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Guidelines for Multilingualization in the Retail Sales Industry Released

December 20, 2018

On December 20, 2018, the Project Team on Retail Sales under the Council for Multilingualization for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games (chair: Mr. Kenichi Niitsu, Director, Japan Shopping Tourism Organization) released Guidelines for Multilingualization in the Retail Sales Industry.

The guidelines are a compilation of approaches to advancing multilingualization in the retail sales industry in particular. They aim to encourage the industry as a whole to promote multilingualization in a more smooth and efficient manner and to provide overseas visitors in Japan with better omotenashi (hospitality) services. As one of the tools to these ends, in its section titled “Multilingualization in the Field of Product Descriptions,” the guidelines explains “Mulpi,” a smartphone-dedicated application for provision of product information in multiple languages, an outcome of the Project on Provision of Product Information in Multiple Languages conducted by the Council for Collaboration in the Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail Sales Industries.

Bearing in mind the forthcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai and other events, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), in cooperation with the project team and stakeholders, will strive to advance efforts to enhance multilingualization in the retail sales industry.

1. Outline of the project team

The council was established in 2014, aiming to advance multilingualization of indications, signs and other information through collaboration and cooperation among related administrative organizations of the government, related municipalities, private associations, companies and other entities. This is part of the efforts for development of social environments toward convening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in which overseas visitors are able to smoothly move around Japan and stay in Japan in a safe and comfortable manner. The council established three working groups focusing on: [i] transportation, [ii] roads and [iii] tourism and services (restaurants and accommodations), taking into consideration the basic demands of overseas tourists in Japan, and also established the project team. Since then, these working groups and the project team have been advancing efforts for enhancement of multilingualization.

In advancing multilingualization in the retail sales industry, the project team focused on three fields: information descriptions inside and outside shops, communication with overseas tourists as customers in service provision, and explanation of products, and stipulated common rules and developed support tools. Through these efforts, the project team has been encouraging the retail sales industry as a whole to provide better services to overseas tourists as an initiative for enhancing omotenashi services.

The project team consists of representatives of the Secretariat of the Council for Collaboration in the Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail Sales Industries as team members, a secretariat in which the METI participates, and representatives of METI as observers. This council and METI have been supporting the project team in advancing its efforts.

2. Outline of the guidelines

The guidelines released here are a well-organized collection of: overseas case examples, domestic leading case example, results of questionnaire surveys targeting overseas tourists in Japan, and lessons and knowledge that people involved in the retail sales industry, industrial associations and experts have learned, which are information that the project team has compiled. The guidelines aim to serve as a guide to encourage more and more retailers to further introduce multilingualization into their services in a prompt and efficient manner. The project team positions the guidelines as those to which the retail sales industry should accord in a voluntary basis and targets all retailers regardless of the type of business and sector, scale of shop and region.

For more information, see the website below:

3. Outline of Mulpi application

“Mulpi” is a smartphone-dedicated application for provision of information services concerning product descriptions in multiple languages. Through this shopping-assistant application, overseas visitors in Japan are able to smoothly access accurate product information that manufacturers convey and to overcome language barriers that they are likely to face in understanding Japanese product information during shopping. This application is an outcome of the Project on Provision of Product Information in Multiple Languages, established by like-minded member companies of the Council for Collaboration in the Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail Sales Industries, the secretariat of which is served by the Distribution Systems Research Institute.

4. Outline of the Council for Collaboration in the Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail Sales Industries

The Council for Collaboration in the Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail Sales Industries was established in 2011, aiming to facilitate collaboration among manufacturers (manufacturing industry), intermediate distributers and wholesalers (distribution industry), and retailers (retail sales industry) in the field of consumer goods and to advance dramatic innovations and enhance efficiency in supply chains. The number of member companies is 53 as of today and the secretariat is served jointly by the Distribution Economics Institute of Japan, the Distribution Systems Research Institute and METI.

Division in Charge

Consumer Affairs, Distribution and Retail Industry Division, Commerce and Service Industry Policy Group, Commerce and Information Policy Bureau

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