Technology to the rescue!
Japan is going to be hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2021 Masters Games (games for old people!).
It's an expensive business playing host and the organisers have legitimate concerns about how to host so many visitors, many of whom will be coming to the country without a word of Japanese beyond "Sayonara!" And not much interest in learning, either.
But their first challenge is attracting those visitors, because one look at an international airline route map makes the challenge fairly clear.
Tokyo, Japan is about as far away from the advanced western economies as it is possible to be. Almost as far away from west coast USA as it is from Europe. So it's going to be important to let potential visitors know they will get a great welcome, a trip that won't break the bank and plenty of attractions to see apart from the games events.
To that end, Japan has been promoting their legendary culture of advanced hospitality known as Omotenashi. Not only have they been letting the world know that visitors can expect to be treated like royalty, but they have also been preparing the groundwork, so to speak, with a countrywide programme of "Omotenashi Certification". Something like Michelin Stars for their thousands of hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions.
For those of you who can read Japanese (with its three written language scripts - hiragana, katakana and thousands of kanji characters), here is a link to the certification website. See the problem? English is not widely spoken in Japan and their own language is one of the hardest to learn. And it is no surprise that their 1 Star Omotenashi rating is mainly about certifying that you have put up signage in languages other than Japanese.
But one thing is certain and that is that these games are going to be the most futuristic ever seen, delivered by a society that is at the top of its technological game. Expect robots. Lots of robots. And driverless cars. And augmented reality smartphone apps. And more.
Technology to the rescue
One company has realised one of the problems and come up with a useful solution. Mass transport in Japan means getting on a train. Or the subway. Or a Bullet Train. And going from one of their thousands of train stations to another. Here's a mind-boggling statistic. Of the 51 Busiest Train Stations in the world, all but six are located in Japan.
Imagine trying to navigate your way around Japan through these huge stations and not understanding a single word of the many announcements? I used to have to do this and it is overwhelming.
This company is using technology to do just that. Generating instant translations of any announcements by using a smartphone. Rather cool I think. And given an interesting name. The Omotenashi Guide. All part of the high technology welcome that awaits us.