International tourist center to open in Tokyo's Marunouchi on Jan 2


Mitsubishi Estate Co Ltd has been commissioned by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) to operate a new Tourist Information Center (TIC) in the center of Tokyo’s Marunouchi district, scheduled to open Jan 2, 2012.

The TIC will be located minutes from Tokyo Station on the first floor of the Shin Tokyo Building, and aims to bolster the global reputation of Marunouchi, the city of Tokyo and Japan, among overseas travelers. Backed by the support of the JNTO, the new TIC in Marunouchi represents a significant contribution to the ever-expanding international district, through increased convenience and the promotion of Marunouchi and Japan to international visitors.

Located adjacent to Tokyo Station and Yurakucho Station, the center offers easy access to over a dozen major shinkansen, subway and train lines, in the close vicinity of popular tourist destinations like the Imperial Palace, the Shin Marunouchi and Marunouchi Buildings. The TIC also faces the famed fashion street, Marunouchi Nakadori Ave, a bustling axis of style and fashion.

The second floor of the TIC, also managed by Mitsubishi Estate, will be renovated and host a variety of activities and events including seminars, workshops and art galleries in conjunction with commercial outlets and local governments in the area, aimed at welcoming overseas visitors. Personal computers with free Internet access and a special library of travel and tourism-related books and resources will also be made available to the public.

Through continued efforts to increase the number of visitors to Japan, Mitsubishi Estate joins national efforts toward creating a more welcoming environment for international travelers, while continuing to develop Marunouchi as an attractive urban center for business, art, culture and history.

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In principle, I support John Decker's suggestions of TICs placed in many locations. In general this exists at most major JR stations. However, when I was last in Japan I used the TIC in Asakusa right near Kaminarimon, I found the staff (which seemed to be retired volunteers) eager to help. However, they had insufficient skills or training to do so. I was three times directed to the Imperial Palace as an important site to visit. I don't have enough Japanese to say I've already seen it. They didn't have enough English. Plus, they couldn't tell me where to catch the Panda Bus--something I wanted to do as a lark--as it was a private company.

In Kyoto, which has an office in the JR Kyoto Train Station, the staff were more knowledgeable. However, it was still difficult to obtain a map of the entire prefecture. It took a young woman 10 minutes of rooting through the cupboards to find one. I had visited in friend in the interior, we had traveled to many cultural heritage sites and to Tore Tore Ichiba in Maizuru by car. I wanted to track my route on the map with my hostess so the I could have a sense of where I had been geographically and show my route to people at home. I was quite surprised that it was such a difficult request. In Canada that's routinely available for purchase or part of promotional material.

Through extremely well-informed about the immediate area, in most TICs there's nothing to be found on where one might want to go next--even within the same city. For example, I could not get any information about the Nezu Museum from the Asakusa location as its resources were limited to Asakusa.

Fortunately, I had done extensive personal research on the internet before traveling, and I could supplement that with free access computers in the lobby of my business hotel. Based on my own research I did find the Nezu museum and other key Tokyo destinations with relative ease. However, I have sometimes stood right in front of my destination in Japan without being able to "see" it. Signage is often very small, sometimes only etched into window glass, entrances are obscured, signs covered with foliage, and easy to miss. It is a particular challenge for travelers to find places that are outside the destination-spots for tourists.

Apps would be ideal if mobiles from abroad were compatible in Japan or in the hinterlands. But with the iPad's arrival on the world stage, my next trip may offer me more resources than ever.

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I think inside Tokyo station is more confusing than the ground above!

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Good point, John Becker. Put it in Tokyo Station. But, since they didn't, let's hope for a lot of signage and direction arrows. Lots of small booths and GPS/G'Maps sounds good, too.

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Here's an idea... instead of putting this office near Tokyo Station, why not put it in Tokyo Station? Anyone can find Tokyo Station. Good luck to a tourist trying to find this office.

Foxie has it right. How about little booths set up at Tokyo Tower, the Sky Tree, Tokyo-Edo Museum, across the street from Kaminari-mon, the Shibuya scramble crossing (that rail car outside the Hachiko exit is perfect for this), the Harajuku bridge into Meiji Jingu, Ueno Station, Shinjuku Station, etc. These places are all easy to find, and that's where the tourists are going to be.

How about a small, one-person information booth at every subway station that connects two or more lines? The number of booths would be manageable and still be enough to cover the city. You don't even need the attendant to speak more than one foreign language, just make sure that brochures are available in a dozen or so different languages.

One last thing - JNTO should be working on GPS and Google Maps enabled iPhone and Android apps to allow visitors to use their (non-Japanese) smart phones to find places and information. This alone would solve most of the problems tourists face when visiting the country.

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Reading manga as an international traveller may land you in jail, judging from the two headlines. Oh, an yeah, like tourists will feel OK coming here with the unending political obfuscations. No trust, no tourism...a shame, really. Could have been Japan's finest shining hour. Now it's just covered in the usual (radioactive) dirt.

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Tokyo needs multi lingual volunteers to also walk around ready to HELP lost tourists! Why can people come all over the world to help Japan after the earthquakes and tsunamis but many Japanese forget that most of the world does not understand the Japanese language, time for Japan to get on the ball and Foxie with Korea that also sounds like a good idea for Tokyo too.

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Agree with Foxie -wonder how many tourists will find this ...this sounds like a little pet project to spend some budget money and maybe have a couple of nice back office amakudari positions in there

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Nobody will ever find this. I constantly get lost in that area. They should put up little booths all over Tokyo like in Seoul. That would help a lot more.

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Another expensive office to hand out brochures... Tourism to Japan will not increase until JNTO learns how to communicate with the world.

We have 34,000 members who all love Japan - many would like to visit here more.. but JNTO doesn't even return emails.

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