Although 2020 is 6 years away, it’s never too early to start preparing for an event as large as the Olympics and Paralympics, especially when the number of tourists is expected to jump dramatically. Even in 2013, some 10.36 million people visited Japan, topping the government’s target of 10 million.

One thing most visiting foreigners suggest is increasing the amount of information available in different languages. The metropolitan and central governments already have plans to make information more accessible to foreign tourists, including multi-language information services at museums and other cultural facilities to help foreigners understand the culture better when visiting the country for the Games.

The challenge of catering to foreign visitors also lies within the shopping industry, and two shopping centers in Odaiba have already begun adapting to the challenge. Venus Fort, a shopping center operated by Mori Building Co., currently has around 10-15% foreign customers, mostly from Asia. As well as hiring staff who speak Chinese, Korean and English, they have released an app that can be used in 5 languages (Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Korean, English and Japanese) to navigate the mall and find out general information such as store locations. Venus Fort’s free WiFi service inside the mall—usable for up to 3 hours—is also useful for people who free internet access, a type of service that is often expected by visitors.

Across from Venus Fort is the shopping complex DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, which also wants to provide a better welcome to its foreign customers. From March next year, it will implement Chinese lessons to all staff, including part-time employees, in order to teach simple phrases for basic level communication. It is no wonder that the two shopping centers attract so many people from abroad—both are within 15 minutes of Haneda International Airport.

For such a popular travel destination with plenty of international influence, Tokyo is still a difficult city for foreigners to get around in and receive customer service. Although this is part of Tokyo’s charm—for such a large city, it is not crammed with tourist attractions aimed purely at foreigners—the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games already seem to be the positive catalyst needed to make Japan a more foreigner-friendly, easy place to visit.

–Mona Neuhauss

Images: Sebra / Shutterstock