How big is Japan?
Japan's land area is about 378,000 km2, which is slightly smaller than the state of California in the United States or slightly larger than the entire size of Ger-many. Japan's archipelago stretches some 3,500 km (2,170 miles) between the northernmost and southernmost points.
Will you tell me about one of Japan's World Heritage sites?
①I will tell you about Himeji Castle near Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, one of the most famous castles in Japan. It is designated as a World Cultural Heritage site, as well as a National Treasure. Himeji Castle is also known as “Egret Castle” be-cause of its white plastered walls, and is considered one of the most beautiful cas-tles in Japan. As usual with many Japanese castles, it sits high on a hill and of-fers an excellent view from the top of the castle tower.
②I will tell you about Horyuji Temple in Nara Prefecture. Horyuji Temple is in-ternationally noted among the oldest wooden structures in the world, and desig-nated as a World Cultural Heritage site. The temple presents visitors with the opportunity to view some of Japan's finest historical works of art in a pleasant atmosphere. Most of the major buildings in the precincts have long been named National Treasures.
③I will tell you about Itsukushima Shrine. It is a magnificent Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima (or Miyajima) in Hiroshima Prefecture. It is designated as a World Cultural Heritage site, and the several buildings and possessions of the shrine are named National Treasures. This shrine extends over the sea on long pillars. Its large red torii is renowned for the impression it gives of floating on the sea.
What is Bunraku?
Bunraku is a classical puppet play performed to the accompani- ment of narra-tive ballads known as joruri. Its charm lies in the harmony of skilled puppeteers and the voices of the joruri singer.
What is Kabuki?
Kabuki is a traditional stage drama performed exclusively by men to the accom-paniment of songs and music. It is characterized by a combination of rhythmical words, dancing, elaborate costumes, and stage sets.
What is Maneki-neko?
Maneki-neko is a statue of a cat beckoning passers-by. The statue is often found in restaurants and shops and is displayed as a charm to attract customers.
How do you explain Obon to foreign tourists?
Obon is a three-day Buddhist holiday, usually August 13, 14, and 15. During this time the spirits of the dead are said to return to their former homes and families. People light lanterns to guide the spirits and perform bon dances for their enter-tainment. The week of obon is considered bon-yasumi, or bon vacation, and many people return to their hometowns or take trips.
Please tell me about the topographical features of Japan.
①First, the islands of Japan are surrounded by the sea. Second, Japan has a wide variety of topographical features due to several volcanic ranges which run through the country. Third, its rivers are short and fast-flowing, and as a result, they form deep gorges in the mountainous areas. Finally, Japan boasts many places of scenic beauty and hot-spring resorts.
②Japan is a very mountainous island nation. Although its total land area is a little smaller than California, 67% is covered by mountains. Plains account for only 13%. Japan also has 80 of the world's 800 active volcanoes.
When and where can I see cherry blossoms?
Cherry blossoms (or “Sakura”) can be viewed at many locations throughout Ja-pan from late January (in Okinawa) through mid-May (in Hokkaido.) The blos-soms reach their peak earlier in the south than the north, but usually last for only ten days or so. Nearly all Japanese cities have local parks with beautiful cherry blossoms. Popular viewing places in Tokyo include Chidorigafuchi, Ueno Park, Shinjuku-gyoen Park and Koganei Park.
What is Shichi-go-san?
Shichi-go-san is a festival to celebrate the growth of children. On November 15, girls of seven, boys of five and three-year-old children of either sex are taken to shrines by their parents to give thanks and pray for a divine blessing.
What is bonsai?
Bonsai is a potted tree which has been dwarfed and shaped by such methods as pruning and wiring in order to create particularly aesthetic shapes.
What is the retirement age for company employees in Japan?
The retirement age in most Japanese companies is currently 60. However, since the qualifying age for receiving an old-age pension is being increased in stages to 65, the retirement age in companies may also increase in the future.
What do you think of the current global economic recession?
I think that it is causing serious damage to economies around the world. In Ja-pan, considering that both consumer spending and plant and equipment invest-ment have weakened, the Japanese government has no alternative but to in-crease government spending in order to improve the economy. To put it con-cretely, the government should plan and implement public works projects, such as building roads or dams.
What's Japan's climate like?
The climate of Japan is mostly temperate, but varies greatly from north to south. There are four distinct seasons. With the exception of Hokkaido, most areas have a rainy season from early June to mid-July, followed by a hot, humid summer. Typhoons are common during late summer and early autumn; and except for semitropical Okinawa, many parts of Japan have snow in winter.
Where in Tokyo would you recommend I visit?
①I would recommend Meiji Shrine, the largest Shinto shrine in Tokyo. This shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, who oversaw Japan's entry into the modern world following the Meiji Restoration of 1868. The shrine build-ings are made of Japanese cypress and built in a classic Shinto architectural style that is simple but grand. It is a special oasis in the midst of all the big-city hustle and bustle.
②I would recommend Tokyo Tower in Minato Ward. Having been built in 1958 and modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, this 333m structure is a beloved landmark in the city's landscape. The tower boasts two observatories, both of which offer spectacular, panoramic views of Tokyo.
③I would recommend Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. It is dedicated to Kannon, or the Buddhist goddess of mercy, and is therefore popularly called the Asakusa Kan-non Temple. This temple is Tokyo's oldest and most popular one, with a history dating from 628. Its colorful Nakamise-Dori, a pedestrian lane leading to the temple, is lined with traditional shops and souvenir stands, and is a great place to buy your gifts as well.
What is Haiku?
Haiku is a very compact but evocative verse form of 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 line pattern. The themes of haiku may be inspired by intuitive perception into nature and life.
What is the average life expectancy of the Japanese? Why do they live so long?
The world's longest life expectancy is in Japan, where the average male lives 79.29 years, and the average female lives 86.05 years (according to data collected in 2008 by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare). There are sev-eral reasons for this longevity. One is the low rate of infant mortality. From 2000 to 2005, the Japanese infant mortality rate was 3.2 per 1,000, which was by far the lowest rate among advanced nations. Other reasons include the establish-ment of a modern medical system and dietary improvements. The traditional Japanese diet is low in fat and low in calories, but it is also low in animal protein and high in salt. From a nutritional point of view, the modern Japanese diet is quite balanced.
Tell me about Japanese martial arts.
Traditional Japanese martial arts, which are practiced as sports today, include Judo, Karate and Kendo. Judo and Karate are both unarmed self-defense. Judo developed from jujutsu, martial-art styles evolved among the samurai of feudal Japan. Karate originated in China and was developed in Okinawa. Kendo is the Japanese martial art of swordsmanship and is somewhat similar to fencing.
Tell me about Japan's overseas trading. What Japanese products are most dominant abroad?
According to the latest edition of the White Paper on International Trade, the following Japanese products are most dominant abroad: cameras, integral cir-cuits, image scanners, video game consoles, digital cameras, copy machines, and motorcycles. These items have been widely accepted in the world market because of their high quality and competitive prices.
How would you explain Japan's four seasons to foreign tourists?
The climate of most parts of Japan is characterized by four distinct seasons. The spring months generally are from March to May, summer months are from June to August, autumn from September to November, and winter from December to February. Japan's summer is generally very hot and humid, and winter is gen-erally cold. The difference between winter temperatures and summer tempera-tures is more than 20 degrees Celsius. In spring and autumn, almost all parts of Japan enjoy comfortable temperatures.
What do you think of the fact that there are far more people going abroad than people coming to Japan?
I think that it is inevitable, because prices in Japan are one of the highest in the world, and also because the yen has been quite strong against major foreign cur-rencies these days. But, at the same time, I think that the Japanese government should further strengthen its publicity campaigns so that Japan can attract even more foreign tourists. The Japan National Tourism Organization and the Japa-nese government have been trying hard to increase the annual number of for-eign travelers to Japan to 10 million by the year 2010. I really hope that this policy will work out and that it will have a positive effect on our society.
What is Giri?
Giri refers to the sense of social obligation which every individual is supposed to develop in life.
What is Sumo?
Sumo is the time-honored Japanese style of wrestling. Two contestants are matched against one another in a ring. One contestant loses when any part of his body other than the soles of his feet touches the ground or when he is pushed out of the ring.
Why do Japanese children go to cram schools?
In Japan, many children go to juku, or cram schools, because entrance to top schools is so competitive that students must do extra study. Many parents want their children to attend prestigious universities so that they can later join pres-tigious companies.
What would you do as a tour guide, if a woman on your tour bus says that she wants to go to the restroom in a traffic jam?
I would ask her to hold on for a moment and ask the bus driver to find the near-est bathroom or rest-stop area. If the traffic is jammed solid and the bus doesn't move at all, I may walk her or run with her to the nearest bathroom. In that case, I will make sure to keep in contact with the bus driver or other passengers by cell phone so that they can pick us up later.
What is the most comfortable season to travel in Japan?
Although each season has its own charm, most Japanese would agree that the most comfortable seasons are spring and autumn. As the climate is stable, these are generally the best times of year for travel and sightseeing.
Why is tourism so important to Japan?
Japan's labor force is shrinking because of its falling birthrate and the aging population. The Japanese economy is now also in recession. It is clear that we won't be able to expect steady growth of our domestic economy in the future if we do not take any action. Therefore, it is important for the Japanese government to attract more foreign tourists to Japan, as we will depend more than ever on in-ternational tourism as a source of income.
Where do you recommend if I want to go shopping in Tokyo?
①Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world, so you can find a lot of shopping complexes in areas such as Shinjuku, Akasaka, Roppongi, and Marunouchi. Stores dealing in famous brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes are plen-tiful in these shopping complexes. In addition, large hotels have shopping ar-cades with stores that can send goods anywhere in the world.
②If you are looking for traditional Japanese things, the Oriental Bazaar at Ha-rajuku or souvenir shops at Asakusa is recommended, since they offer a wide range of fans, paper lanterns for room decorations, kimono-clad dolls, paper dolls, happi coats and so on.
③If you are interested in buying some electronic devices, such as digital cameras or portable game consoles, good stores can be found in areas such as Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Akihabara.
Where would you recommend if I want to eat some inexpensive food in Japan?
①I would recommend that you go to Izakaya. Izakaya is a Japanese-style tavern that serves a wide range of food and drinks at relatively low prices. It is popular with mostly office workers and young people.
②I would recommend family restaurants. Family restaurants are almost every-where in big cities, and there the food are reasonably priced. Besides, many of these establishments display, at the front, the plastic samples of the food they of-fer. This will make it a lot easier for you to order exactly what you want to eat.
How do you explain shoji and fusuma to foreign tourists? What is the difference between them?
Shoji are sliding screens covered with thin white Japanese paper on a wooden frame. They are made to allow sunlight into the room. They separate the rooms in a traditional Japanese house from the corridors or veranda. On the other hand, fusuma are wood-framed sliding doors covered with thick Japanese paper. They separate the rooms in a traditional Japanese house.
What is Tanabata?
Tanabata, or the Star Festival, is held on July 7 to celebrate the once-a-year meeting of two lovers, Kengyu, the cowherd (Altair) and Shokujo, the weaver (Vega). The rest of the year the two lovers are separated by the Milky Way.
What part of Japan has the heaviest snowfall?
It is on the border between Niigata Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture, or in the mountains of the Hokuriku region. In these areas, snowfall of over two me-ters is not unusual. The heaviest snowfall on record is eight meters in the moun-tains of Niigata Prefecture, one of the snowiest regions on earth.
Tell me about Japanese gardens.
A Japanese garden is a landscape garden composed of rocks, trees, ponds, and other natural objects. This type of garden is designed in accordance with the ap-pearance of nature. The three most famous landscape gardens in Japan are (1) Koraku-en in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, (2) Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, and (3) Kairaku-en in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture.
What are Uchiwa and Sensu? What is the difference between them?
Uchiwa is a round, flat paper fan with a wooden or plastic handle. It is usually used for keeping oneself cool or fanning a fire. On the other hand, sensu is a folding fan made of paper on a bamboo frame, usually with a decorative picture, design, or calligraphic character on it.
What is the difference between Hiragana and Katakana?
Hiragana are cursive phonetic characters simplified from kanji, or Chinese characters. They are mainly used in combination with kanji. On the other hand, Katakana are angular phonetic characters simplified from kanji. They are mainly used for writing foreign words.
What do you think of the numerous bicycles illegally parked around stations and on streets?
It is unfortunate that the streets around train stations or in shopping districts are always cluttered with illegally parked bicycles. Those bicycles often block the way for pedestrians, and they can be potentially dangerous for people such as the elderly, the physically disabled, and small children. They also may interfere with ambulances and fire services in times of emergency. Each individual should be more responsible, either by parking his/her bicycle in a designated parking lot or by not riding a bicycle and walking instead.
Why do you want to be a tour guide?
①I'm very interested in cultural exchange. I would like to tell others about Japan as well as learn more about other cultures and countries around the world. I also wish to clear up any misconceptions or stereotypes that foreign people may have about Japan. If many people were to get involved in cultural exchange at the grass-roots level, I'm sure it would further improve understanding and relation-ships between countries.
②First, I've always been very interested in the history of Japanese temples and shrines. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes is visiting them all over the country. For example, I've trekked to all 33 temples on the Bando pilgrimage trail in the Kanto area. Second, I like meeting people from different backgrounds and telling them about the attractions of Japan. For these reasons, I think a tour guide would be a very suitable job for me.