In a world that’s rapidly globalizing, Japan’s rich culture remains distinct and in demand. Technology is Japan’s most powerful ambassador, expanding the reach of unique arts and traditions, and enabling people from around the world to enjoy experiences that support local Japanese communities.
Despite the number of visitors to Japan tripling in the last five years, the recent tourist boom has not benefited all businesses equally. In Kyoto, traditional ryokans offer tourists a chance to experience authentic Japanese hospitality, yet many of their rooms remain empty while visitors compete for a limited number of Western-style hotel accommodations. Few ryokans have a website, and even fewer have translated materials for a foreign audience.
With data clearly pointing to the internet as a critical resource for tourists in Japan, the Kyoto Ryokan Hotel Association looked to Google to help their businesses build an online presence. We held a seminar to introduce ryokan and traditional hotel managers to Google products that could attract more visitors.
Google My Business sessions covered the basics – how to list a business on Google, respond to visitor feedback, and improve visibility on Google Maps. Using Street View, dozens of ryokans posted panoramic photos of their accommodations so tourists could picture their stay before even leaving their home country. And because communication is key to a visitor’s comfort, we also held a workshop on using Google Translate to overcome language barriers with online and in-person visitors.
As a result, more than 70 ryokans and traditional hotels in Kyoto have brought their businesses online, and the boon of tourism is being felt by a wider section of the local community. As countless others cities in Japan prepare for an expected 40 million nationwide visitors in 2020, we’re holding more seminars across Japan to help local economies make the most of the opportunity and share the best that Japan has to offer.
Arita Ware "Decorative Plate with Colored Overglaze Peony and Dianthus Pattern," Imaemon. Creator: Imaemon Kiln, photo: Toshihide Kajihara, Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Out of the archives and into more hands, Japan’s art and culture can capture the world’s imagination. The Japanese government saw an opportunity to share the country’s rich traditions with a wider audience, and partnered with Google Arts & Culture, an initiative for organizing art online and making it accessible globally. We invited the world to "Made in Japan" a site showcasing Japanese crafts and traditions, and the untold stories behind them.
Featuring more than 2,800 new artifacts, plus hundreds of videos and stories the online collection represents works from all 47 prefectures. Audiences around the world can browse descriptions, articles, and videos in both English and Japanese. In a further collaboration with Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Made in Japan” is now used for promoting Japan’s culture overseas through presentations at diplomatic establishments abroad and a profile on the Ministry’s online platform, “Japan Culture Spotlight.”