Photo: Wikipedia/Uu7

Kanagawa to give foreign tourists free-to-use smartphone

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

While Tokyo undoubtedly deserves a spot on any Japanese travel itinerary, you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you skip Kanagawa Prefecture, the capital’s neighbor to the south. Within Kanagawa you’ll find the temples and Great Buddha statue of the coastal town of Kamakura, plus the stunning Mt. Fuji views and hot springs of onsen resort Hakone. There’s also Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, which boasts not one but two ramen museums, a gorgeous harbor district, and annual Pikachu parades.

And as of February, there’s yet another reason to include Kanagawa in your Japan travel plans. If you’re a visitor from overseas, the prefecture will give you a smartphone to use, free of charge, to help you better enjoy your time there.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Government and telecommunications company Handy are teaming up to provide a total of 300 smartphones, which will be loaned out at five tourist information counters, three in Yokohama (at Yokohama, Sakuragicho, and Shin Yokohama Stations), one in Kamakura, and one in Hakone. The devices’ interface can be set to one of 10 languages, including English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Korean, and French.

While the Sharp-brand phones come preloaded with sightseeing information for Kanagawa, they can also be used to access the internet or make both local and international calls free of charge. Users can check out a phone for up to three days, and are asked to return the device to the same counter from which they borrowed it.


The phone-lending service will launch its test phase in mid-February, and organizers hope to roll out the full service in April. If all goes well, Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa says he’d like to see the service xpanded throughout the prefecture as quickly as possible.

Sources: PR Times, Nihon Keizai Shimbun

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© SoraNews24

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That's really cool of Kanagawa to do that

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Most Hong Kong hotels have been offering this to guests for some years now and it's really really useful.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not a bad idea, but "lending" is not "giving". And I've been involved in government attempts to promote tourism through smartphone apps. Several problems:

The apps are buggy and hard to use. For example, they list restaurants without breaking them down by cuisine. There's no way for a tourist to know what's what without going through each restaurant's Japanese site.

The service is based on "push" information delivery.

They're geared to michi-no-eki use, so it's a roundabout subsidy to the michi-no-eki industrial complex.

They're Android based, and a large share of tourists are more used to iPhone systems.

I hope the government figures out a better way of doing this.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

For one Apple you can have like 3-5 Androids. Please justify buying Apples to be loaned out as freebies.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It also makes it easy to keep track of them while they are here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

a total of 300 smartphones

Don't look a gift horse and all that, but I wonder who or what these phones are intended for. There must be thousands of foreign tourists in Kanagawa on any day. I'd imagine a service that makes the tourists' own phones more useful would be of better value.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


It's a free service provided for you. Don' be such a snob thinking you're entitled to an iPhone. Learn to appreciate things.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's a free service provided for you. Don' be such a snob thinking you're entitled to an iPhone. Learn to appreciate things.

I don't plan on using the service regardless of what platform it's on, so "entitlement" and "appreciation" have nothing to do with my opinions. The target market has everything to do with the service, and the municipalities are not gearing it properly to that market. If they're spending all this money, I want a good return for my taxes in terms of tourism revenues.

And I'm commenting as someone who has actually been involved in one of these programs, unlike someone I know whose handle rhymes with "blat blurson".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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