People | PERSONALITY PROFILE

John Delp

“Being different” is a key to his success, John Delp believes. When he founded his travel business, he made a significant policy decision “to concentrate on serving the foreign community.” A third factor lay in his applying the company motto, “the executive touch,” to the comfort and well-being of his staff as well as his clients. For nearly 27 years, he has attended to every detail needed by his own company to provide “exotic travel destinations” in Asia and the Pacific. Mutsuko Miki, widow of the late Prime Minister Takeo Miki, believes that John’s business has thrived “due to his patience and independent spirit.”

John Delp

John was born in Connecticut in 1943. In his book “East is West” he wrote, “I was a farm boy who rode a horse to school, helped harness the horse to the one-horse open sleigh, and was taught to use the crank phone with 12 homes on the party line.” He remembers getting up before 5 a.m. to milk the cows — “winter mornings were 20 degrees below zero” — and having no indoor plumbing. Whilst he was a student at the University of Puget Sound, he worked part time in a travel agency. “That gave me my initial experience in the travel field,” he said. At university he was a classmate of Kiseko, Miki’s daughter.

John came to Japan in 1963 on a Rotary Club exchange program to study at Kita Kyushu University. He was met at the old international airport of Haneda by Kiseko and her brother, who took him home with them for his first night in Japan.

From Kita Kyushu, John returned to complete his university education in the U.S. Of his part-time travel agency work, he said, “I had the fortunate experience of learning from an Englishman who had trained with the renowned Thomas Cook and Sons, the world’s first travel agency.” After graduation John came again to Japan, this time to teach. When he was offered employment in travel once more, he accepted and so assured his vocation. “I found real enjoyment in helping others discover the world, and in my own opportunity to explore Japan’s neighboring countries and those further afield,” he said.

Mutsuko Miki spoke for John when he proposed to marry the daughter of a Hokuriku doctor. In 1974, with his family beginning, John opened his own company, Executive Travel, in a hotel room in Osaka. His policy was always personally to research potential destinations, and from his own experiences design and promote tours for his clients.

He has passion for travel. He has disregarded personal rigors and scorned technical difficulties. “In 1977, when visas were virtually impossible to obtain, I was one of the first American tourists to travel extensively in northern China,” he said. “I decided to make travel to the People’s Republic of China a specialty for Executive Travel. Rather than specializing in group tours, we were the first travel agency sending in individual tourists on preplanned and prepaid itineraries. We developed, fine-tuned and expanded our travel programs. Since 1977, I have spent a part of each year exploring some of the more unusual and little-known areas of Asia — wonderful destinations.”

Five years ago, John published “East is West.” Its chapter headings announce the remote and normally inaccessible places he has investigated. After the first China expedition, he made excursions to Turfan and Tibet, beyond Kashgar, Xishuangbanna, and the Yangtze and Shennong rivers. He went on his first trip to North Korea in 1989. “I have now traveled in North Korea three times, most unusual for an American,” he said.

A forthcoming second volume of “East is West” brings up to date John’s dealing with travels in Asia and the Pacific over the last five years. Looking back to his early days, he wonders if at times of difficulties, “hysterically funny, or frightening, or often maddening,” he might have understood situations better in areas not yet developed for tourism. Coming through his writing, though, are revelations of his patience, humor, deep interest and awareness. His traveling and his pioneering are such that, he said, “I urge you when planning your travels to depart at times from the known, and enjoy precious and fascinating adventures in unknown or little-known areas.” He promises that “another side of travel will surely enrich your life.”

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