Monday, March 2, 2015

The Tourists of Tokyo

Japan has a slew of international events coming up over the next few years. Celebrations kick-off with the Rugby World Cup in 2019, followed by the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and a possible Women's World Cup in 2023. Things are going to get busy. At some point. Hopefully. Interestingly both Beijing and London actually saw falls in visitors during the time of their respective Olympics as people stayed away to avoid the crush. But let's hope people take the opportunity this time around.

2020 is at the heart of the government's plans to boost national tourism from the current (fairly miserable) 13 million people a year to 20 million by the time of the Games. Compare that to Paris that welcomed ~32 million in 2013 all by itself. Chinese tourism is clearly already increasing, simply walk into any of the major stores and look at the language of the signs behind the counters. But there are many areas to tackle before 2020, language being only one of them. With the decline of the yen in the last two years at least Japan has become more affordable, so that's one off the list.

Wariness of foreigners remains an issue and once out of Tokyo the complete lack of English support becomes another. Charging per person in the regional inns (ryokan) and websites targeted only at Japanese remain additional hindrances. But there is one area which has quietly been reforming itself to be more tourist friendly without people really noticing and that's the local taxi companies. The drivers have all been issued with cheat sheets and I've heard more "please fasten your belt" and "have a nice day" comments in the last six months than the last twenty years. Basic English but English none the less. And they seem to be having fun with it. So, you have a nice day too.

The taxis of Tokyo, and now in English too

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