There are many secrets Japan has, and the city of Sendai is no different. Anyone will tell you that the best way to learn about a city is by befriending one of its locals. And to meet a local that can share the city in English is a real treat. While there are over a dozen goodwill guide services available in and around Sendai, GOZAIN is the only service, with the exception of some goodwill ambassadors in Matsushima, that can show you around Tohoku's largest city in English for free.
The GOZAIN Sendai Volunteer English Interpreter and Tour Guide Group welcomes visitors to Sendai and Miyagi and takes great joy in introducing the city and its surroundings. "GOZAIN" means "You are welcome to visit us" in Miyagi dialect. Naturally, the group makes it very easy to visit and can recommend many spots around the city no matter what your interest. Most popular are downtown walking tours, a trip to the city's most famous shrine, Osaki Hachimangu, Matsushima, or since March 2011, tsunami-hit areas to learn about what happened and recovery efforts. If you do not have a set itinerary, the group can suggest one. Tours must be done by walking or using public transportation. If your group is traveling by a licensed bus company on a non-profit study or exchange event, GOZAIN members can become bus guides and group escorts.
GOZAIN is continually improving their skills and knowledge. To connect better with possible users of the group's services GOZAIN hosts cultural exchanges twice a month with foreign members in the community, often at the Sendai International Center. They also can often be seen volunteering their interpretation skills at conferences and seminars. They work with other guide and international groups to make sure they can provide the best service with the most up to date information available. Meanwhile, they hold research trips to various locations and monthly English meetings to allow its members to advance their knowledge. Several members are so knowledgable you would guess they are professionally certified guides--and a few members have passed such a test to improve their own skills. All are able to offer a local Sendai perspective. I have received their services personally. I was so impressed I became a member.
To request a tour guide for yourself or your group, please see the website contact page and send an email or call. While guiding services are free, you will pay transportation and admission costs for the guide. Requests should be made at least a week in advance if you have a set itinerary, or a month in advance if you need some help planning your trip. Don't just visit, but also learn about Sendai with GOZAIN.