June 12, 13 | Takako Chiba
"Taxi Driver Meiko Hamada" - Creating wonderful Hokkaido memories for tourists to take back home!
Hokkaido is a huge place, which makes sightseeing a bit difficult. Helping solve this problem is a driver who specializes in sightseeing tours. Today I'd like to introduce Ms. Meiko Hamada (or "Hama-chan") from "Chidori Higher" in Kamikawa-gun's Higashikagura Town. This multi-talented driver also has a column in the Hokkaido Newspaper, as well as many published essays.
Ms. Hamada worked for many years at a hot spring resort. In a way she began her tour guide services there, working in a variety of hospitality positions including room service, the restaurant, the shops, and more. After some time she was asked by the Kamikawa driving company if she would like to become a tour-guide-driver, and for the past 20 years that's what she has done.
Ms. Hamada explained, "To become a driver at Higher I had to obtain two special licenses. At the time my family was opposed to the idea, but I thought the skills I had learned up to that point would serve me well in the position so I studied hard, passed both license tests, and took the job."
"But just getting the certifications wasn't enough. I had obtained the skills I needed for the driving part of the job, but the sightseeing part required knowledge of locations all over Hokkaido. There was a mountain of information I had to learn in order to be able to educate my customers on their desired location. I spent many days traveling and studying. On my days off I would go out driving, remember roads, which sights were where, what shops were in each area, tons of information. Even though there was work to do back at home, my husband, who was originally opposed to the idea, would come with me on the trips and give me support.
Hama-chan's personality is the reason she's so popular. She has a very bright demeanor, always a smile on her face and something to add to a conversation. She's the kind of person that seems like an old friend from the moment you meet. She's especially good at girl talk! "I mean, silence in the car would be a bit scary, don't you think?"
▲"I get cards and photographs from my customers all the time!" says Ms. Hamada.
In order to best serve her customers she has obtained a 2nd class "helper" license as well as the master Hokkaido Tour Guide qualification.
She is truly a master of hospitality and is dedicated to creating lasting memories for all of her passengers. She wants each and every one to leave loving Hokkaido even more than when they first arrived, and with a desire to return as soon as possible.
Ms. Hamada's base of operations is Higashikagura Town in Kamikawa-gun, but she often picks up passengers at the nearby Asahikawa Airport and drives them across the island to wherever they want to go. Perhaps the only place in Hokkaido she hasn't been is Okushiri Island, which is understandable considering it lies offshore.
In the coming summer season I suggest you start your trip in Ueno Farm, then visit the gardens in Furano, the Tokachi Millennium Forest, and other places of natural beauty. "I love Ueno Farm. I have a passion for flowers and that's where I buy my seedlings!" explains Hama-chan, showing why her tours are so much better than a guidebook.
We've introduced Ueno Farm on Hokkaido Likers before.
You can find the article here→ http://post.hokkaidolikers.com/en/detail/381
We've also introduced the Tokachi Millennium Forest.
Here is that article→ http://post.hokkaidolikers.com/en/detail/17
▲On the day of our interview there was bad weather, although you'd never know it from this smiling face!
"I always book my tours in advance, giving myself a chance to prepare for the journey. Right now you can use the website to reserve tours, and soon you can use the Facebook page as well; I'm learning how to use a tablet computer now. (laughs) For me being able to provide a unique tour is paramount, so I have to be sure to study up!" explained the always positive Hama-chan. If you decide to come to Hokkaido, and you speak a bit of Japanese, there is no doubt that a tour with Ms. Hamada will be a wonderful experience, so be sure to check out the details below!
■Meiko Hamada's Homepage
■千鳥ハイヤー株式会社 (Chidori Higher Inc.)
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
Photographs provided by 諏訪写真事務所.