No licence needed for Paid Tour Guide Business in Japan (ANY LONGER!)

Source: onegai kaeru
Want to be a tour guide in Japan? Source: onegai kaeru

Did you know...

It is not well known to many but in Japan you need a licence to get paid to conduct a tour for foreigners today (if you do not get paid, it has been okay without licence.).  


The licence is called "通訳案内士 / Tsuyaku Annai shi meaning Translation Guide Master" where you will get penalized for 500,000JPY  (around 5000USD)or less if violating this law. 


To get qualified, you need to pass the tests in language (you choose one out of 10 languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Korean and Thai), geography, history, culture, industry and politics. (You can apply to take the test from this link )


The passing rate is around 20%. It is not an easy test. 


There are 22,754 qualified guides under this licence (1st April 2017, JINTO data). But due to the growth in the visitor number to Japan, the number of guide for foreign visitors is at constant shortage.

Around 75% of licensed personnel live in either Tokyo or Osaka areas. Esp. the rural areas have problem finding tour guides for foreigners.  


In addition to this, 70% of the licensed personnel took test in and only speak English. Yet, most of the tourists come from China and South Korea (both more than 20% of the total amounting more than 40% of the total foreign tourists in Japan).

Illegal Tour guide

No licensed tour guide but many visitor needing the guide in Japan. What happened?


There have been many un-licensed tour guides operating "illegally" till today. Many foreign companies with no entity in Japan have hired freelance tour guides in Japan and offered the tour for foreigners in Japan. Many of these illegal tour guides were operating in fear of the potential penalty of 500,000JPY  (around 5000USD)or less if found.


The situation may be better soon.

New Law

Accordingly, to tackle this situation, the Japanese government passed the new law about the tour guide for foreigners on 26th of May.  Under this law, you do not need to have the licence to carry out the tour for foreigners in Japan.


Some municipality governments plan to launch its own tour guide licence systems so that the guide can tell you more specific matters about the location.

Some concern

Japan saw some recent cases where illegal foreign tour guides were arrested because of the tax breach. But we have not seen many cases where the tour guide being arrested because of the licence.  

No surprise check or so.

This means you may have met many unlicensed tour guides anyway.


Some share some concern about the new law. Current licence system keeps the quality of tour guides for foreigners as high as possible. If anybody can conduct tour, this shall results in unnecessary problems such as the guide may give you totally wrong information.


What do you think? Share your opinion.

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Source: JINTO website, Asahi news, Jiji News 


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Disclaimer: Even though we try to make the info as updated and accurate but the accuracy of the information herein is not guaranteed by us. If you have any uncertainty, please contact the information source. These shops are the ones we find online at random for your reference purpose. There is no guarantee whatsoever about the authenticity of the shops and items of any sort.

Write a comment

Comments: 8
  • #1

    Maria G. (Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:11)

    Hi^^ Thank you for your article, really interesting! I just wanted to know where can I find this new licence system you talk about...because the national exam would take quite so If there's anothere way that would be great^^

    One last thing, I'm interested in being a tour guide in Japan, so what do you think would be the best way to do it? I have a degree in Japanese language and culture and I'm currently living in Japan^^

    Thank you very much for your help and great job with the article�

  • #2

    K team (Saturday, 08 September 2018 18:16)

    Hi Maria,
    You can contact us from the contact form.
    K team

  • #3

    Vicky (Wednesday, 13 February 2019 01:44)


    Thank you for your information. It is now 2019, and I would like to learn how to give tours to foreigners in English only. I do not speak much Japanese yet. Oh...and I also am living in the U.S. How to get a working visa this way?

    Thanks again.

  • #4

    Jesica (Thursday, 14 March 2019 09:38)

    to whom it may concern I am interested to become a private tour guide ,I am living in Gotenba-shi ,I am Pilipina ,widower ,I can speak,Japanese,English and my native tongue Tagalog. I have Japanese driver's license with a private car but I don't have tour guide license.can I possible work with you?

  • #5

    Mizuki (Tuesday, 06 August 2019 07:02)

    I came across this article and was very interesting! Just curious where I can see the new license system.
    Thank you!

  • #6

    Michael (Wednesday, 30 November 2022 14:17)

    I understand that this article is a bit dated now, but is this still the case? I may have an interview with a tour guide company here soon and I would like to know if I need to have a license to conduct interviews and where to take the test in order to do so.


  • #7

    JohnG (Thursday, 26 October 2023 21:43)

    This is rubbish. The law change concerns interpreters only. Not people or businesses that organize tours or book hotels or provide an service other than translation.

  • #8

    Vilma (Wednesday, 08 November 2023 14:55)

    New Law it says, you do not need to have the license to carry out the tour for foreigners in Japan.