Special Interview

Ms. Ashiya

Ms. Ashiya, who is Russian living in Japan and YouTuber sharing aspects of Japan.


A Russian living in the Tokyo metropolitan area. In 2012, videos she posted onto YouTube on topics such as Japanese sightseeing spots and Russian culture and language became very popular. Her original viewpoint, humorous compilation, and fluent command of the Japanese language have won her many fans. She also acts as a guide in the Kanto area, particularly Tokyo, both professionally and in her free time, and she has appeared on many TV programs.

Vol. 2
Preparations Necessary for the Tokyo 2020 Games

--- When you are working as a tour guide, are the visitors mostly Russian? Also, what are the most popular spots you take them to?

They are mostly Russians.
The Shinjuku skyscraper district is popular. In Russia, although skyscrapers have recently started appearing in Moscow, there are not many places that are so densely built up. Everybody is really impressed by Shinjuku and they get really excited.

--- I guess the Shibuya Crossing has a similar effect?

That's right. Everyone wants to see it. There are few multi-way crossings in Russia, and they seem to find it amazing that they can cross from and to anywhere. When I tell them that there are many other crossings in Japan, they are even more surprised. Personally, I think the Sukiyabashi Crossing in Ginza provides a better scene than Shibuya. The highway and the bullet train are also passing by and there are many high places from where you can view it all (such as the top of Tokyu Plaza Ginza). I usually recommend there.

A picture of Ashiya who took herself in front of Sukiyabashi crossing.
A picture taken by Ashiya in front of the Sukiyabashi Crossing
Courtesy of Ashiya

--- Have you ever had any trouble while acting as a guide?

I get a lot of strange questions. The strange aspects of Japan tend to be overexaggerated when they are being reported overseas and there are a lot of people who believe this without question. For example, they ask things like, “I've heard about a job which is pushing people onto crowded trains. Where can I see that?” They have heard a lot of extreme things, so I have to explain the actual situation.

--- Is there anything people find inconvenient?

I'm often told there aren't enough trash cans, but if you know the places where trash cans are usually located I don't think this is so. However, if you are more used to how the systems overseas are laid out, it can be difficult to find one quickly.

In Tokyo, these kinds of things are probably well thought out a lot, and a lot of attention is paid to the systems, so there is not much inconvenience. However, one thing I have noticed is the trains. There are still trains that don't have the information display about the stops, which might be difficult for tourists from other countries.

--- The city center area has been made really convenient, so the number of people who have trouble is probably surprisingly small.

That's right. However, if there are more multilingual guide pamphlets available, they are really helpful.
Most of them are in English, Chinese, and Korean, and I think it would be great if they are in other languages.
Also, I'm often asked about Wi-Fi while guiding tours, so it would probably be good if you could provide more information about that, including how to access it.

Ms. Ashiya talks about visitors and tourists to Japan from other countries.

--- The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will start recruiting for City Volunteers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. So what kind of preparations should people planning to provide tourism and transport information at airports, major stations, and sightseeing spots make?

Not only English speakers will be coming to Tokyo 2020, and I think learning other languages, even easy greetings, is really considerate.
In addition, although I think people’s needs differ depending on the place, it’s often helpful if you guide them to a tourist information office or a place with a map. There will also be times when you really can’t communicate through words, and I recommend having a translation app available on your smartphone. As these can recognize what the person is saying, you can at least communicate on a basic level.

--- You are regularly doing things that are similar to the activities that will be taken on by the City Volunteers, and what are your thoughts regarding the Tokyo 2020 Games?

Obviously, I want to help however I can. I want to interview the people involved in the activities themselves, including the City Volunteers. Find out things like what people in Tokyo think about the Games and what they are actually doing for it. I think it would be good if I spread this kind of information to Russians and others.

--- After listening to you, I think it is important to consciously prepare for regular contact with people from other countries.

I agree. There are a lot of things that even Japanese people would be surprised they don’t know about the areas they live in and famous sightseeing spots. If you make yourself aware of what is in the area around you, you can provide answers when asked about it. I think it is good to start preparing a little bit to assist people who are having trouble.

--- If you don’t prepare, you might find it difficult when you are asked questions by people from abroad.

That’s right. In the past, I myself have tried to ask Japanese people for directions only to end up making them confused.
Although there is a language barrier, I would like people to study other languages a bit more. No, actually, there are a lot of people studying but they end up thinking “I can’t speak.” But in many cases, this is just shyness, so why not try being a little more confident and think “I can do it!” It doesn’t have to be English, any language is ok. Little by little, I would like people to try using other languages.

--- What would you like to do going forward?

A picture of Ashiya who took herself at Fuchu Kyodo no Mori.
A picture taken by Ashiya at Fuchu Kyodo no Mori Museum
Courtesy of Ashiya

I would like to go to more places in Japan, particularly places where tourists don’t often go. When I research these kinds of places, I usually do not use the internet, but use maps to find out the information I want.

I would also like to help people know more about Russia. During the World Cup, I was happy to see a lot of information about Russia that isn’t normally seen being shared, but there are still a lot of other things that I want to share. Russia really flourishes in areas such as figure skating, ballet, and the arts, and it has a lot of beautiful places. I would like to change the image Japanese people have of Russia and help them fall in love with the country.