Tokyu Corp. taps foreign students to help make Shibuya more tourist-friendly

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Railway operator and real estate developer Tokyu Corp. has kicked off a nightly seminar during which some of its employees will live with foreign exchange students for two weeks, and discuss how to make Shibuya “the world’s most fascinating tourist spot.”

Organized in conjunction with Globis University of Japan’s Graduate School of Management, the event kicked off Sunday at a hotel in Chiyoda Ward, where the participants will reside. The seminars will be held in English, and will continue through Aug. 30.

Eight Tokyu employees and 16 exchange students slated to enroll from September in the university’s Master of Business Administration program will be divided into five groups, and will discuss ways to make Shibuya a more foreigner-friendly and better tourist destination. At the end of the 14-day seminar, each group will make a presentation. Tokyu will consider the plans put forward and will incorporate the best and brightest ideas into its future plans.

Participating exchange students are mostly in their early 30s, and hail from countries such as the United States, Thailand, Egypt, Iran and Vietnam. Most have no experience studying or living in Japan.

“We expect to hear some brutally honest opinions from those students,” said Tokyu spokesman So Morita, noting their opinions are likely to resonate well with tourists to Japan, most of whom are first-timers, too.

So far, it appears students are being as candid as Morita expected them to be.

After taking a casual stroll through Shibuya on the first day, some said there were too many slopes or that they had trouble locating buildings they wanted to visit, Morita said.

The Tokyu Group, which runs the popular Toyoko and Denentoshi lines from Shibuya Station, and owns several hotels in the neighborhood, has beefed up efforts to transform Shibuya into a more attractive tourist destination in recent years.

In response to popular demand, it launched a free Wi-Fi service in department stores and other commercial facilities near Shibuya Station in March. The company also created a Facebook page called “Shibuya Expert” (www.facebook.com/shibuyaexpert) in February designed to communicate a wide gamut of Shibuya-related arts and entertainment information in five languages.