This Is the Spirit of "Hospitality"Sincere Service for Foreign Tourists by Kyoto's Police Officers and Paramedics
As a growing number of foreigners visit Japan, police officers and paramedics are busy handling that increase in the tourist city, Kyoto. Faced with language barriers, they learn English and make full use of IT devices to provide lost-and-found services, give route directions, engage in rescue activities, and more. This article follows people who are making great efforts while not forgetting the spirit of "hospitality," as foreign tourists fully enjoy the ancient capital.
In front of JR Kyoto Station, where numerous tourists come and go, a hearing-impaired American man rushed to the prefectural police's lost-and-found counter in front of Kyoto Station, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, on June 5. He said he had lost his smartphone at a temple in Higashiyama Ward. When he began using sign language, a female officer wrote down "When did you lose it?" using a textbook as a reference. She gestured to ask when he had lost it and what his phone looked like. She said with regret, "I had to ask for detailed information such as the passcode to unlock his smartphone. I could have communicated more smoothly with a Japanese."
According to the prefectural police, they received 502,291 lost-and-found items in 2016 in Kyoto Prefecture, which was 1.8 times more than ten years ago. On the other hand, they were able to return only about 65,000 items, or roughly 10 percent, to their owners.
Reportedly, smartphones, wallets, and passports stand out among belongings lost by foreign tourists. Once foreign owners have returned to their countries, the procedure takes three to five times longer than in cases of Japanese owners, as the police need to conduct identity verification through international phone calls, request cooperation from hotels where owners stayed to return items, and so on.
When a Taiwanese tourist dropped a card case, it took a month to identify the owner from the name that appeared on the credit card in the case, and return the case through the owner's acquaintance living in Japan. The officer who handled this matter said, "As we could not use gestures in a phone conversation, just checking the color, shape and size took lots of hard work."
The number of foreign tourists who stayed at hotels in Kyoto Prefecture reached a new high of 3,210,000 in 2015, continuing a three-year trend. As many troubles happen at temples, shrines, and other famous tourist sites, police officers who can speak English are on duty 24 hours a day at Gion Police Box, Higashiyama Ward.
In early-April, when crowds of people were enjoying cherry-blossom-viewing, an American traveler intervened in a fight and got punched in the face. An assistant police inspector rushed to the site and asked the American, who was receiving treatment in an ambulance, "What happened?" in regards to the incident. He arrested a nearby suspect. He said, "Although it is also important to give directions so that foreigners can enjoy Kyoto, Police Boxes have a heavy responsibility in the initial response to accidents and crimes."
There is also an increasing need to respond to foreign tourists who suddenly become ill or are injured. Kyoto City Hospital, Nakagyo Ward, has arranged for Korean, English and Chinese interpreters on one to three days a week to attend patients. Language barriers create difficulties even on the medical front.
In December last year, a Japanese passerby made a 119 emergency call to report that a male Indonesian traveler had fallen down on a street in Ukyo Ward. An officer from Nakagyo Fire Department went to rescue the man, and tried speaking English with him, but without success. While the man was sitting on the ground, the officer used a tablet with a translation function to identify his symptoms by asking the man about pain, nausea or numbness, and then transported him.
In the ambulance, when they were just a couple minutes away from the hospital, the officer specifically told him, "It will take two more minutes." The officer said, "There must be great anxiety upon suddenly falling ill or being injured in a foreign country. I carefully choose my words so that foreigners can feel at ease."(translated by Galileo, Inc.)