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.”© Japan Today