Osaka's jogging guide: saving lost tourists as a daily exercise
The other day, on my way out of a temple, I was stopped by a man in Lycra.
For a second, I thought I was about to be coerced into a new life of cycling and tight shorts. Luckily that wasn't the case. I don't need to start prepping for a Tour de France (a Tour de Osaka?) just yet.
I'd just met the Free Osaka Jogging Guide.
Yoshimi-san is a volunteer tour guide with a difference. He doesn't wait for groups of tourists to come to him. You can arrange to see the many sights of Osaka with Yoshimi-san, but he's more likely to find you first.
On his regular jogs around central and south Osaka, if he sees someone looking lost or confused he'll stop and try to help them. And that means anyone - even out-of-towners. Explaining the mysteries of Tsutenkaku to day-trippers from Tokyo is all in his stride.
Yoshimi-san's regular haunts include the Tennoji, Abeno, Shinsekai and Nipponbashi areas of central Osaka. From his frequent Facebook updates, you can sense his particular love of the panoramic view from the toilets in Abeno Harukas. I'd never have thought of that as a 'must see'...
We met at Osaka Tenmangu shrine, after the Autumn Thinking Festival. I didn't look lost at the time, but he noticed my 'not-Japanese-ness' (read: my light hair and vampire skin) and was curious how I'd found out about the festival.
Long-time followers of my blog and Twitter account will know jogging isn't my thing. I don't run unless it's in the general direction of food. Even so, I was intrigued by Yoshimi-san's unusual approach to being a tour guide.
Here is a man who literally goes out of his way to help visitors. Actively seeking out those who need him, by taking to the streets they're most likely to be on. And then leading them to the place they're actually looking for. Regardless of how far away that is, or how long it takes to get them there.
And Yoshimi-san's English is great - not just clear, but always positive and upbeat. Take the back of his business card as an example:
"We can do it. I'm happy if you are happy. I wish that you continue having a great day. See you around."
Maybe I will!