National

Japan's tourism boom drives growth in multilingual visitor info sites

by Anna Masui

Kyodo

Foreign visitors to Japan looking to find out about tourist attractions and places to eat are able to access information from a growing array of multilingual apps and websites available on smartphones and computer terminals at hotels.

Japan-based sites in English and other languages are likely to grow further in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, with businesses in regional areas hoping they can help shore up their economies.

The government is aiming for 40 million foreign visitors annually by 2020, a significant increase over the record 24 million logged in 2016.

One of the popular sites is Matcha, a free web magazine covering Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa, mainly for individual visitors. The site uses 10 languages, including English, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Indonesian, as well as Japanese.

In addition to landmarks, food, festivals and other events, Matcha also offers information about activities such as ninja training in Mie Prefecture and baking Japanese rice crackers in Niigata Prefecture, with photos.

According to its operator, the Tokyo-based Matcha Inc., traffic has increased since its launch in 2014, with more than 1.5 million users from 244 countries and regions accessing the site every month.

“We will keep providing attractive information on various areas all over Japan to the world so that we can help revitalize regional economies,” a Matcha official said.

Halal Gourmet Japan has gained a good reputation among the growing number of Muslim visitors seeking information about the roughly 800 restaurants across Japan offering halal dishes prepared according to Islamic law.

Vegetarians can also easily find their favorite restaurants by navigating through the website.

The site provides information in Japanese and English, as well as some in Arabic.

Its Tokyo-based operator, Halal Media Japan Co., has also created maps showing similar Muslim-friendly information in English, in collaboration with the capital’s Taito ward government and other local municipalities.

The company has installed terminals with a special keyboard and a touch panel to be used exclusively for the portal service in hotels, allowing lodgers to search for places to eat near their hotels, without the help of hotel employees, in four languages — Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.

According to the company based in Nagano Prefecture, more than 300 hotels across the country are currently using the service. Since the beginning of this year, the company has offered a dedicated app for restaurants to show their menus in 11 languages.