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MEETING THE JAPANESE
Overseas visitors will find the Japanese courteous and helpful. However, many Japanese are shy when it comes to talking to strangers, especially in English. Exceptions are Japanese-style pubs, where the convivial atmosphere sometimes lubricates conversations, and other places where the Japanese go to play, such as inexpensive minshuku (the Japanese equivalent of the bed-and-breakfast) and resort areas. Children on school excursions sometimes approach foreigners asking whether they can practice their English.
Another way to meet the Japanese is through the country's Goodwill Guide system, volunteer bilingual guides comprised mostly of students, housewives, and retirees, who are willing to use their language skills to assist overseas visitors free of charge. There are some 80 Goodwill Guide groups in Japan, with members who offer overseas tourists free local tours in English and other languages. Some have pre-set walking tours, while others are willing to meet tourists' special requests. While there's no charge for the service, tourists are expected to pay for the guide's transportation, admission to tourist facilities, and, if applicable, meals. [More info:http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/guideservice.html#volunteer for a list of city Goodwill Guide groups]