Shall we dance? AI service helps tourists enjoy Awa Odori, Japan's traditional dance festival

The online Awa Odori AI Concierge service provides information about the traditional dance for tourists visiting Tokushima.
The online Awa Odori AI Concierge service provides information about the traditional dance for tourists visiting Tokushima.PHOTO: THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN

(THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN) - An online service that uses artificial intelligence to provide tourists with information about Awa Odori Japanese folk dancing in Tokushima is now available.

The Awa Odori AI Concierge service answers questions about Tokushima’s traditional dance parade, running from Saturday (Aug 12) to Tuesday, to assist tourists who visit the city during the festival. The service is offered on the websites of the Tokushima prefectural government, Tokushima city's Tourism Association and the Tokushima Prefectural International Exchange Association.

When asked a question like, “Where can I buy a ticket?”, the AI system can interpret the meaning of the enquiry from its knowledge base of about 1,000 questions. Its response is then displayed on the screen.

The service can even respond to informal Japanese expressions, such as “Doko de odoreruno?” (Where can I dance?). In addition to handling enquiries related to Awa Odori, Awa Odori AI Concierge offers information about tourist spots and local specialty foods in Tokushima Prefecture. It uses technology developed by the Tokyo-based telecommunications and Internet company SoftBank Corp.

Awa Odori AI Concierge can respond to questions in English, Chinese and Korean. The service can also be used via smartphone, and is available until Aug 16.


Dancers of Shin Nonki-ren performing during the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima on Saturday (Aug 12).  PHOTO: AFP

Every year more than 1 million people visit Tokushima during the Awa Odori festival season. During that time, websites and call centres operated by the local government experience a surge in users.

However, the call centres operate only during daytime hours on weekdays. An official of the prefectural government’s general policy section said: “We hope visitors will be able to fully enjoy Awa Odori by getting information effortlessly from the AI concierge system, which operates 24 hours a day.”