Tokyo plans foreigner friendly signs

Tokyo plans foreigner friendly signs
A file photo of street signs in Tokyo.

TOKYO - In preparation for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, Japan has started to change street signs in tourist spots and other areas from romanised Japanese to English to make them easier for foreigners to understand.

For example, "Kokkai" has been changed to "The National Diet". "Zaimusho" will become "Min. of Finance".

"'Tocho' is a useless word because foreigners have no idea what it means," Ms Erica Fultz, a 27-year-old English teacher, said in Japanese. "It took four months for me to understand what '-mae' means."

Ms Fultz, from the United States, came to Japan four years ago. She said she felt confused every time she saw street signs in romaji letters.

Strange street signs are everywhere in Tokyo.

For example, around the Tokyo metropolitan government office, two kinds of signs - "Tocho" and "Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office" - can be seen. For "Shinjukuchuokoen", some street signs use "park" for koen but others write "koen".

Further examples of signs to be changed include Kaminarimon, a tourist spot in front of Sensoji temple in Tokyo, which will be re-written as "Kaminarimon Gate" - "mon" means gate in Japanese.

However, Toranomon, a business district, will continue to be written as "Toranomon", as there is no gate there.

"Because the maps and booklets foreign travellers have are written in English , they can't understand those street signs at all," Ms Fultz said.

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