Akihabara tour guides point way in English, Chinese

by Minoru Matsutani

Visitors to “Electric Town” now have the option of getting information about the area in English and Chinese through a tourism office that opened Monday inside the Tokyo Anime Center in Akihabara, Tokyo.

The office, which will be open until Aug. 20, the peak period for the center, has seen a rapid increase the number of foreign visitors. Two guides will be at the center’s reception counter from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The animation information center in the UDX building near JR Akihabara Station opened March 2006, and had 52,441 visitors from July 21 to Aug. 20 last year, of which 5,240 were foreigners.

From April to June this year, the number of foreign visitors almost tripled, to 6,559 from a year ago.

Cody Martin, 30, an English teacher living in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, took his friend, Jeremy Elkourie, 27, a tourist from Alabama, to the “anime” (animation) center shortly after 11 a.m. Monday.

“I brought him here because we are both anime fans,” said Martin, who had never been to Akihabara before. Elkourie, who likes the Macros Frontier and Gundam anime robot characters, said he is “glad to find a place like this to show us where to go.”

The two guides are Jane Fong, a Singaporean woman who speaks English and Chinese, and a Chinese-speaking Shanghai native who goes by the nickname Cherry Drop.

Fong is the CEO of GI Jane Inc., an Akihabara comprehensive information company that designed the plan to set up the multilingual tourism office, and Cherry Drop is a GI Jane staffer. Both speak fluent Japanese.