Shining a light on the unique discoveries and ingenuity of foreigners.
Hiroko Kono reports: More and more regions in Japan are using the talents of foreign residents to invigorate tourism. Consideration of the success stories brings three key phrases to mind: “easy-to-understand English translations,” “story lines” and “casual Japan.” Here, we shine a light on the unique discoveries and ingenuity of foreigners.
Foreign helpers have suggested making English translations easier to understand and more uniform.
American Roger Smith, 37, started working at the town of Matsushima’s industry and tourism department in Miyagi Prefecture three years ago, as a coordinator for international relations as part of the Japanese government’s Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. He was concerned that there was great variation in the English translations of job titles and departments at the town office. Some said “Matsushima Town,” others “Town of Matsushima.” Smith proposed that the translations be made uniform.
Tourism Section Chief Aya Sato noticed that “even in the official translations of place names, for example, the word ‘mountain’ could be pronounced ‘yama,’ ‘san,’ or ‘zan.’ This must be a barrier for foreigners and can leave them feeling lost.” Sato asked Smith to unify the English titles on the tourism information board.
For example, the Kanrantei is a teahouse that looks out over Matsushima Bay. Its translation was amended to Kanrantei Tea House. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a 16th-century samurai warlord, gave Kanrantei Tea House to regional leader Date Masamune as a gift. It was dismantled, transported from Kyoto, rebuilt in Edo, and then rebuilt again in Matsushima. Now, you can go there and gaze out over the sea as you drink tea.
In Wakayama Prefecture, a Canadian employee of the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau, Brad Towle, 42, unified the English signage for the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine, as there were previously 19 different translations.
Drawing story lines
Drama and a story line are vital for promoting cultural assets.
David Atkinson, 52, originally from Britain and now chief executive officer of Konishi Decorative Arts and Crafts, said that cultural assets ought to be used to attract tourists from overseas. In May last year, Nijo Castle, which is owned and managed by the Kyoto city government, brought Atkinson on as a special consultant. He revamped the castle’s explanatory panels and pamphlets. Previously, the use of water and fire at the site was prohibited, meaning there could be no flower arrangements and tea could not be provided during events. However, these restrictions have been reexamined.
At an event in autumn last year, national treasure Ninomaru Palace became the stage for a reenactment of the Imperial visit of Emperor Gomizunoo. The headmaster of the Ikenobo school of flower arranging also created rikka flower arrangements on-site.
Atkinson looked back on the event, saying: “An ancestor of the head of the Ikenobo school arranged flowers here. Seeing a descendant reenact that before your eyes gives you a sense of romance and of a culture that lives on 400 years later.”
Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima is known to Japanese people through the folk song that begins with the lyrics “Matsushima no …” Smith completely overhauled the temple’s English pamphlet. He simplified an explanation of the temple’s origins. He wrote about how Matsushima Bay was thought to be close to heaven when the temple was founded. He explained that Date Masamune rebuilt the temple to make it also function as a castle. Smith said, “We added information about what kind of people had built the temple and what they were thinking, to appeal to foreigners who may not know about Buddhist sects or the historical background.”
Interest in the everyday lives of Japanese people has grown … (read more)
via The Japan News