Keikyu Corp., a major private railway serving the Tokyo area, began trial operations Wednesday for a service in which staff members use tablet computers to translate information for customers in 27 languages.
Employees at the Keikyu Line’s stations in Shinagawa and Haneda Airport International Terminal started answering questions using translation software loaded onto iPads.
It is the first time a railway company has adopted the app, a Keikyu spokesman said.
The service aims to help the increasing number of foreign tourists heading into Tokyo from Haneda airport or staying in the hotels around Shinagawa Station.
The transportation and other sectors are trying to beef up multilingual services ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
The app is called VoiceTra4U, developed by the government-affiliated National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. The railway has given the iPads to station staffers manning an information center and ticket gates.
The app enables travelers and station staffers to communicate between Japanese and such languages as English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Thai and Polish.
Of the 27 languages, questions and answers can be entered by both voice and text in 13, while the others have text and only partial voice capability, the Keikyu spokesman said.
Since Haneda airport opened a new passenger terminal for international flights in 2010, Keikyu has put up signs and information boards at stations not only in Japanese and English but also Chinese and Korean. The train operator also started providing multilingual concierge services at its tourist information center.
“We will continue to improve services for foreign tourists,” the company said in a statement.