Travel

Kanagawa to give foreign tourists free-to-use smartphone

While Tokyo undoubtedly deserves a spot on any Japanese travel itinerary, you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you skip Kanagawa Prefecture, the capital’s neighbor to the south. Within Kanagawa you’ll find the temples and Great Buddha statue of the coastal town of Kamakura, plus the stunning Mt. Fuji views and hot springs of onsen resort Hakone. There’s also Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, which boasts not one but two ramen museums, a gorgeous harbor district, and annual Pikachu parades.

And as of February, there’s yet another reason to include Kanagawa in your Japan travel plans. If you’re a visitor from overseas, the prefecture will give you a smartphone to use, free of charge, to help you better enjoy your time there.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Government and telecommunications company Handy are teaming up to provide a total of 300 smartphones, which will be loaned out at five tourist information counters, three in Yokohama (at Yokohama, Sakuragicho, and Shin Yokohama Stations), one in Kamakura, and one in Hakone. The devices’ interface can be set to one of 10 languages, including English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Korean, and French.

While the Sharp-brand phones come preloaded with sightseeing information for Kanagawa, they can also be used to access the internet or make both local and international calls free of charge. Users can check out a phone for up to three days, and are asked to return the device to the same counter from which they borrowed it.

The phone-lending service will launch its test phase in mid-February, and organizers hope to roll out the full service in April. If all goes well, Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa says he’d like to see the service xpanded throughout the prefecture as quickly as possible.

Sources: PR Times, Nihon Keizai Shimbun

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