Maki Aizawa grew-up in Sendai, Japan and from her earliest years was completely and creatively immersed in the traditions of Japanese arts and culture. Her parents ran one of the most famous kimono-making schools in Japan and she remembers a childhood with hundreds of “aunties” – the students who were living with them during their five-year apprenticeships to become licensed kimono-makers. It was only natural that Maki also studied many of the other time-honored Japanese expressive arts including ikebana (floral design), shodo (calligraphy), and the koto (traditional stringed musical instrument).

After high-school Maki came to the United States to continue her education and graduated with a degree in Art History from San Francisco State University. She then applied her ikebana training to establish Viola Floral Design where she provided exquisite floral arrangements for weddings and winery events throughout the Bay Area for more than 15 years.

In 2006, Maki’s new adventure began when she met Davis “Davo” Everett and Debra Loomis, a real-life couple who for almost 30 years were widely celebrated for offering unique, immersive cultural tours of Japan through their joint endeavor “Journeys East.” Maki was immediately taken by how skillfully Davo and Debra created delightfully engaging and stimulating tours that embodied a deep and warm appreciation for the people and culture of Japan. Impressed and inspired by the high level of attention to both the tour participants and the local Japanese people they encountered, Maki began leading tours for Journeys East and created her own tour company in 2011 after Davo and Debra retired. Maki Tours is dedicated to carrying on the Journeys East legacy of offering opportunities to explore and experience the authentic essence of Japanese life and culture.

You can read more about Maki’s activities at, Cultural Exchange LLC and Sonoma Cultural Exchange.