Smartphone-based automatic tourist guidance available for visitors to Hanawa town

7 January 2019

Visit a scenic spot or historical place in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Hanawa and you will automatically hear tourist information through your smartphone…

The town office has introduced such a voice guidance system in anticipation of an increase in tourists from abroad on the occasion of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The guidance is available in three languages: Japanese, English and Chinese. It is the first service of the kind in the prefecture. Hanawa is pinning high hopes on the system as a new tool to help attract visitors.

Fuji Xerox Co. has developed the voice guidance system for smartphones, with 26 tourist spots in Hanawa registered. Visitors can use it by downloading its app, SkyDesk Media Trek, onto their smartphones free of charge. The system recognizes a smartphone user’s location through the global positioning system (GPS). When a visitor comes within a radius of about 10 meters from registered tourist spots with the app launched, voice guidance automatically starts. Users can select a language of their choice from among Japanese, English and Chinese.

Registered tourist spots include the Dahlia Garden in YuYuland Hanawa, Michinoeki (roadside station) Hanawa, the ruins of a magistrate’s office, a big ginkgo tree at Yakuoji temple, Hanawa Fureai-no-mori (exchange forest) and Furoyama Park known for its "yamatsutsuji" wild azalea. Travelers can enjoy a stroll or drive in the town while listening to the voice guidance. Also on the voice guidance list is the Eryuda Waterfall in the adjacent village of Samegawa.

The Fuji Xerox system is also used by 23 other local governments in Japan, including Furano city in Hokkaido, Hiraizumi town in Iwate Prefecture and Nikko city in Tochigi Prefecture as well as all of Kyoto Prefecture.

Hanawa and its tourist association plan to regularly call on foreign visitors arriving at Fukushima airport from February to use the voice guidance system. The airport is served by charter flights from abroad, including from Vietnam and Taiwan. The town will also hand out Chinese and English versions of its self-prepared tourist guidebook "Hanawa Aruku" to promote its attractiveness.

"The voice guidance system is a new means of attracting visitors based on new technology," says Hanawa Mayor Hidetoshi Miyata. "If other municipalities can come to use it as well, we will be able to promote the allures of Fukushima Prefecture as a whole."

(Translated by Kyodo News)