Police are joining nationwide efforts to brush up on their omotenashi (hospitality) as the country experiences a surge in overseas visitors and prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The National Police Agency on Thursday ordered police forces across the country to ensure smooth communication with foreign visitors through means such as placing staff who can adequately respond to them at police stations in popular tourist spots and entertainment districts.
The agency also called on police stations to consider using telephone interpretation services or set up ad hoc police boxes in areas expected to be busy with travelers.
It also called for police to swiftly secure a translator for any non-Japanese speakers that may need to be approached for crime investigations.
Last year, six people in Saitama Prefecture were allegedly killed by a Peruvian man, who lived in Japan but could not speak Japanese fluently.
The Saitama Prefectural Police later said they failed to thoroughly question him on another matter before the murders, possibly because they were not able to quickly communicate with him through an interpreter.
The NPA also encouraged police to more widely use tablet devices equipped with translation functions, as well as provide documents, such as reports on lost and found items or traffic offenses, in English and other languages.
According to the government, the number of foreign visitors to Japan topped 10 million for the first time in 2013 and surged to 19.73 million in 2015.
The record high number of visitors, which is increasing due in part to a weaker yen, came close to the Japanese government’s target of 20 million visitors from overseas by 2020, when the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held.