How to find a quality Private Tour Guide in Tokyo

Are you planning to visit Tokyo on your next vacation? Good idea! Tokyo is an exciting massive city with a mixture of both modern and traditional cultures. If you like to learn and see things that you would never find in a Lonely Planet or Michelin Guide or online, it is the right choice to hire a private tour guide. It may seem to be luxurious, but it should be worth the cost. The problem is how to find a quality tour guide, especially in Tokyo? Below are a few pieces of advice to this question.

1.   Choose a licensed guide

Under Japanese law, all the guides must obtain an official Government license as a Guide Interpreter by passing the examination conducted by the government until recently. Though this law had been mitigated and guiding service is now allowed without the license, you should still think it is essential for guides to have a national guide license to show capability. It is a minimum requirement. Some dubious people intentionally use the word "Inbound guide" as it does not necessarily mean a licensed guide. If you hire a guide who has no license, even minimum quality (knowledge about Japanese history, geography, sightseeing spots, and general issues) is not guaranteed. See if the guide displays his certificate copy or disclose his certificate number on the website, it is obvious. Otherwise, check if the guide registers him/herself in any guide association bodies like JGA (Japan Guide Association) or JFG (Japan Federation of Certified Guides) as a member. They allow only government-licensed guides to register.

2.  Local guide should come from the place

A local guide should be an expert for the place one guides. Tokyo guide must know the old and new about Tokyo, understand the feelings and sense of Tokyo people in addition to famous landmarks in the city. Therefore the number of years one has lived in Tokyo is significant. Ideally, the Tokyo guide is expectedly born and grow up in Tokyo, then naturally wears Tokyo’s culture. As is the case with this, if you visit Kyoto, it is recommended to hire the guide who comes from Kyoto. Usually, people have a special love and passion for their hometowns.

3.  Share your thoughts and wishes with a guide

Even if your prospective guide has a lot of knowledge about Tokyo, it is not enough to judge whether he/she is the right guide for you. You should communicate with the guide well before your tour and share your thoughts, concerns, wishes, and desires with him/her. If you have a particular area of interest, you directly tell it to the guide and see the reaction. Be careful, most of guide matching sites do not allow direct communication between a guide and a guest, but through a platformer’s system only.

Lastly, the most vital element to make a useful guide is personality. Knowledge is indispensable, but we do not like to listen to only a lecture or information session on the tour. In a modern, technology-driven society, we want a genuinely personal touch. You judge by yourself which is more necessary for you, knowledge, or personality. Look at a guide’s profile to know his/her philosophy, guiding policy, and socialization, to know if the guide has good chemistry with you.

© 2018 by Japan Culture Guide Ken Oka

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