AOMORI--Help is at hand for foreign visitors who wind up in out-of-the-way Aomori Prefecture in early August and wonder what all the fuss is about.
This is when the annual Aomori Nebuta Festival takes place, an event that features towering and gorgeously decorated floats called Nebuta. The weeklong festival is guaranteed to attract massive crowds.
As one of the most important carnivals in the Tohoku region, the festival is designated by the central government as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
The Nebuta Museum Wa-Rasse here is devoted to all things related to the Nebuta experience, and as such is a big draw for foreign visitors.
Fearing that some non-Japanese visitors may have no prior knowledge of what the festival is all about, the museum introduced a smartphone-based multilingual package that explains its history and related information, along with images.
The initial response has been positive, museum officials said, adding that they intend to improve the service based on user feedback.
The museum used to provide written explanations in several languages.
Now, visitors can get their smartphones and tablets to read a QR code displayed on a menu board screen to view images and festival information in English, Chinese (both simplified and traditional), Korean, Thai and Japanese.
As of March, six sections of the museum were providing information on their particular fields of expertise, such as the shape and size of the various floats as well as profiles of the craftsmen who built them.
Museum officials said many tourists, Asians as well as Westerners, use the service.
While most tourist facilities across Japan have introduced audio guides with earphones, Wa-Rasse opted for the smartphone display system partly because it allows visitors to hear the sound of "taiko" drums that reverberates inside the museum, according to Asako Kosaka, manager of the project promotion division.