TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Local governments in Japan are increasingly introducing speech translation systems in response to a rise in the number of foreign residents and visitors.
The need for services in foreign languages other than English are growing, but many prefectural and municipal governments face difficulties securing personnel capable of the task.
In April 2017, the Tokyo metropolitan government introduced five megaphones with speech translators for use in disaster responses and security checks.
Named “Megahonyaku,” from the words megaphone and honyaku, which means translation in Japanese, the device developed by Panasonic Corp. can play English, Chinese and Korean translations of preregistered words spoken into it.
Two of the devices are being used in the baggage check area near the elevators to the observatory of the metropolitan government building. They are used to ask visitors to cooperate with the baggage checks in the three foreign languages, as well as Japanese.
Previously, no foreign-language instructions were available for the checks. “We are now able to fully explain the purpose of the checks” to foreigners, a metropolitan government official said.
“We can communicate instructions from our staff members accurately” through the device so that visitors will act calmly in the event of an emergency, the official added.
The observatory is a popular tourist spot, offering views of Tokyo from 202 meters above ground level. More than 2 million people visit the observatory a year, and foreigners are believed to account for about 80 percent of the total.
The device is also being used in several Tokyo wards, as well as during large-scale disaster drills conducted by the prefectural government of Shiga.
“Retail stores will become more convenient if cash registers are equipped with translation functions,” an official of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said of the growing use of multilingual speech translation systems.