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Articles this fall have suggested that Japan needs to work harder to become one of the top tourist countries. One report said Japan needs to focus on language and “consider how to present itself” to reach the top. I agree, but I still believe that Japan’s tourism agency is progressing.

The Japanese certainly need to improve their English speaking skills. I think the people who need to polish their English the most are the staffs and workers at train stations. The train is the main transportation mode in Japan and tourists can’t go anywhere without understanding the system. It is important to train these workers to speak English and always be ready to answer questions in English. If all workers at the train stations were able to speak English, more tourists would feel comfortable traveling in Japan.

Although Japan still ranks low on the tourism scale, the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) has put forth a lot of effort in promoting Japan as a visitor’s destination. I have visited the JNTO Web site and think it is much better than French Web sites for tourists. It has amazing pictures and is easy to use. Moreover, it has been translated into seven languages — from Arabic to English.

JNTO visits foreign countries to encourage intercultural exchange. For example, when I went to Taiwan, I saw a flag reading “Yokoso! Japan” in an area of a department store where Taiwanese were being shown how to fold origami.

Strengthening the ability to use foreign languages in Japan is important. And if the tourism agency continues its efforts, the number of tourists will grow gradually.

kayo hayashi

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