Mutantfrog on Death of Yokoso Japan, plus birth of Welcome to Tokyo


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Hi Blog. Japan is rebooting its image for international tourists. According to Adamu at Mutantfrog:


April 7, 2010
The Japanese government has announced a new international tourism slogan:

“Japan. Endless Discovery.“

Great, at least this time it’s in English! It’s similar to many other simple catch phrases used by other countries: “Malaysia, truly Asia,” “Seoul’s got Soul,” and so on. The Japanese-language slogan is more of more of a mouthful and literally translates as “Japan, a country where you will encounter endless discovery.” There’s also a new logo with a stylish but classy combo of cherry blossoms and the Japanese Rising Sun.

I like “Endless Discovery” because it has a message that happens to be true. As a foreigner living in Japan most days there’s something new to discover. This message could help put new visitors in the right frame of mind to enjoy themselves. Japan’s not a country like Thailand where you can head straight to the resort and not worry about foreign customs. It’s an adventure in many respects – new food, few English speakers, complicated train system, etc. (and the area outside of Tokyo is even harder to navigate), so why not put a positive face on what Japan’s got to offer?

I’d like to give Maehara and his people some credit for picking a slogan that actually makes sense. It’s comforting to think the people in power might actually understand the outside world a little bit. It’s one big, noticeable difference between the parties.

This will replace the old slogan Yokoso! Japan, announced in 2003 to much confusion by most people who had no idea yokoso means “welcome” in Japanese. Well-known Japan commentator Alex Kerr was especially critical, saying it might as well be “blah blah blah Japan.” It’s been a favorite target of mockery among many in the gaijin community and can currently be seen on taxis, buses, posters, and even transport minister Maehara’s lapel pin. You’ll be missed! The “Visit Japan Campaign 2010” site is still up, so you can soak up some of the goodness before it closes. There’s other questionable language on the site, like “Yokoso Bazar” and “Revalue Nippon.”

Rest at


That’s one thing of interest. Now how about Tokyo’s very expensive reboot? Courtesy of BD:


April 8, 2010
Debito: Wanted to call your attention to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s new “Welcome to Tokyo” tourism website which features a short anime which [according to the Tokyo Shinbun Dec 20, 2009, link now dead] reportedly cost 50M Yen. That’s my tax dollars at work trying to lure foreigners to a city who’s governor is historically renown for his anti-foreigner rhetoric. Wonder if there’s anything that can be done to call out the points made by UN Rep Bustamante with regards to this site’s obvious ruse.


COMMENT: About the Tokyo promo: Watch the “Honey Anime” in particular. A lot of bald-facedness going on there. I don’t personally watch much Anime (so it might be an issue of genre or style), but I find its eight-year-old-child attitudes towards life a bit cloying, and inappropriate for regular tourists. And you just gotta grimace at the bit where Tokyo-to’s oceanic territory is depicted as a haven for happy whales (never mind the Red Tides or, you know what…). As flash and expensive as the site is, I find the promotion campaign a bit “terrarium in a fishbowl”, with little apparent knowhow of how to appeal to outsiders and what they want after a very expensive plane trip plus hotels (oooh, Tokyo’s got a ZOO!!).  And let’s not mention our xenophobic governor…

Charming for some, no doubt. But for me, just weird, and not terribly appealing, having been to Tokyo as a tourist (and guest speaker) my entire life in Japan (that’s right; I’ve never lived in Tokyo). Come to Tokyo and see how clean-line it really isn’t. Like seeing the waxwork dish of lunch outside the restaurant, and coming in to see it’s not at all what it was advertised. But that’s only my impression. What do others think? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

11 comments on “Mutantfrog on Death of Yokoso Japan, plus birth of Welcome to Tokyo

  • The thing that I liked about “Yōkoso Japan” was that they spelled it correctly. At least at major places like the airport. Outside of there would sometimes became “Yokoso Japan”.

    I have not seen the official signs yet, but hopefully it is really “Welcome to Tōkyō”. On the other hand, I will be quite disappointed if it is “Welcome to Tokyo” (トキョ).

    I have been in Japan for more than a decade now so do very little sightseeing anymore. However, a few years back I noticed a book by Random House called “Fodor’s Tōkyō” which I was so impressed with for the spelling that I bought it. Of course this is the norm in academia, but is regrettably not followed by some publishers. (This is why I refuse to read the Japan Times.)

    — Ah yes, the macron police. I prefer macrons too, but I wouldn’t go so far as to delegitimize an entire media source just because macrons are not part of their typeset. Back on topic, please.

  • Other suggested slogans (truthful ones):
    Japan. We will fingerprint you like a criminal, our police will racially profile you, they will harass you if you ride a bike, they will arrest you if you are a 70YO man with a penknife, you can only stay in certain hotels because others don’t accept NJ, and restaurants with English menus will charge you over the odds.
    Welcome to Tokyo.

    — Haven’t heard about the English menus. Source?

  • greets you with “Bonjour from the FRENCH TOURIST OFFICE”, mentions “turismo2020” and has an “Espana” logo (with a tilde over the “n” to keep those tilde police happy). So why shouldn’t JNTO’s logo say “Yokoso”? “Endless Discovery” can apply to any country anywhere on Earth. At least “Yokoso” is Japan-specific.

    Furthermore, other Japanese words, like “ryokan” (listed even in and “onsen” are starting to enter the English vernacular. Rather than giving up, I personally feel JNTO should continue it’s PR push and get English speakers acclimated to “Yokoso”.

  • Gilesdesign says:

    I kind of agree with Tyler that “Yokoso Japan” is no worse than other slogans that use a native language or expression. Those like Kerr that say its like “blah blah blah Japan” fall into the trap of assuming that all foreigners/tourists are unable to decipher the Japanese language (something we are trying to fight in Japan). It is a rather surprising choice though given the “Mr James” mentality of our authorities.
    Having said that I do like the new slogan better and “endless discovery” is more likely to entice people to visit, which is the whole point I guess.

  • I have to disagree with the comparison to French or Spanish slogans. I can’t speak for other western countries, but here in Australia, ‘the average person’ is far more versed in European cultures (especially since we had massive amounts of European immigration after WW2) than with Japan. The average person would see/hear some Japanese and go “what’s this Chinese on about?”. Japan is “that Asian country with the ninjas and sushi”, so relying on foreigners to give a hoot about the language (hint: they won’t, beyond “domo arigato mr roboto”) is a bit of a stretch.

    What they DO care about, however, is that Japan is famous for having all sorts of interesting “kulcha” like temples and geisha and kimonos mixed in with everything from cherry blossoms to robots. Something that is certainly covered with “endless discovery”.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Craig, want to join me in protesting the new Tōkyō subway signs? They’ve taken all the macrons off the long vowels! I can’t see why they would do this, as the people who are likely to need romanization might well be needing to ask for directions, and you want them to be able to say the names of the stations correctly. Not as tourist-friendly as it could be.

    Anyway, getting back to the new slogan, I like it. It really is true — there will always be something new to discover in this fantastically-variegated country. I don’t find the train system very difficult to handle; it’s one of the biggest appeals of travelling here. The activist in me wants to see a slogan along the lines of “Japan: No Longer Fingerprinting Non-Nationals!”, but this one is still a step in the right direction.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Mark in Yayoi, I agree with there being endless discovery here. After many years, I’m still fascinated when traveling around. That said, the actual slogan is just as vapid as all those from Korea, Taiwan, etc. Why not go for something edgy and impressionable? ‘Japan: Unbelievable’ (maybe?)

  • @Kimpatsu – totally agree with you, but you have forgotten to add something. Even long term residents are treated the same way, so my advice for those who have their own image about Japan is: if you really want to experience something unique and unusual come to Japan 🙂 You will be welcomed by Police racial profiling right after immigration. This is because they want you to be safe before you board the train

  • My big gripe with Yokoso is just that it isn’t nearly as well-known as bonjour or some other expressions. Sure, you could have a sign saying “Yokoso” to people arriving at the airport, but why make that the slogan that appears on everything tourist-related? Better to go with something that conveys a message about what the country has to offer.

    It’s probably less important than whatever they decide to use in the Korean and Chinese markets, but hey we can’t really help in that department.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    You are, of course, familiar with the internet rumour that the macron in the “Yokoso Japan” campaign was there to represent the disputed northern territories?

    I agree with Debito about the “Welcome to Tokyo” – definitely some aliens that would have trouble getting through immigration, yet are not getting pointed or stared at…

  • Peter Barakan says:

    Personally I would rather see them do away with tacky slogans altogether, and make a dramatic increase in the number of free wi-fi hotspots, so that visitors from abroad could access the internet freely and acquire the information they themselves desire.


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