Volunteer guides in Japan

By Diane Karpel
This item appears on page 14 of the January 2020 issue.

I am so grateful for all the information I receive by reading International Travel News and would like to share something with my fellow readers.

My husband and I took an independent, 3-week trip to Japan, Oct. 14-Nov. 4, 2019. It was a “challenging adventure,” but we never could have done it without the help of a website that lists organizations throughout Japan that provide volunteer guides.

The website, www.japan.travel/en/plan/list-of-volunteer-guides, lists cities and who to contact in order to arrange for a guide in each. The guides are mostly retired professionals (as we are) who each have a love of their city and want to share their knowledge and expertise in navigating their town and the surrounding area.

We used volunteers in Hakone, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji and Tokyo. They would meet us at our hotel or the train station. Usually, we were together from 9 to 5. Some were with us for two days. We walked an average of 5 to 7 miles a day. 

Originally, we had planned this trip for May, which meant we had to reschedule all of our guides for October. All of the guides stayed in contact with us and rearranged our meeting dates. Also, because of the typhoon in October, we had to start our trip late and move our 4-day Tokyo visit to the end. Luckily, our Tokyo guide was able to accommodate us.

We paid the volunteers only for their travel expenses (a few dollars for trains or buses), lunches and site entry fees. Actually, either because they were seniors or because they were guides, most of them had special passes to visit sites and take transportation.

Although they wouldn’t take tips, we gave the guides sake glasses with images of Los Angeles on them that we had bought at the airport in L.A.

Northridge, CA