Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Japan and world tourism

I was listening to the NHK radio news this morning, and there was a segment on the low numbers of international tourists visiting the country and the new push promote Japan as a tourist destination. I was curious about what kind of numbers there actually are, and was shocked to find that Japan isn't even in the top 25 travel destinations, according to the World Tourism Association. I mean name 25 other countries that you would like to visit. I would be hard pressed.

Here's a list of the top 25:
France Spain United States China Italy United Kingdom Mexico Turkey Germany Russian Federation Austria Canada Malaysia Ukraine Poland Hong Kong (China) Greece Hungary Thailand Portugal Netherlands Saudi Arabia Macao (China) Croatia Egypt

One of the frustrations that I have a tourist here is that the Japanese is really difficult, and the English explanations are very few. For example if you go to a museum, you may see a sword with the word sword written next to it in English. Then in Japanese there is a two paragraph explanation of the thing. I know it's a sword. The English helps me not one bit, but if I could understand the two paragraphs, I would be very happy. Now, you might say, "Well why don't you know that Japanese?" It's not just the words, it's the historical context, but it's also that the words are special ones that I don't come across in my usual life.

A fine example of this is the Visit Japan Campaign web site. On the Japanese buttons, you can navigate to 5 different places. On the English buttons, you can go to two. One being the contact details and directions to the office. The welcome message is written in six different languages, but on the menu there are only two. Can't they imagine that someone would want to use their information in other languages?

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