Are you looking for the world’s last Emperor? Maybe you’re a fan of technological advancements that allow a highway to pass through a building. Both can be found in Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun has a perfect blend of old-world enchantments and futuristic convenience, so your trip should include the best of both.
With that said, navigating the world’s most populated city at one end, and encountering the deer-filled streets of Nara at the other, can be pretty overwhelming. So do you really need a guide? Let's count the cost because ramen-filled vending machines and traditional tea ceremonies wait for no one!
Why is it worth getting a tour guide in Japan?
- You’ll avoid the language gap. To say there is a language barrier in Japan is an understatement. Nearly 98% of the country’s population is Japanese, and less than 30% speak English. The numbers are lower for fluency, 8%. A guide would be essential for anyone looking to enjoy the country without the confusion and hassle of trying to learn a whole language. GWG guides are English-speaking, acting as a bridge between you and your new environment. Can you visit Japan if you only know English? Yes, but you'll have a rough time.
- You’ll have access to a wealth of knowledge. Japan is a collection of complex cultural practices that can't be stuffed into a quick guidebook or blog post. Touring the country with a local guide who has lived there for years opens you up to an enriching journey filled with firsthand knowledge.
- You’ll learn about the secret spots. Okay, we all know the major attractions, but those don't paint the full picture when it comes to Japan. Local intel on the best restaurants, shops, monuments, and parks is the best way to double the fun on your trip. Plus, you'll beat the crowds.
- You’ll save a LOT of time. There's nothing worse than looking around and realizing you have no idea where you are. Getting lost during such an important trip can lead to hours spent getting back on track, especially if your time in Japan is limited. Our local guides know how to navigate the busiest Tokyo streets. Beyond that, you won't have to waste time booking tours, or tracking down tickets and reservations after you've agreed on your itinerary with your guide.
- You’ll skip the culture shock. As pointed out earlier, Japan has an intricate network of social queues. Of course, as a tourist, you aren't expected to know them all, but a guide could help you avoid glaring mistakes (like impaling your sushi with your chopsticks).
Travel Q&A: What are some tour guide services in Japan?
GWG private guides offer many services, including;
Transport and accommodation arrangements
General Venue Tours
The Not So Good
A guide sounds good, but it can’t all be positive, right? Right. So what are the downsides of having a tour guide?
- It’ll cost you extra. So how much does a tour guide cost in Japan? That depends on where you want to go, how long you want to be there, and how many people you'll go with. Most of our Japan tours are charged per group starting at around 107 USD for 4 hours to 590 USD for 8+ hours. Tour costs vary as some include extra treats. Specialty tours like our Kaleidoscopic Kyoto experience cost 1495 USD per group, featuring a personal, award-winning photographer, and covering transport and entry costs. Day trips can cost more, as they can last up to 14 hours, so it's up to you and what you want your trip to look and feel like.
- Getting stuck with a sour guide. Having your destination dreams crushed because you don't get along with a guide is a horrible way to start your trip. As kind and high-rated as our guides are, hiring a guide comes with the risk of clashing with their personality. Want to avoid that? Pick a guide that you share commonality with. GWG guides come from different backgrounds and age groups.
- You get a filtered experience. If you're craving a 100% unfiltered introduction to Japan, a guide will be a block. Guides want to show you the best of their country and act as a buffer for things they think you'll struggle with, which some might not consider a fully authentic experience.
- You lose some flexibility. We all expect a good time on our trips, but life happens. If something goes wrong, canceling your guided tour midway through or on the morning of the tour will be heartbreaking.
Travel Q&A: Is it easy to tour Japan on your own?
This depends on how comfortable with Japan you are. If you're a newbie, you'll experience a bit of culture shock on your first tour. Transport systems within the city are vast, so it'll be hard to navigate, though the English signs help. Day-to-day customs and social interactions have a learning curve, so there is a fair amount of difficulty that comes with solo touring.
Okay, so we’ve weighed the options, but bullet points are cool, so let’s sum things up.
It’s Time To Get A Guide If…
- You’re nervous about the language barrier. Why stress yourself out on such an amazing journey? Let our bilingual guides do the heavy language lifting.
- You don’t want the extra planning stress. Guides are ideal for travelers who want to relax and try new things, not search for tickets and reservations.
- You want to learn as much as you can. Download your knowledge straight from the horse's mouth and experience the country in its most enjoyable form.
Speed Past Guides Like A Bullet Train If…
- You're fluent in Japanese and looking to practice your skills. If this is your dream trip and you've been a long-time learner of Japanese, a guide will only get in the way of practicing.
- You like to go with the flow. Goodbye plans, hello adventure! Your ideal trip looks like being dropped in the middle of a new city with nothing but Google Maps and a prayer.
- You’re not big on interaction. You’re the type that likes to go it alone, and a guide would only make you feel pressured to perform and be more social.
Travel Q&A: Will I be safe in Japan?
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, coming in 10th place according to the Global Peace Index, beating Switzerland, Canada, and Finland. Violent crimes, especially against tourists, are virtually nonexistent, so it's safe to tour most areas on your own, or with a guide.
Even Guides Have Guidelines: Do’s & Don’ts When Touring With A Guide
Alright, you might be ready for a guide, but you've never had one. Here are some tips to keep your experience positive.
I Want A Guide, Now Show Me Some Tours!
Alright, you've made up your mind. You’re getting a guide. Where do you start? Here are some favorites from our top destinations.
Personal Journey Through Tokyo - A guide curated to suit your age, interest, dislikes, and expectations! See the Tokyo you want to see, with 30 popular locations to choose from including the Zojo-Ji temple, Tsukiji market, Harajuku, and much more.
Must-See Tokyo Tour - Need a crash course in all things Tokyo? Try this greatest hits tour that features the Imperial Palace, the electrifying Akihabara town, and the Meiji Jingu Shrine.
Kyoto Sightseeing Dream - From the magnificent Golden Pavilion to the bustling Nishiki Market, this tour captures the heart of Kyoto all in one day.
Customized Kyoto Half-Day Tour - Looking to fit in a lot of Kyoto in a little bit of time? This 4-hour tour features the city's highlights including the Arashiyama area, the Toji temple, and the Fushimi Inari shrine.
Discover Osaka’s Highlights - This tour combines the best of Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara with stops at the Golden Pavilion, Nara Deer Park, and the Osaka temple. You can also check out Dotombori and the stunning Umeda sky tower.
Introduction to Osaka Day Tour - There's no better place to start than with these Osaka delicacies. Who can say no to Kushikatu and Doteyaki lunch, a peaceful river cruise, and some sake?
Kamakura’s Flowers - Soak in Japan's former capital filled with tales of Samurai culture, shrines, and serene temples. A calm introduction to such a historic city.
Discover The Real Kamakura - If breathtaking mountainous scenery doesn't leave you speechless, the shrines will. Kamakura is home to some of the most beautiful hidden temples, and it's time to see them yourself.
Ready to get your guide journey started? You can select a private tour that fits your fancy, or create something unique. Have a chat with our Japan private tour guides and start your trip the right way.