Friday, March 20, 11 am. An entourage of local gaijin and a Japanese newspaper editor (the Yomiuri's Yuji Kobori) descend on the headquarters of the Kanto Tetsudo Bus Company in Tsuchiura to present several hundred signatures on a petition requesting that 'romaji' (alphabet letters) be used in addition to the Japanese characters on all busses and bus stops. At present, foreigners who cannot read Japanese are left guessing as to the destination of the bus they are getting on in this supposedly 'international city'.
The group met with company officials to stress to them the importance of this issue to the international community. Kate Strohecker pointed out that even in the small town of Mutsu in Aomori where she used to live (about as out-of-the-way 'inaka' as you can get), the local buses all had 'romaji' written under the Japanese names. In fact, it would seem that the southern Ibaraki area served by Kanto Tetsudo is one of the few areas that doesnŐt have this system.
The Yomiuri featured a short article in its Ibaraki page on the effort, something that will no doubt put more pressure on the bus company to follow through. While no specific timetable was given, the company official conceded that this simple step should be taken and promised to begin with the bus stops along Higashi Odori and other places where more than one bus route overlap. These would be given priority, with other stops and busses following later. If after a reasonable time of a month or two nothing has changed, a follow-up campaign is definitely planned. Let the Alien Times know if you actually begin to see 'romaji' appear.
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