Upon arriving at Nara station, we were offered a ‘free tour’ by a member of the local Goodwill Foundation.

I was immediately suspicious:
My dad has this saying – there are no free lunches.
I immediately wanted to know what the catch was.
Shit ain’t free.

But, our tour guide – Emiko; who is a retired tour guide – reassured us that this tour was entirely free. And she didn’t disappoint, spending the next 6hours taking us around Japan’s first capital, patiently letting us feed the deer and take photos.
(we bought her lunch because we felt terrible!!)

I was incredibly impressed by Emiko’s story – volunteering to be a Goodwill tour guide in her retirement as a way to remain fit, healthy and engaged with wider society.

This was something that seemed incredibly prevalent in Japanese society – the older generations seemed to remain in some form of employment – something I find both admirable and necessary.

Growing up in Singapore, I saw a lot of elderly people retire and waste away, remaining indoors and watching tv for hours on end.

However, as you get older, maintaining some forms of physical and mental activity is incredibly important.
My granddad taught me that – he kept reading and walking right to the very end!

And seeing a thriving elderly population, actively engaged in Japanese society, really brought a smile to my face.

It really showed that age is purely a number, and anyone is capable of anything – you just have to be willing to try!


Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.

Get in touch ~
Instagram: @chinkinthearmour


  1. Amusing it still didn’t end up being an entirely free tour, albeit your choice haha. Great story though, a great way to keep the body and mind active.

  2. Ryan, the day you arrived in Nara was the same day my family and I arrived in Kyoto. I’ll post some photos from Kyoto and Tokyo, later in the week. Thanks for sharing.

    Rindge Leaphart

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