Volunteer Close-Up Report
One of the roles of City Volunteers for Tokyo 2020 is providing tourism and transport information. The Tokyo Volunteer Guides, volunteers who provide travelers from other countries with tourism information, are already actively working in six areas of Tokyo including Shinjuku, Ueno and Asakusa. We joined two of these volunteers with over three years of volunteer experience, and saw what kind of service they provide.
Katsumi Horikawa (Left)
She enjoys museums and wandering around Ueno is her hobby. She participates as a volunteer guide twice or three times a month in Asakusa and Ueno.
Kiyomi Shibata (Right)
She has been mainly based in Ginza and Ueno, but today is her first day volunteering in Asakusa. She also visits Asakusa a lot privately.
A day in the life of a tourism volunteer
Meeting today's partner!
Self-introductions and confirming the day's schedule.
Volunteer guides generally serve in pairs. Katsumi and Kiyomi are meeting each other for the first time today. First they confirm the day's schedule and important announcements from the volunteer office. Next they introduce themselves and share information they have researched about Asakusa.
"It's very likely that we'll be asked about events to be held today, so we have to keep ourselves up to date."
The volunteers begin serving in the vicinity of Kaminarimon. They stand in front of an area map, looking for people who might be having trouble.
Volunteer guides serve in designated areas. Today, they are assigned to Kaminarimon and Azumabashi. If there is a tourist looking at the area map or their smartphone in a confused way, they ask, "Can we help you?"
There are various kinds of information to be given. Some people want to wander around the area, whereas others are searching for a specific place.
"There's a shrine famous for matchmaking called Imado Shrine. It's just past Sensoji Temple. Young women are always asking about it."
The next moment, the tourist asks "how do I get to Imado Shrine?"
Essential for providing information: a tablet.
Volunteer guides use a tablet provided by the volunteer office to give information. Katsumi and Kiyomi use their tablet in a familiar and skillful manner, saying that the office installed convenient applications onto the tablet and showed them how to use it! Using the tablet, they look up public transport information and the locations of coin lockers.
One thing that they are careful about when communicating with non-Japanese speakers is "not to speak to them all of a sudden, but rather approach them in a pleasant way as not to startle them. It is good to give information in fluent English, but even if your English is a bit broken, the feeling of wanting to convey information is most important."
Moving to Azumabashi, responding to various requests in a flexible way!
After having a break, Katsumi and Kiyomi move to the Azumabashi area. There are three nearby stations on different train lines, so most of the questions are about transport. As Azumabashi is a place where you can photograph Tokyo Skytree beautifully, another of the volunteers' main chores is assisting with photos.
The importance of understanding the context of a question.
"For example, if I'm asked the way to a certain station, I have to think about if the person wants to prioritize time or cost, or if he or she is carrying a lot of luggage. I try to provide information that will be the very best option for that person."
It's not just about answering questions. The volunteers strive to come up with the most suitable response for each individual person.
Submitting the day's events in a daily report. Sharing opinions and thoughts, and finishing up for the day!
The volunteers go back to the volunteer office and create a daily report. They hand over the matters that were dealt with today, leaving it as a reference.
Both volunteers applied to become volunteer guides because they want to help at Tokyo 2020.
"It's easy to think of volunteering as something very difficult, but I want people to know that anyone can do it," said Kiyomi.
"If you are hesitating to apply, my advice is to just give it a try. It's really fun, and you'll get hooked!" Katsumi said.
Challenging yourself with something that you can do is the first step to becoming a volunteer. Why don't you try participating as a volunteer as well?
*Tokyo Volunteer Guides are not currently recruited.