Students help foreign tourists in Akihabara

The ABC badge which designates English speakers in Akihabara

A group of Japanese students has started helping foreign tourists in Akihabara find English-speaking shops to make the district more “foreigner-friendly,” the Sankei newspaper (Jan 26) reports. The paper quotes one member of the group as saying, “We would like to change the somber atmosphere in the area since the stabbing rampage last year.”

The student group - “Akihabara Bridge Campaign (ABC)” - is organized by art students of Digital Hollywood University whose campus is located in Akihabara, according to the paper. The group is trying to make Akihabara more accessible to English speakers by requesting that employees at various shops and cafes (including the famous maid cafes) wear an ABC badge to show that they can speak English.

Naoki Mori, 20, who launched the campaign, says, “When we were surveying the image of Akihabara, some people suggested that it would be useful if English could be used more in Akihabara. There are English maps of Akihabara, but direct communication would make the area more welcome to foreigners.”

The campaign started on Dec 12, and 17 establishments are currently taking part in it, according to the paper. A spokesperson for retailer Laox says, “We do have English-speaking employees for foreign customers, but the ABC badge is helpful to make it clear who can speak English.”

On an Akihabara-related website for foreigners, foreign tourists have posted positive messages about the campaign, the paper said.

The student members of the group also wear the badge and are making a public appeal for more participants in the campaign. Gunji Togami, secretary general of the Akihabara Shopping District Promotion Cooperative, told the paper: “Akihabara has been hard hit not only by last year’s stabbing rampage but also by the global economic downturn and strong yen, all of which has resulted in a decrease in the number of foreign tourists. I’m glad that the students are making an effort to help Akihabara.”

  • 0

    wanderlust

    Tobu Department Store in Ikebukuro proudly ran a similar campaign around 15 years ago, with store girls wearing badges announcing that they could speak English! The problem was, although they could speak English, they could not understand English! It was almost impossible to get an answer out of them!

    Still, it was a nice try...

  • 0

    AlfGarnett

    NIce to hear about someoen trying to help foreginers in Japan for once.

    I reckon these youngsters deserve recognition and should be on the telly for their idea, reather than them talent idiots.

  • 0

    Richard_III

    Do they dress as maids while doing this?

  • 0

    Naruki_Oni

    This sounds like a great idea. Good job, students!

  • 0

    electric2004

    It might be an issue of price, too. In the beginning of the year I tried to find a decent blue-ray and Hard-disk recorder. Only in one shop in Akihabara at a ridiculous high price. Best deal in Ikebukuro, where Labi and Bic-camera are directly near to each other. Finally 29 percent off, while the paper advertisement for Yokohama area (both shops) was 15 percent and Ikebukuro was 20 percent. So the final price was even lower than the lowest offer at kakaku.com

    There was a time not so long ago - approximately 2 or 3 years ago, when it was possible to find good prices at Akihabara. But then there was the big Yodobashi-camera store and the scene has changed.

    Now I regard Akihabara just as a good place to buy toys for my children.

  • 0

    boarder

    I hope this becomes a trend and more areas in Japan become "English Friendly". I also wish each area could have a little booth for English tourist information, kinda of like a koban. but more useful.

  • 0

    Snolygoster

    Where can I get one of these buttons!? =D

  • 0

    dennis0bauer

    so they guide you to the interesting palces? :p

  • 0

    Wakarimasen

    Nope they just speak Engrish. But nice try.

  • 0

    cjapan

    Boarder you can get English information at Vistor Centers in major cities/tourist attractions. In Tokyo, head to Yurakucho and go to the Tourist Information Center (same floor as JNTO HQ which is located on the 10th floor www.jnto.go.jp) In Kyoto, Kyoto station has a great vistor center with loads of information in English. All you got to do is aks when you go to various places. Also for anyone needing guides...there are guides called, Goodwill guides who will be take you around to various sites and all you got to do is pay for their food, transportation, and entry fees. Hope this helps.

  • 0

    gogogo

    Sounds good to me I guess, while I understand this is Japan and people speak Japanese here it should be more adapted over Tokyo so more tourists can roam around the stores and find people that already speak english.

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy

    I wish the TIC had little spots throughout Tokyo, including Akihabara and Kamakura. While they are extremely valuable, they are also in only one place in all of Tokyo. Not too convenient for anywhere outside of Yurakucho/Ginza.

    Perhaps this is a future job slot for the newly unemployed. Seriously. :-D

  • 0

    LostinNagoya

    Nice try, but what else can they do besides pointing you where the escalator is? My guess is that they will do only the basic info no one needs or wants.

  • 0

    ca1ic0cat

    I always liked fumbling around in Japanese in Akihabara. Of course when you are looking for a Nintendo "Game Boy" things can get really confusing...

  • 0

    RonScottJr

    I have to agree, this is a good idea, & should help out the area some more. But I also have to agree about the amount of english that will be spoken. I will assume that it is just basic stuff, I'm sure they will not be able to have full conversations with you. However I could be wrong... I do hope more areas/cities will get onto this idea.

    -(^_^)-

  • 0

    space_monkey

    Cynic: they just want to practice English for free as opposed to pay.
    They are just going to annoy tourists with stupid questions like:

    Do you like Natto? Whats your favorite Japanese food? Do you like Japan? How old are you? Whats your hobby? Can you use chopsticks? Do you like sports? Are you married?

    And giggle at the answers.

  • 0

    jonnyboy

    @space_monkey, i prey that you're wrong but fear you may be right

  • 0

    Muki_Muki

    I had a good time last year walking around Akihabara. But, I didn't wander too far from the train station for fear of getting lost. If there were students on the street wearing badges, I probably would have stayed longer and looked around some more.

  • 0

    loltehinterwebs

    I thought that hilarious "company:" called "OK English" has already taken care of the problem. lol!

  • 0

    Jeff198524

    This is just coddleing people who are too lazy to learn Japanese.

  • 0

    ichinensei

    Yep, I agree with some posters here. I wouldnt want Japan to be suddenly all English speaking. It would be boring. This April I am going to a ryokan that does not have a English website - i'm assuming they dont speak English. I got a friend of mine to book it for me. I look forward to my Lost in Translation moments. In my previous 6 visits, I've never had problems with getting around all over Japan. And yes, there are guides everywhere you go. Even Tokyo has a famous one called Tokyo Free Guide. I think these students are doing it to practice their English. Regardless of what their motives are, I still think it's good for those who need them.

  • 0

    nipandtuck

    Great - they could start by putting the JR map at the station in Japanese AND English

  • 0

    eresay

    Yeah you're right Jeff198524. Those people coming to Japan for just a one-week holiday should take Japanese lessons until they are reasonably fluent before coming.

    Very intelligent post.

  • 0

    whitepocky

    Good lord. With all the money and time thrown at ESL in this country, it's amazing that a minority of students have to advertise the fact, with some puny badge, that they CAN speak Engrish. Though I think the badge should read: I rabu Engrish, purisu supiku surori!!

  • 0

    bebert

    Not a big deal if they are doing it with the ulterior motive of practicing their English. It helps the tourists, improves the kids' English and encourages dialogue. I thought there was a service in Tokyo where tourists could even schedule an afternoon to sightsee with a volunteer native speaker, with the same trade-off benefit.

  • 0

    DeepAir65

    Most department stores in Shinjuku advertise translators in English, Korea, Chinese etc...

    There is also a group called http://englishok.jp/ which have stickers in establisments where English is OK - does not help a majority of the tourists though...

    Give them 10 out of 10 for trying

  • 0

    Muki_Muki

    People who go to Paris don't bother to learn French. Nor, do they learn Italian to go to Rome. Calling people lazy for not learning the language is stupid. Besides, everyone in Japan took English in the 7th and 8th grade. Hearing people who use the language shouldn't come as such a BIG shock,

  • 0

    ca1ic0cat

    If you can't learn enough kanji to get around a train station you really should go home...

    Half the fun of Japan is getting lost and then stumbling through the Japanese enough to get un-lost. Found a few great things to do that even the guys in the office didn't know about. But to each his own, I guess. You may laugh, but maybe some day I'll be fluent!

  • 0

    NeoJamal

    So pointless

    Most foreigners that need Engrish assistance are broke-arse window shopping tourists (who think Toyoko-Inn is a rip-off and stayed 3 nights at some Capsule institution) who by any luck might purchase a cheap digitial camera. On the otherhand Weaboos who like to hoard otaku-ware usually have some command of conversational Japanese (courtesy of anime) that is better than Engrish spoken by the least incompetant of those students or store attendants.

  • 0

    kagunlapell

    it can be helpful for tourists who can speak English. Being from a country with tones of English tourists who can't speak anything but it's mother tongue, and sometimes with lots of difficulties due to the large number of pints in their bellies, I can reckon that they will be very happy to listen to this news, and keep traveling around the globe with the idea the rest of us have to master their gibbering.

  • 0

    notimpressed

    Its a good idea and those who naysay it are just haters. If you are in japan for a long enough stretch I'm sure you could and should learn some Japanese, but people on a company exchange may not have that sort of time, and tourists almost never speak the language of the countries they visit. Seeing as English is currently lingua franca in this world, actually being able to use it is beneficial for businesses anywhere in the world. Japans record at english failure, compared to other Asian nations just goes to show that the " learn japanese or dont come here/ go home" attitude is rubbish. Its about making an effort to make the place accessable to more people, as well as more welcoming, not just for the people who think they are special because they are obsesed with japan and its language and culture. SOme of us do speak japanese and do not lord it over those who dont. We also have the talent of empathy, where we can see that some peope will struggle,especially when they first get here. This is a good idea, and will hopefuly prevent those store clerks who can speak english from lying, and saying that they can't. ITs a usuable and valuable skill in the world today, and this, I repeat, is a good idea, weather it works or not. Too many people with tickets on themselves, who shout down anything positive, and whine about all the negative things, whose cup will always be all empty with an attitude like that. Good on the students, we should always encourage young people to take initiative and try new ideas. If even a little good comes of it, then its worth it. More power to them.

  • 0

    Squally

    Wow get off your high horse people! Sure if you're going to live in japan you should learn the language. But this is more for tourist and hopefully can be very helpful.

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