The Justice Ministry of Japan has decided to place about fifty (50) foreign-language interpreters at immigration counters in 18 airports and seaports nationwide starting next fiscal year.
The move is a response to the anticipated increase in the number of Asian tourists visiting Japan, mainly Chinese and Korean speaking nationals.
Interpreters, especially for Chinese and Korean visitors, would also be necessary in explaining the revised immigration control law that Japan is said to reinforce in July next year, the ministry said.
A sum of 300 million yen has been incorporated in the ministry’s budget for fiscal year 2012 covering the costs for hiring of interpreters from the private sector.
In addition to hiring of interpreters, the ministry will also set up a teleconference system to enable interpreters to help in the immigration clearance at the regional airports. With this system, an interpreter, an immigration officer and a foreign visitor would be able to communicate with each other.
Japan gained 9.44 million tourists in 2010, an increase from previous year. South Korean visitors ranked first among foreigners with their numbers reaching 2.69 million; followed by Chinese visitors with 1.66 million – the number does not include those from Hong Kong.
While most of immigration officers can communicate in English, only few can converse in Chinese or Korean, according to a ministry official.
The interpreters will be posted in Narita, Kansai and Chubu airports and at seaports offering regular line services to Asian countries. The rest of them will communicate via teleconference system for all the other airports and seaports across the country.