The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) sponsors a Goodwill Guide program in which local citizens volunteer to show visitors around; this is a great way to meet Japanese people. These are not professional guides; they usually volunteer both because they enjoy welcoming foreigners to their town and because they want to practice their English. You will have to negotiate the itinerary with the guide. The services of Goodwill Guides are free, but you should pay for their travel costs, their admission fees, and any meals you eat with them while you are together. To participate in this program, make arrangements for a Goodwill Guide in advance through JNTO in the United States or through the tourist office in the area where you want the guide to meet you. The program operates in 75 towns and cities, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, Osaka, and Hiroshima. Bookings can be done through the website.
The Japan National Tourist Organization can also put you in touch with various local volunteer groups that conduct tours in English; you need only to pay for the guide's travel expenses, admission fees to cultural sites, and meals if you eat together. Assume that the fee will be ¥25,000 to ¥30,000 for a full eight-hour day.
Goodwill Guides (www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/travel/guide/guideservice.html.)
Japan Guide Association (03/3863–2895. www.jga21c.or.jp.)
Japan National Tourism Organization (03/3201–3331. www.japantravelinfo.com.)