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Tokyo Skytree welcomes surge of inbound tourists 7 years after opening

Tokyo Skytree is seen in Tokyo's Sumida Ward, on April 23, 2019. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida)

TOKYO -- Tokyo Skytree in the capital's Sumida Ward marked its seventh anniversary since its opening on May 22. Currently, one in four visitors to the facility other than tourist groups is a foreigner, as inbound tourists have been increasing.

With an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the facility aims to transform itself from a popular tourist attraction into a world-class destination by hiring foreign employees who can speak English and Chinese as well as creating pamphlets in 17 languages.

An employee from China, right, explains the view seen from the observation deck of Tokyo Skytree in English to foreign visitors, in Tokyo's Sumida Ward. (Mainichi)

Skytree has seen an upward trend in the proportion of visitors from abroad. Foreigners only made up 6.8% of visitors in fiscal 2013, when Skytree operator Tobu Tower Skytree Co. began conducting sampling surveys excluding tourists groups. However, 24.4% of some 240,000 visitors were inbound tourists in fiscal 2018.

By country and region, 18.6% were from China, followed by 11.7% from the United States, 9.9% from Taiwan, 6.9% from South Korea and 4.9% from Australia.

While the number of visitors peaked in fiscal 2013 at some 6.19 million, the figure decreased to some 4.27 million in fiscal 2018. Though Skytree has attracted over 35 million visitors since its inauguration, those involved are expecting foreign demand to balance out this downward trend.

Anyone can view leaflets in 17 languages via Skytree's official website. Staff members working at its official shops, cafes and restaurants sometimes use interpreters at call centers when serving foreign customers.

Tobu Tower Skytree plans to make further efforts to attract inbound tourists from Asian and European countries as well as Australia. It also plans to make the illuminated tower brighter in March 2020 so Skytree can be seen from further away as a measure to enhance the tower's presence as a landmark.

(Japanese original by Shohei Kawamura, Tokyo Bureau)

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