Autumn is late in arriving at Kansai but the leaves are already changing their hues.
IT WAS MANY DECADES AGO, that I first saw a Japanese. Of course he and his colleagues were in Malaya during the Second World War. They were soldiers and certainly brought into the country to launch the Japanese Prosperity Plan of conquering Asia, which they did but lasted for a short span. Of course the child's view was clouded by many factors. Today at Osaka in the Kansai prefecture, I met another, several years older than me but in a more congenial atmosphere. No he is not one of the soldiers that cycled the route north from the Kedah – Thai border to the Island of Singapore, but is a Volunteer Tourist Guide who offered his service to visitors to the Japanese cities and in this case being Osaka.
Viewing the internet I came across an Osaka Tenma Yomiuri SGG Club at Osaka that offered guide service to visitors to Japan and especially Osaka in this case. Correspondence through email, guaranteed that we had the service of a guide. Especially in Japan where you hardly know a word of Japanese or able to converse in either Malay or English with the populace, it would be a great asset to meet someone who could help. In this case Mr. Hideaki Ohta had assured that he would meet us at the hotel where we stayed. This morning prompt at 9.30 am, the telephone in the room rang and he was already at the foyer to meet us and take us on a familiarization tour of Osaka City and taking us especially through myriad networks of the underground trains of the city. That by itself would be the last thing any tourist would like to confront with on the first day.
Mr. Ohta belonged to a group of volunteers in Japan who gave their time and service to serve the tourist industries. They are not money oriented but offered their services literally free of charge. I suppose they gain from the interactions with people from all over the world and proud that they have contributed to the community and to the tourism industry and Japan specifically. That they could converse in the language indicated by the visitors is a true virtue of their assistance; that they are as knowledgeable as the professional tourist guides go a long way. Mr. Ohta was with us for the whole day till we parted with good feelings and friendship late in the evening. I must say this is the first tourist volunteer guide I have come across and had the services offered gratis. Yes free of charge excepting that we pay for our tickets as well as his when we travelled on the train or 'undergrounds' . You have to pay for entries of visitation when required. He entered free being an established and recognized Club member. I would not hesitate to use their services whenever I return to Japan again. I would encourage others to contact them. It is a two way winner: the visitor as well as the volunteer guide. Perhaps Malaysia too has to look at this prospect in wanting to improve its tourism potentials.