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Kyoto tourism industry launches 10-language phone interpreting service for businesses

Foreign tourists enjoy strolling in Kyoto's Ukyo Ward on Sept. 23, 2022. (Mainichi/Maiko Umeda)

KYOTO -- The tourism industry in this ancient Japanese capital has launched a phone interpreting service in 10 languages after the central government drastically eased pandemic border restrictions on inbound tourists.

    The Kyoto City Tourism Association and the Kyoto Convention Bureau jointly launched the first-of-its-kind service for businesses on Oct. 15. Some 1,500 operators such as accommodation facilities and restaurants mainly in the city of Kyoto affiliated with the association can use the phone interpreting service for free when they have difficulties communicating with customers in foreign languages.

    Commissioned interpreters at the call center can respond in Thai, Cantonese, French, Russian and Vietnamese between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and English, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese around the clock.

    The tourism association envisions the service will be used in situations where quick and accurate responses are required, such as when foreign visitors have trouble paying fees or their luggage is lost. A representative at the association said, "Although interpreting services using artificial intelligence are spreading, having a human interpreter will increase the sense of security, and allow foreign tourists to enjoy sightseeing in Kyoto."

    The service will be available until the end of March 2023, but it will be extended if it is well received.

    (Japanese original by Norikazu Chiba, Kyoto Bureau)

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