Interpreter Guides in Japan

In Japan there are two types of interpreter guides:

  1. Accredited interpreter guides who may work and receive payment. In Japanese they are called ‘tsuuyaku annai shi’ 通訳案内士.
  2. Volunteer guides (also known as Goodwill Guides) who have no accredited qualification and who may not receive payment.

Type 1 is divided into either prefectural or national accredited guides. Most Interpreter Guides will have taken the national exam which has a written test covering language, geography, history and general knowledge (culture, politics, industry, economy). After passing the written test, there is an oral examination.

As of 2016, six prefectures have examinations for ‘Region-Specific Tour Guide-Interpreters’. North to south, the prefectures are Hokkaido, Iwate, Tochigi, Shizuoka, Nagasaki and Okinawa, and the license is only applicable to that specific prefecture. Applicants must have lived in that prefecture for at least one year before taking the exam.


Many cities have programs to train volunteer guides but please be aware that as a volunteer, you may not receive  any payment. However, the guests should pay your transport and entry fees, and also cost for lunch/dinner if the tour is over a meal time.


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