Osaka police to help foreign visitors with trilingual signage at traffic light crossings

People gather in front of an advertisement in the Dotonbori district of Osaka.
People gather in front of an advertisement in the Dotonbori district of Osaka.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

OSAKA, Japan (WASHINGTON POST) - The Osaka prefectural police plan to put signs written in English, Chinese and Korean on all the push-button pedestrian signals at 1,296 locations in the prefecture, as an increasing number of foreigners do not know how to use the signals and tend to wait until the traffic light turns green.

Earlier this month (October), a 26-year-old tourist from the Philippines seemed at a loss, holding her large suitcase at a crossing in front of Nanba Station on the Nankai Electric Railway in Osaka. She could finally cross after a Japanese passerby pushed the button for her.

"I didn't know what to do - it was red for so long," she said.

Push-button signals are installed at crossings and other locations where traffic is heavy. With more foreign tourists visiting Osaka Prefecture, police have started to receive information that foreign tourists keep waiting without pushing the button in front of the signals, or they cross on a red light.

Such signals can also be found in the United States and other countries, but they are apparently not as common as in Japan.

The Minami Police Station of the prefectural police put explanatory stickers in English on the buttons at two different places last year, but they appear to have been largely overlooked.

The upcoming signs will be fitted to the upper part of utility poles that have the push-button on them. They will contain an explanation in three languages, and show a finger pushing the button with the message, "To cross street, push button".

By the end of this year, the signs will be installed at 64 locations, including areas where there are many foreign nationals. The prefectural police intend to gradually put up more.

The Kyoto prefectural police have put up similar signs at five locations in Kyoto since August last year. The Tokyo metropolitan government and the Saga prefectural government have also implemented similar measures at some locations.

"We want to make it possible for people from any country in the world to enjoy problem-free sightseeing," said an official of the Osaka prefectural police.