Day Tours and Guides
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) sponsors a Volunteer 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, and because they want to practice their English. You have to negotiate the itinerary with the guide. The services of Volunteer Guides are free, but you should pay for their travel costs, admission fees, and any meals you eat with them. To participate in this program, make arrangements for a Volunteer 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 made through the Volunteer Guides website.
The Japan National Tourism Organization can also put you in touch with various local volunteer groups that conduct tours in English; you need only 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–¥45,000 for a full eight-hour day.
Japan Guide Association. 03/3863–2895; www.jga21c.or.jp.
Volunteer Guides. www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/travel/guide/guideservice.html.