Japan National Tourism Organization
The Japan National Tourism Organization (国際観光振興機構 Kokusai Kankō Shinkō Kikō), or JNTO, provides information about Japan to promote travel to and in the country. Its headquarters are in Yūrakuchō, Chiyoda, Tokyo. It operates Tourist Information Centers (TICs) as well as a website. The JNTO disseminates information about transportation, lodging, food and beverage, and sight-seeing. It distributes photographs of Japan suitable for computer wallpaper or printing for personal use.
JNTO is an Independent Administrative Institution of the government of Japan. Its publications and website assist in preparing travel itineraries within Japan, providing a wide range of travel information in English and other languages on transportation, accommodations, shopping and events. The materials are updated frequently.
While traveling in Japan, visitors may take advantage of the nationwide "i" Information System, which numbered 113 outlets in 2004. Each "i" center is an information source for the area it represents. The "i" centers are ordinarily located at railway stations or in city centers, and are easily recognized by their logo, a red question mark with the word "information" printed underneath.
JNTO sponsors a Goodwill Guide Program, through which some 47,000 bilingual volunteers assist visitors from abroad. They earn the right to wear the program's identifying badge, a white pigeon superimposed upon a globe. Throughout Japan, there are 77 Systematized Goodwill Guide groups (SGG) consisting mostly of students, housewives and retirees who engage in a variety of activities using their foreign language skills. Some groups offer a free preset walking tour, for which the visitor only needs to go to a pre-established place at a certain date and time, while others are available to meet tourists on request. There is no charge for the service of the Goodwill Guides, as they are volunteers, only their travel expenses and their admissions to tourist facilities, and for shared meals.
Services of professional guides and interpreters may be retained through the Japan Guide Association or the Japan Federation of Licensed Guides. A total of some 1,550 licensed guide-interpreters are registered with these organizations.
JNTO's New York City office manages the Eastern half of the United States, along with the Caribbean and South America. The Los Angeles offices manage the Western half of the US, along with Mexico and Central America. There is also a Toronto office.