The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to establish a multilingual call center in fiscal 2015 to enable Japanese tourism businesses to provide interpretation in English, Chinese and Korean to prepare for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
“The plan is part of an effort to remove language barriers so foreign tourists can stay and travel without trouble,” an official in the metropolitan government said Thursday. “The service will be introduced largely to prepare for the 2020 Olympic Games.”
The service, which will be outsourced, is expected to be free to use by hotels, restaurants and cab drivers, the official said. It allows employees to contact interpreters 24 hours a day for help in the three languages.
The metropolitan government plans to set aside ¥10 million in the budget for fiscal 2015, which begins April 1, and start the service within the year, the official said.
A similar call center in Kyoto got off the ground in September 2011 to offer interpretation in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.
Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe has pledged to hold “the best ever” Olympics and Paralympics and the city is accelerating efforts to remove language barriers. It aims to round up 35,000 supporters to provide language assistance by 2020, according to a long-term vision it announced last month.
The plan says that all public buses run by the metro government will be equipped with multilingual information displays by the end of fiscal 2016 and that all street signs on roads it manages should be rendered in both English and Japanese by 2020.
It also said the Tokyo will set up around 100 digital sign boards in 10 popular areas, such as Shinjuku, Ginza, Asakusa and Odaiba, and in areas around the Olympic event venues by the end of fiscal 2019.
The boards will provide travelers with sightseeing and transportation information in multiple languages, according to the Tokyo metro government.
The metropolitan government set a target of bringing 15 million foreign tourists to the capital in 2020 in its long-term vision, more than twice the record high of 6.81 million who visited in 2013.