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Friday, 29th April 2016
In General Japan News,

Japan looks to overhaul tour guide exams

In light of increased numbers of visitors travelling to Japan, the government is overhauling many of the regulations that rule the tourism sector.

Among those who will be affected by the changes are tour guides, who, at present are subjected to vigorous exams in order to take up places.

The Japan Tourism Agency has made the move to deregulate the tour guide industry so it will be able to cope with an influx of visitors.

Since 1949, only guides holding official licenses have been allowed to earn money from escorting foreigners are Japan’s top sights.

Those who flouted the rule have been subject to fines of 500,000 yen (£3,200) up until now.

Not everyone has welcomed the change, however, with Yoshie Matsumoto, an experienced foreign language guide, suggesting it is the quality of the guides and not the quantity that needs to be addressed.

She told the Japan Times: “Interpreter guides have long contributed to the rise in foreign visitors making repeat visits. But the job is now threatened.”

With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Matsumoto has known many license-holders and says that as there is little money in it, they have moved onto other careers.

She believes that instead of deregulating the industry, these former guides should be lured back to ensure that standards are kept.

In April 2015, there were around 19,000 licensed guides in Japan and a further 2,119 passed the exam in February.

Among the areas tested in the exam are foreign language skills and knowledge of the history, geography and culture of the country.

While the figures for license-holders is relatively high, there is a good chance that many of them are not working as guides, as Matsumoto claimed.

A study carried out by the Japan Tourism Agency in 2013 polled 6,441 license-holders with 75.7 per cent saying they had never worked as a guide or were not doing so at the time of the survey.