Watch out for unlicensed tour guides
Japan supports a "licensed tour guide system," which means the Japanese government requires anyone working as a foreign language-speaking tour guide to pass the national exams and get the national license. If you book a tour in Japan, make sure your tour guide has a license. If she or he doesn't and is going to charge you, it's an Illegal act.
You can consult a local tour guide directly through the "Tour Guide-interpreter Search System" run by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. All of the registered tour guides have passed the national exams, which require extensive knowledge and include a foreign language, an interview in a foreign language, Japanese history, Japanese geography and Japanese general culture. www.guidesearch.jp.
BOLLYWOOD FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS TO HONOLULU ACADEMY OF ARTS
The Bollywood Film Festival at the Honolulu Academy of Arts is back with 10 of Mumbai's best, including new releases and premieres from 2009 and 2008. The Academy's web site encourages those who love the "Slumdog Millionaire" movie style, to attend the festival which honors master filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, director of "The Blue Umbrella," "Maqbool" and "Kaminey" (the Doris Duke Theatre screened his film masterpiece "Omkara" in 2008). Along with films that epitomize this film genre — highly stylized family-centric romantic comedies with dazzling dance numbers — there are also films based on Indian epics and novels, as well as a Shakespearean tragedy, Mumbai noir, socially conscious cinema and an indie production.
The third annual Bollywood Film Festival runs through March 2. Today's screening is the 2009 feature "Dil Bole Haddipa," directed by Anurag Singh, in Hindi with English subtitles at 12:30 and 7:30 p.m., at the Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts. 532-8700, www.honoluluacademy.org, tickets available online at www.tix.com.
WEB SITE OFFERS REVIEWS ON LOCAL HOSTELS, TIPS ON ATTRACTIONS
If you have budget travelers coming to the Islands, alert them to Hawaii Hostels Guide, a Web site for people traveling to Hawaii on a budget. The site's main focus is hostels, but they also have information about tours, bars, restaurants, activities and transportation. Each place listed has a photo and description and reviews posted by visitors. You can also add a new place to the site if it is not already posted. The site is also non-commercial, just straightforward information and direct links to the places they list. www.hawaiihostelsguide.com.