Students offer practical ideas to boost tourism

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Creating a credit-card friendly market, providing round-the-clock public transportation and supporting travelers in multiple languages would go a long way toward increasing overseas visitors to Japan, international students advised the tourism ministry Wednesday.

Speaking at the ministry’s first roundtable meeting of its kind, 12 students from eight countries presented their ideas to administration officials and top bureaucrats on how to improve Japan’s strategy to boost tourism.

“Japan can do more to promote its culture,” Charles Lau, 24, who studies at University of Tokyo, said in his presentation.

The engineering student from Malaysia pointed out that Japan has more to offer than the standard stops in Kyoto or Nara, and that his recent visit to Oze National Park on the Gunma-Fukushima border was just as inspiring.

But Lau said he has experienced some issues since arriving in Tokyo in April 2012, including not always being able to use credit cards while traveling around the country.

Meanwhile, In Seunghwan, 30, from South Korea, proposed that public transportation be available 24 hours a day in Tokyo, which is particularly important because the city has a lot to offer at night.

“I want to visit Roppongi and Ginza at night,” said In, who studies urban environmental sciences in Tokyo Metropolitan University’s graduate school.

Having been in Japan almost three years, he feels that trains and subways shutting down soon after midnight has limited his time out in the city.

Daniel Pedrazzoli, 28, from Ecuador, meanwhile suggested that Tokyo embrace foreign visitors from different corners of the world. The chemistry student at the University of Tokyo suggested multilingual public signs should include Spanish in addition to English, Chinese and Korean.

The event was attended by senior vice tourism minister Yosuke Tsuruho and Shigeto Kubo, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency.

“Please feel free to say negative things about Japan. We will listen to your opinions humbly,” Tsuruho told the students. “We sincerely need your advice, as Japan is in a transitional phase of transforming” its tourism strategy.

Tourist numbers were devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear crisis. But under the Visit Japan campaign, the government is trying to attract 10 million foreign visitors this year, 18 million in 2016 and 25 million in 2020.

This year’s target is likely to be met, recent statistics show, while the 2020 goal is within reach because of the Olympics.

  • Firas Kraïem

    “But Lau said he has experienced some issues since arriving in Tokyo in
    April 2012, including not always being able to use credit cards while
    traveling around the country.”

    Boo hoo hoo… Looks like the engineering student can’t do his homework. It is known that Japan is a cash country, just withdraw 50k at a Japan Post ATM and you’re good for at least a couple days.

  • pereubu77

    I just got back from a 2-week vacation in Kansai and Shikoku with my family and the credit card comment is exactly right and cash is difficult to get — we had to find Citibank ATMs to use our US ATM cards. Other than that, I think Japan is a great tourist destination — safe, easy transportation, no more expensive than the US or western Europe, lots to see and do, honest shopkeepers, etc. etc.

  • Steve Novosel

    The credit card issue has changed a lot over the years – you can use them in most places where you might spend over 1000 yen or so, I think, at least in the big cities. Probably not much incentive for mom-and-pop type places to start accepting cards, though.

  • OnePeice

    Some pretty pathetic ideas here, adding Spanish to street signs? Are you kidding me….. One idea that would help would be a phone line you can use as a translation services for things like taxis or help with subway. Not that its difficult to figure out the Tokyo metro, but I’ve avoided taxi’s due to my limited Japanese. South Korea have a line you can call for free, and its brilliant.

  • http://wordofmouth-a5.tumblr.com/ Word of Mouth 英会話

    Not sure it would increase tourism, but I think making all restaurants/bars/pubs no-smoking would make tourists’ time here much more enjoyable. I’ve seen countless examples where the only negative thing tourists say about Japan is how prevalent smoking is.

    Among modern nations/cities, Japan/Tokyo really is an anachronism when it comes to smoking.