An interview with Hanako, the bus tour guide

A story that begins with a bus

Hanako posing in uniform

Hanako (not her real name), is a bus tour guide in Sapporo. We interviewed this tour guide specialist who even travels throughout Hokkaido on her own time, about bus tours.
Words by Aratame Nanae
Photographs by Ida Yukitaka

The bus is a stage and the tour guide is the actress

Many people’s first experience with a bus tour guide is on a school trip.
Hanako has just given a tour to students from Honshu a few days ago.
Although many years have passed since she became a bus tour guide at the age of 18, she still “gets nervous every time she first meets a tourist.”

Students sometimes interact with animals on a school trip (From her blog post “School Trips Are Fun”)

“I always struggle to find my pace on a school trips.”
Her tours overflow with ingenuity, such as singing songs, quizzes, and laughter, and are never boring.
“I never stop smiling. The bus is a stage and we are the actresses. If the tourists are impressed and return feeling satisfied from their tour, I should receive the best actress award. (laughing).”
An attractive talk will soften the listeners’ heart. If it touches their hearts, they will be moved.

Message from a housewife and bus tour guide

She calls herself “a housewife bus tour guide,” works as a contract bus tour guide from May to October and spends the rest of the year as a housewife.
She is also a mother with a son.
“It’s not surprising to see students impressed by the nature and food of Hokkaido. I want the students to take something home which touches their hearts.”
It does not matter if they don’t understand right away. Hanako hopes that someday, it will encourage them. Sometimes, she speaks to them like this and then they part ways.
“The scenery of Hokkaido hasn’t changed, even after 20 or 30 years. If you come to a dead end, come back to Hokkaido. The great nature will welcome you with wide open arms.”

The monotonous scenery changes into special landscape (From her blog post “From Asahikawa to Furano”)

Her lifework is the study of the Ainu

We asked her for some points that she keeps in mind when traveling on her own.
Hanako is interested in anything closely related to the history or climate of Hokkaido, such as literature, coal mines and Hokkaido Heritage. Her lifework is the study of the Ainu.

“I have participated in many tours to Biratori Town where you can experience traditional Ainu crafts.”

Hanako studies about the Ainu and carefully walks around areas associated with them.
“I want to tell the world about how beauty of the Ainu and Hokkaido.
She experienced the depth of culture of the Ainu and now wishes to verbally share it with others, just as the Ainu handed down their stories and wisdom from one generation to the next.

At the woodcarving experience in Biratori Town, Ainu patterns are explained and the participants personally carve coasters.

When asked “why did you become a bus tour guide?” she answers “to tell the truth, I wanted to be a childcare worker.” After becoming a tour guide, she became a certified childcare worker while she worked. However, she got married, had a son and was taking care of him. And without realizing it, she continued to work as a bus tour guide.
In the course of listening to her many stories about bus tours, I started to think that being a bus tour guide was actually her calling.
One day, I hope to enjoy her wonderful guided bus tour.

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