you can count on our help.

Would you like to take a walk with us?

Dariel:  I’m a geek who’s nuts about Japanese culture and medieval Japanese history; a gamer who memorized the crests of all the Sengoku era warlords to play Nobunaga’s ambition; a virtual collector of antique Asian weapons with extensive Pinterest boards on the subject matter (the real things are expensive and won’t fit in our flat); a writer who has authored my own anthology of fantasy short stories; a home-grown and kitchen-bred chef who won my wife by cooking her the best tagine she’s ever tasted; and when I forget to shave, wifey says I look like Toshiro Mifune — I can growl like him, too! First and foremost though I’m a photographer and writer, and used to teach photography at the College of Saint Benilde in Manila. I used to write for Digital Photographer Philippines, and have contributed articles to Lonely Planet Philippines, The Reviewer, and Manila Bulletin’s Picture Perfect.

Cathy: I am a full-time wife, full-time business partner, and full-time photographer who loves to travel and see the world; who loves to bake (when prodded by hubby) and read fantasy, thrillers, horror, religion, and current events; who’s been a lifelong, passionate tennis fan; who studied Aikido; who’s also a big fan of Dariel’s cooking, baking, and rib-tickler one-liners (a big part of why I married him!). I’m a weak-kneed scaredy-cat when it comes to heights and depths but put a camera in my hand and up and down I go, jellied-kneed and heart-palpitating wildy, notwithstanding. Which means I love photography and travel. Not the way that I love other things like ice cream, for example, which I can do without; but love them in a can’t-do-without-them-I-have-to-do-them kind of way.

Together, we operate our photography company called DCQ Photography, of which Sunrise Bridge Travel is a child of sorts. How do we divide our time between them? Simple – we’re only in Japan for our seasonal tours.