Asking an experienced tour guide, Mr. Ota

How to enjoy bus tours

At the Sapporo Station North Exit Bus Terminal

If you search “Hokkaido, bus tours” on the Internet, so many websites will come up. We asked Ota Yoichi, an experienced tour guide, for some tips on how to enjoy a bus tour.
Words by Aratame Nanae
Photographs by Kurose Michio

Debut as a comedian at the age of 69

At Sapporo Yoshimoto, there is a comedian named “Tenjoin (a tour guide) Ota.” Why is he called that? Because he works as a Sapporo-based freelance tour guide.
Does he perform on the stage? No.
Is he familiar with Japanese comedies? Not much.
Mr. Ota says he was working as a tour guide for live bus tours when he was recruited by Yoshimoto in 2011. He is a living Cinderella Story with his comedian debut at the age of 69.
However, he continues doing the same work while participating in Yoshimoto tours throughout Hokkaido. He has been working as a comedian for six years and a tour guide for about 40 years.

A comedian only available on the bus

A comedian only available on the bus

Bus tours should be fun

Mr. Ota always watches the reaction of tourists to his greetings and introduction filled with jokes when he first boards the bus.
Bus tours are group activities. Tourists affect the atmosphere of tours.
“I hate fights,” says Mr. Ota. If a husband complains to his wife because she comes back to the bus late, it ruins the atmosphere. “Since you’re here, please enjoy the tour.”
It’s wonderful for a guide to see happy tourists.

Communication is the key to a successful bus tour

Communication is the key to a successful bus tour

According to Mr. Ota, the key to selecting a bus tour depends on “where the importance is placed on the tour.” Cost varies by the length of stay and the hotel rank, even if the destination is same. “Please carefully read the tour description.” And even for places you have been before, the scenery will look different depending on the season.
“The time from making a reservation for the tour until it actually starts is the most fun. Tours end so quickly. However, considering where to go next time is also part of the fun.

Impressed by going to the place

Mr. Ota became involved in the tourism industry in his thirties. He has guided over 2,000 tours. He can has seen the change in traveling through the generations.
“Back in the day, everyone wore his or her best clothes and shoes when traveling. Today, it’s jeans and T-shirts. It’s changed a lot.”
Maybe the special feeling of travel has decreased as the selection of tours increased and travel has become more common.
Everything, from tourist information to pictures of the scenery, is available with just one click these days. Still, nothing can beat the excitement felt when actually going to the travel sites.

Approximately 30 notebooks filled with tourist information and topics

Approximately 30 notebooks filled with tourist information and topics

Have you made any mistakes? “Countless” he laughs. He once had the bus depart, leaving a tourist behind.
“We started before I noticed that a tourist had not yet returned. I asked the tourist to take a taxi catch up with the bus, and then I paid the taxi fare. After making a mistake, it’s important to fix it.”
Complaints will not be made if the situation is handled tactfully. “Becoming good friends with tourists” is the best way to do so.
After all, what matters is interaction with tourists. If they come to like their tour guide, the tour will be more fun than ever.

At the end of the interview, we asked Mr. Ota how to one can be refreshed. “Going on a bus tour with my co-workers if you need a diversion” he replied.
See how much he loves buses?

Things to take on a bus tour according to Mr. Ota:

  • Hat
  • Rain gear
  • Medicine
  • Comfortable shoes
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