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Monday, 22nd September 2014
In General Japan News,

Mayor of Kyoto outlines plans for tourism

Known as the former capital - some locals still say the current capital - of Japan, Kyoto already attracts more than its fair share of international visitors. The city's stunning temples, exemplary Shinto shrines and traditional geisha district make for splendid exploration.

But for Daisaku Kadokawa, mayor of Kyoto, it's not enough. Even the city's inclusion in the popular US magazine Travel + Leisure annual Best City listings - where it became the first Japanese city to be included two years ago and has this year conquered the top ranking - has failed to impress him.

Instead of resting on his laurels, the mayor is instead concentrating on creating a more welcoming atmosphere for tourists, with more attractions and an easier environment for them to get around.

"I think these efforts were evaluated for the award,” said Kadokawa, who usually wears a kimono in public. "But this is just the beginning. We need to further develop the charm of Kyoto.

"Rather than only focusing on a narrowly defined tourism industry, we have taken a broad and integrated policy ranging from landscape improvement and urban design to employment and education," he added, pointing to the fact that his policies and efforts have been supported by the locals.

Aspects such as free wi-fi for visitors have proven popular, although the service is limited to sessions of just three hours and users must be within range of one of the 649 hot spots set up at bus stops, subway stations, 7-Eleven shops and public facilities.

Mr Kadokawa has also seen the implementation of a 24-hour multilingual call centre designed exclusively for tourists who choose to stay in Kyoto's ryokan, which are small traditional Japanese hostels that do not generally provide services in other languages. Users can call and receive service in English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish. In addition, the city's official tourism website the Kyoto Travel Guide is now available in eight languages, with plans to expand to 13 by the end of March.

The mayor added that, while ensuring the preservation of Kyoto's natural heritage remains important, it is equally essential to build for the future.

"They are the rare regulations in this country that have enabled us to preserve and improve the traditional landscape of Kyoto," he said. "On the other hand, it may prevent us from inviting more factories and hotels to Kyoto."

The city will continue to target wealthy tourists in an effort to build up the industry as a key one that is integral to Kyoto's future. It is hoped that many more people will want to visit Japan's ancient capital when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics - a viable option since the two metropolises are just three hours apart when travelling by bullet train.

Related news stories:
Kyoto acclaimed as best travel destination (8th July 2014)
Naomi Koshi vows to support Japanese women (24th January 2012)
New drive to save Kyoto's historic narrow homes (8th December 2014)
Kyoto celebrates dual festivals (5th November 2014)
Kyoto celebrates Aoi Festival (23rd May 2014)