Tokyo malls gearing up to serve more foreign shoppers

by Mami Maruko

Staff Writer

In the run-up to the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, the Odaiba district in Koto Ward is aiming to cater to the needs of the foreign visitors expected to flood their shopping complexes.

Venus Fort, a shopping center operated by Mori Building Co., where 10 to 15 percent of customers are now foreigners — especially Asians — recently bolstered its staff with people who can speak English, Chinese and Korean.

Venus Fort, which has an interior resembling a 17th- to 18th-century European town, and is close to Haneda Airport, has been strengthening support for foreign tourists since it opened 15 years ago.

Aneby Trim Park, an amusement space for babies, infants and schoolchildren that opened in July on its first floor, now has six staff who can speak English and Chinese on the grounds.

Other shops in the mall plan to offer multilingual services in the future.

Diagonally across from Venus Fort stands the office and shopping complex DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, which has set its sights on providing sufficient services to foreign tourists, especially Chinese.

“Due to an apparent increase of Chinese customers, we have placed about two Chinese staff in popular stores such as Burberry and pharmacy chain Matsumoto Kiyoshi,” said Hiromi Ishida, a public relations officer of Mitsui Fudosan Retail Management Co., the operator of DiverCity, adding that they will continue to place “Chinese staff or staff that can speak Chinese in many more stores in the future.” A lot of its stores also accept the China UnionPay credit card.

And in March next year, Chinese lessons will be given for the first time to all staff, including part-timers. Greetings and simple phrases will be taught so staff can communicate on a basic level.

Since opening in April 2012, DiverCity has printed signs and pamphlets in English, Chinese (both traditional and simplified), and Korean. It is has free Wi-Fi, which visitors from abroad are used to having.