The Japanese people generally are very kind people and willing to help others out. However, as you might know already, most people don’t speak much English (or are just very uncomfortable talking in English) and, even though improving especially in preparation for the Olympics, signage and information in English is very limited. Even at some of the famous spots and activities, you might find yourself asking what you are looking at. Add to this the fact that the Japanese culture is quite different from other cultures and its society is unique, and you might understand that visiting Japan can be a small challenge some times.
From time to time, it is hard for foreigners to understand the Japanese culture, especially when you visit Japan for the first time. That is why we highly recommend you explore this beautiful country with a tour guide. Especially when you have a great interest in the culture and traditions. In this article, we give you our reasons!
1. To avoid miscommunications
As most Japanese people don’t speak (much) English, communicating with locals can be difficult. Having a tour guide will certainly help you interact with the locals without any problems and will give you some peace of mind. You can travel without any worries and listen to all the explanations and interesting stories of the tour guide.
We recommend doing a guided tour on one of your first few days in Japan. Why? Because the guide can explain you how to get around in Japan e.g. how to use the public transportation. But also can explain you about the do’s and don’t while going to the onsen, visiting a shrine and eating at a restaurant. It Japan, it is easy to make a “mistake” because there are so many (unwritten) rules. Of course as a gaijin – foreigner – you won’t always be blamed, but you might just feel more comfortable yourself.
Ordering food can also be difficult without an English menu. If you suffer from an allergy or there are certain foods that you cannot eat, we recommend you to learn some Japanese words before you arrive to Japan. Or write them down, so you can make this clear to the staff. Unfortunately, restaurants in Japan often don’t have an English version of their menus and don’t specify whether their dishes contain certain ingredients. And because of the written menu’s, translation apps will not always make sense.
2. Understanding Japanese culture and history
Given that Japanese culture is unique and very different, even from other Asian cultures such as Korean and Chinese, sometimes you may not understand its traditions or history very well. Certain museums or places of interest do not offer (or very limited) English translations. Even at the more popular places and you might be find yourself wondering what it is you are seeing/visiting/eating.
When you are discovering a place with a local guide, the guide can explain more about Japan’s culture, cuisine, traditions and manners and navigate through museums and places of interest while making sure you grasp some knowledge in the process. It is much more fun exploring a place, when you actually know what it is right.
3. It’s more fun when you are not alone
Another plus point of a guided tour, is that you are not exploring on your own and you’ve got someone to talk to. Especially when you are travelling alone and you want to share your experiences with someone. Sharing the experience might make it even more memorable. Joining a guided tour can be a lot of fun and you may even meet new travel friends! Making new memories with new friends!
Japan Wonder Travel offers both private tours as well as food and drink group tours:
- Kyoto Food and Drink Tour @Nishiki Street & Gion
- Tea Picking Tour at the Foot of Mt. Fuji
- Tokyo 1-Day Private Walking Tour
4. Live like a local
For some people part of the fun of the trip, is preparing your travel! Before traveling to Japan you will probably do extensive research on which places are worth visiting or which restaurants to go to. A local guide you can save time and money, as they will know the best places from their own experiences. Most people are looking for a local experience, so what is better than a good recommendation from a local!
Also, local guides can answer any questions you might have. They are basically your travel guidebook and will be able to answer most of the questions that arise during your trip such as “where should I go?” or “what should I do next?” and “where should I eat?” on the spot. Also they can give you different options to pick from. Instead of spending time researching where to go or what to do, use a local guide and have a true local experience!
5. Efficiency, the guide knows where to go!
Besides the fact that local guides can answer any questions you might have on the spot. Exploring a city with a tour guide, will help you move around quicker and thereby will give you the chance to see more. Imagine a day in Tokyo, where you want to see the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing, but also would like to visit Ueno Park and see some of the flashy neon lights in the electronic district. A local tour guide will know how to travel to all places, navigate through the crowds, give you background information on the places and make sure you eat your desired Japanese food!
6. Better safe (than sorry).
In general, Japan is considered a safe country with a low crime rate. In 2019, Tokyo was even announced to be the safest city in the world by The Economist Intelligence Unit. But, even in Japan there are some places and situations that you should try to avoid, such as Kabukicho, in the east side of Shinjuku, in Tokyo. If you travel alone, it is easy to get lost and end up in a bad place without even realising it. This, however, will never happen if you have a tour guide. They know exactly which areas are safe and which aren’t and can help you communicate with the locals to avoid ending up in an unwanted situation or place.
Get most out of your trip with a local guide!
Experiencing Japanese culture can be difficult if you travel alone, you have limited time and you do not know the language. In addition, there are some places like izakaya or small cafes that only cater locals. And let’s not forget the language barrier! So, if you are looking for a traditional style place to eat or drink with a historic atmosphere, you might not be able to experience it.
Exploring with a local guide, ensures that you experience the country’s culture like a pro, without having to spend most of the time standing up and waiting in line. They can reserve seats for you, recommend you great places to visit and you can definitely experience what you want, without disappointments and wasting your time. Local tours exist so that you can experience the culture and traditions of the country to the full. Planning your trip alone and with limited knowledge of the language and culture can result in disappointment or frustrations.
To make most out of your visit and to avoid any negative experiences, we recommend you to get a local guide, like Japan Wonder Travel, to show you around on the first day(s) if your trip to Japan. You will benefit from that during your travel in Japan!
Have a look at the Japan Wonder Travel ebsite to see all the tours offered!