The digital management department in the city of Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture has created a remarkably lifelike AI avatar of its mayor to relay announcements and important information in English.

Easier Accessibility Through AI

For many people living in Japan who don’t speak Japanese as a first language, bureaucracy can be a daunting barrier when it comes to gaining benefits and other entitlements. Such things as filing tax returns can be tough if you don’t speak Japanese to a considerably high level.

The city of Yokosuka, which has a large international community, has noticed this potential setback. It is now set to release all forthcoming announcements in both Japanese and English. Even though the mayor, Katsuaki Kamiji, himself doesn’t speak the language, the city’s digital department has devised a particularly 21st century solution: AI.

japanese ai mayor

Enter the AI Mayor

Launched at the end of April, the AI avatar is surprisingly lifelike. The “mayor” speaks fluent English with a slight Japanese accent, and is able to make statements accurately. The only giveaway may be the pronunciation of the town name itself.

Kouhei Ota from Yokosuka’s digital management department told Tokyo Weekender: “We’d already optimized our website for English, but we felt that having an avatar would be a useful asset, as it can convey things like emotion and tone more effectively.”

He added, “To create the avatar we focused on three things: appearance, gestures and voice.”

Forget simple subtitles, the lifelike mayoral figure is ready to stand at the podium and spout the latest policies, as if Kajimi is saying them himself. Yokosuka is known for embracing technology, making headlines last year for its use of ChatGPT in the workplace.

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