TravelersHub Huber is a matching service that links foreign tourists visiting Japan with Japanese who want to have international exchanges through guiding experiences. Two interns at TABIPPO who have experience of studying and traveling abroad wanted to make use of their experiences in Japan! They have actually registered for this service, and have challenged being guides for one day.
Register at TravelersHub Huber
Before getting to the interview, I would like to briefly introduce what kind of service “TravelersHub Huber” is, and who these two Japanese guides and foreign traveler are.
What Kind of Service is It?
Huber is a matching service based on the concept of “making friends all over the world through travels.” The service connects Japanese who are looking for international exchange as guides for the tourists coming from overseas. It is a great chance for tourists to meet with local people and receive new experiences that can only be obtained in a certain area. Both parties interact regardless of borders, different values, cultures, and languages.
As each guide receives a “guide fee” as a reward, it may also become good alternative to a part-time job while increasing the number of foreign friends.
Introduction of the Parties
This time, Akko and Tomoya, third year university students, want to make the best of their experiences of studying and traveling abroad. They have challenged themselves to try out being guides for Tarek, a traveler from Canada.
As for Akko, she has registered as a guide in order to make use of the experience of studying abroad in the United States for one year. She mentions: “When one of my friends from abroad came to Japan for a week, I was more than happy to take my friend to the spots where I was hanging out with my friends when I was younger. This time, I want to introduce Tokyo using my feelings! A lot of new shops and restaurants appeared in the city, so maybe Shibuya and Ebisu will be good places to go.”
Tomoya had traveled in 15 countries. He said: “When I went to Laos, I met a university student who took me to a local food court where I had lunch. Because the experience was so enjoyable, this time I feel like a Japanese local and want to take my guest to the places I know! I always want to introduce the delicious things I eat.”
On the other hand, Tarek is from Canada and works as an English lecturer at an American university and came to Japan for sightseeing. During this trip, he wanted to ask locals for sightseeing information and used Huber service for the first time as well.
How do Foreign Guests Choose Guides?
To find a particular guide, an overseas guest just needs to answer a few easy questions during the registration process with TravelersHub Huber. Then, the guest will receive a few guides recommendations and travel plans. It becomes very easy to choose between the offered options that suits the guest’s interests and intentions.
After registering as guide, you can start using a chatroom between Japanese guides and foreigner guests.
There is no room for anxiety as the parties can keep in touch 24/7. Next, I would like to introduce you to each stage of the guiding experience of Akko, Tomoya, and Tarek!
1. First of All to the Popular Tapioca Shop!
The meeting place with the guest was at Ebisu Station. The three people who got in touch in the chat room met successfully, introduced themselves, and shook hands. A very friendly Tarek was a little tense for a moment! He said, “I could feel the difference between country’s greetings.”
After enjoying a light conversation, it was time to visit the trendy tapioca shop with Tarek.
Akko: “Tarek, have you ever tried Tapioca?”
Tarek: “I really like Tapioca! I wonder how you knew it?!”
Tomoya: “Good! Right now, it’s very popular in Japan.”
Akko: “I wondered what to order, but I chose a very sweet drink. It’s so cute that I can also take photos for Instagram.”
Tarek: “Instagrammable. I will also take some pictures.”
Akko: “Let’s take pictures for Instagram? Make cute faces (laughs)”
Tarek (full smile)
Tomoya: “No, I’ll laugh!”
The tension between the two guides and the guest disappeared with the fact that Tarek likes tapioca and they found a common Instagram topic.
・Name: The Alley Lujiaoxiang Ebisu
・Address: 1-5-2 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
・Phone number: 03-6459-3524
Trying Japanese Sweets and Taiyaki
Next, they wanted to try some Japanese sweets! They decided on “Taiyaki Hiiragi” near the Tapioca store. I wonder if you can find Taiyaki only in Japan or are there shops that sell it overseas as well?
Tarek: “Is this Taiyaki?”
Tomoya: “Yes, you know it Tarek?”
Tarek: “I have eaten it only once in the US. In many cases, Japanese food isn’t really delicious outside of Japan, so I’m looking forward to trying it here.”
Tomoya: “The outside is delicious, it’s crispy outside and overwhelmingly soft inside.”
Akko: “I hope you like it ~”
Tarek: “You two are very good at English, have you ever been abroad?”
Akko: “I was studying abroad in the US for a year. Look, I took this picture in the US.”
Tarek: “It’s a nice photo. Have you ever been abroad, Tomoya?”
Tomoya: “I like to travel abroad, so I went to various countries. Because I do not have many chances to use English in Japan, I still have language difficulties…. And I’m glad to study English today.”
Tarek: “I’d be glad to help! By the way, take-away is not a take-out, but in English it’s often called take away or to go.”
Akko: “Two with sweet beans, and I’ll take one with ice cream.”
Then, they started talking about Japanese food that you can eat overseas. The two guides were surprised knowing that the maniacal food in Japan is arranged in an international fashion, and that the taste is completely different from Japan.
・Address:1-4-1, Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Ebisu Urban House 1F
・Phone number: 03-3473-7050
3. Relax While Watching the Cherry Blossoms in Ebisu East Park
The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, so the group decided to take a break in the nearby Ebisu East Park and enjoy viewing cherry blossom. Under the pleasant blue sky, they ate their Taiyaki near the playground.
Tarek: “It’s delicious! It tastes totally different from the one I tried in the US. It’s just the right level of sweetness.”
Tomoya: “Great! It’s interesting that the taste is different when you eat abroad. Look, cherry blossoms are now in a very good state.”
Tarek: “Oh yeah! Cherry blossoms in Japan are beautiful.”
Tarek was also very popular with the children who were playing in the park.
Tarek: “You guys also like sweet treats!”
Tomoya and Akko laughing
Tarek: “Wow, they’re strong! I’m so tired now and I’m worried about playing with my child in the future (laughs)”
Japanese children were desperately calling out for Tarek to tell their names as they had much interest in the foreigner. At the time when the children got along and chased Tarek, Akko and Tomoya were having fun as well. Children are adorable everywhere.
・Name:Ebisu East Park
・Address:Ebisu 1-2-16 Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
4. Singing in Karaoke Popular with Tourists
Speaking of Japanese pastime popular among foreigners, it is karaoke! Two Huber guides took Tarek to the Big Echo in Ebisu. This is a place where Akko often comes with her female friends and also brought foreign friends who came to Japan before.
Akko: “Even if I can’t speak English well, music is common all over the world. So, I definitely wanted to bring you here.”
Tomoya: “Indeed, Karaoke is an essential part of Japanese culture!”
Tarek: “I wanted to sing karaoke all the time! Thank you! Akko, pick the first song (laughs)”
Akko: “OK. Let’s sing!”
Akko: (Singing Kathy Perry)
Tarek: Akko, you like English songs! I’ll put in the next song…
Tarek: (Singing Elvis Presley)
Akko: Tarek, you are so good at singing!
Tarek stands up and continues singing.
Tomoya: “The best !!!”
Tarek: “It’s really cool (laughs)”
After all the excitement, the two Huber guides told Tarek that “there is a Japanese song in an English version.” In the end, they put in the last song and enjoyed singing it together. It was interesting to hear and see people from other countries listening to the songs that we are used to listening to, and there were times when all three of us were surprised when we were doing karaoke.
・Name:Karaoke Big Echo Ebisu East Entrance Branch
・Address:1-11-1 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan 5-11F Ebisu Building
５． Visiting Ebisu Shrine in the Middle of the City
This shrine is very familiar to Japanese people. I definitely want you to pay a visit to Ebisu Shrine. As many foreigners with many types of religion, Tarek also said that he is highly interested in local temples and shrines in Japan.
Tomoya: “There is a great number of shrines in Japan. Ebisu Shrine is in the middle of the city and the access is convenient.”
Tarek: “I am interested in the shrines and temples. Thank you for bringing me to a traditional Japanese looking place!”
Akko: “How should I explain this in English …! It’s hard”
Tomoya: “Let’s explain with gestures and words! This is to scoop water …”
Tarek: “Like this? I do it for the first time, but there are some rules, right? Even my foreign friends don’t know how to do it, so your explanation is really helpful!”
(Japanese style praying)
Tarek: “I was exposed to a little bit of Japanese culture. I’m glad.”
The guides felt a little helpless when they heard Tarek’s answer. The reason is that there is no English explanation of the manners when visiting the shrine. It is also valuable to be able to discover unexpected weak points when providing a guide service.
・Address:1-11-1 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Making Macarons at FabCafe Tokyo in Shibuya
After guiding in Ebisu, the three of them moved to Shibuya! We came to a spot where we could make an original macaroon. Two guides who put manufacturing experience in the trip plan wanted Tarek to a obtain good memory of trip in Japan. Tarek was also excited to see the latest technology.
Akko: “First, draw a picture you want to burn on the macaroon with this iPad. Press this button and try drawing”
Tarek: “Wow. You can do this with your iPad. What do you do to erase this?”
Tomoya: “It’s this button”
(The three are busy drawing their illustrations)
Tarek: “I will draw Tomoya.”
Tomoya: “Ahaha. This is me!? It doesn’t look like me! (Lol)”
Tarek: “Yes, it does look like you. What do you think, Akko?”
Akko “Yeah, it looks similar!”
(Printing the images from iPad on macaroons)
Tarek: “Wow! Tomaya is printed.”
Akko: “It’s pretty cute.”
Tarek: “This is a good souvenir.”
Akko: “I also enjoyed it very much.”
Tarek drew very Western-style picture that is easy to understand for people from overseas. This individual experience is helpful to deeply understand each nation and character! It’s also fun to make an original macaroon that is the only one of its kind in the world.
・Address:1-22-7 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Dogensaka Pier 1F
・Official site URL:https://fabcafe.com/tokyo/access
7. Walking Around Shibuya Neighborhood
Before the dinner Tarek and two guides walked around Shibuya. Tomoya and Akko introduced various shops in Shibuya while enjoying conversations and walking around Dogenzaka – the Center Town. Tarek was surprised by the large number of people in Shibuya, and two of the guides talked about Japan and tourism.
Tarek: “Not only can you sightsee in Shibuya, but it’s fun to be able to do creative things like we did with macaroons!”
Tomoya: “It was nice to make memories together, too.”
Akko: “I love the picture that Tarek drew.”
Tarek: “Do you guys come to Shibuya often?”
Akko: “I often come with my friends! I always enjoy shopping and discovering new places in Shibuya.”
Tomoya: “We work at TABIPPO as interns, and there are many Izakayas around. So, we often have drinking parties here.”
Tarek: “Izakaya! I want to go!”
They talked a lot while walking around town, and they heard from Tarek that “there are many Japanese people who he met overseas and they don’t speak as actively as people from other countries”. They realized that even if people make a mistake in English, people needed to have the opportunity to speak more without worrying about it.
8. Enjoying Meat Sushi and Sake at Niku Yokocho
At the end of the day, the guys went to the meat street (Niku Yokocho) in Shibuya. They ordered meat sushi which is the signature dish of the restaurant. The guides were pleased to have made a reservation for Tarek as they saw his excitement when the meat sushi was placed in front of him. A deeper conversation was likely to start.
Akko: “There are three types, so let’s decide which one to eat.”
Tarek: “Nice! Three, two, one…”
Tomoya: “Oh, the two are the same”
Akko: “Let’s do Janken (Rock-Paper-Scissors)!”
Tarek: “You can eat it Akko! Ladies first”
Akko: “Thank you! You’re so kind …”
Tarek: “What is this?”
Tomoya: “It’s a fortune written on a chopstick envelope! You want to see it?”
Akko: “Oh, It’s great luck!”
Tarek: “I’m sooo ~? Somewhat not so good …”
Tarek: “OK. Want to hear a simple English joke? I think it will be good English practice. Unlike Japanese jokes, it has a twist so listen carefully and think about the meaning.”
Tomoya: “What’s that? Interesting”
Tarek: (3 types of actions were shown with the obsessive acting)
Akko: “Oh, I understood the meaning! Ahaha (laughs)”
Tarek: “If you know what it means, you can laugh.”
Tomoya: “Oh! That’s what you mean! (Laughs)”
Tarek: “Thank you very much for today. It was a lot of fun! Let’s meet again, when I come back.”
Akko: ” It was a lot of fun to show you around in English!”
Tomoya: “I would love to see you again if I go to Canada.”
At the end, everybody was able to talk about various things such as the difference in food and even the difference in laughter. All three were said bye with the feeling of satisfaction.
・Name:Shibuya Niku Yokocho Meat Sushi
・Address:13-8 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Chitose Hall 2F
・Phone number: 050-5596-6822
By Guiding, You Will Like Foreign Countries as Well as Japan
The Huber guiding experience of Tomoya and Akko was a success. In the beginning, it was a bit hard to speak English, but everything went well as the trip continued. Tarek also had a different experience from his travels in the other countries.
Akko: “I was nervous at first when I guided the person who I met for the first time. But I was very happy with Tarek, who has a great personality. He enjoyed his time with us more than I expected. Everything went well, and I was very happy. Being able to use English was a big progress, and I would like to try being a guide again!”
Tarek: “On my travel, I only know the places that appear in my guidebook. Also, I was often stressed because I can’t speak Japanese. But today, two locals showed me around and there were a lot of unexpected discoveries. They guided me “like friends.” With the local people I was able to fall in love with Tokyo and I really enjoyed it!”
Tomoya: “When I explained the rules at the shrine, I was upset that English words didn’t come out at once (laughs). But Tarek was very friendly, and I tried to connect the words I knew as I could. Because I was able to communicate with gestures, I enjoyed myself while guiding, and I would like to continue guiding foreigners coming for sightseeing to Japan!”
“TravelersHub Huber” is a service not only enjoyed by foreign tourists but also enjoyable for the guides. Not only can you improve your language skills, and be fonder of foreigners and different cultures, you can also realize the goodness of Japan once again.
Those who want to participate in international exchanges, make use of their studying and traveling abroad experiences, and want to study further from now on, by all means, please try being a guide!
Text by Natsumi Takahashi
Photo by Reiko Kitaura