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Monday, 3rd February 2014
In Japan Travel News,

Guidelines on English signage published

New guidelines published by tourism officials in Tokyo have given some insight into how the nation plans to implement English signage to help guide visitors from abroad around its most popular cities and attractions.

Signs entirely in Japanese have been something of a hindrance to many visitors, who often cannot hope to pronounce them phonetically and instead have to rely upon pointing at a map if they require directions.

However, upon receiving the news that Japan's capital will host the next Olympic Games in 2020, the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) immediately announced that it will ensure English signs are implemented in time for the sporting event.

According to the new guidelines published at the end of last week (January 31st), Japanese terms that are widely recognised by foreigners such as 'sushi', 'onsen' and 'samurai' will receive phonetic translation into western characters but nothing further.

However, names of facilities that might be misunderstood will receive full translation, so Hibiya Koen will become Hibiya Park and 'Kinkaku-ji' will be written as 'Kinkaku-ji Temple' to minimise confusion.

Less universally known Japanese words will also undergo a complete transformation, so 'sakagura' will be changed to 'sake brewery' and 'matsuri' will be written as 'festival'.

It has become all the more essential for Japan to be more tourist-friendly, and not just because of the Olympic Bid success.

Last year, the country welcomed ten million foreign holidaymakers through its borders for the first time, with prime minister Shinzo Abe immediately requesting the number be doubled to 20 million as a target to reach.

Those visiting Japan before the new street signs are implemented will be happy to learn that they can always ask their concierge or hostel staff for directions, while there is adequate assistance present at the major train stations. 

Written by Graham McPherson


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English zones to be introduced across Japan (29th August 2014)
Japanese employees offered financial incentive to learn English (15th January 2013)
Japan's escape room experiences now available in English (24th November 2015)