Tourists visiting foreign cities can often be deterred from visiting local restaurants due to the language barrier, which is a shame for both the visitor — who is missing out on authentic local cuisine — and the restaurant — missing out on the business. Attempting to rectify this problem, Menu Tokyo in Japan is a culinary website financed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which will act as translator for both parties.
Menu Tokyo enables restaurateurs to upload their menu, translate it into twelve different languages and immediately print physical copies for use in their restaurant, using a selection of design options. Simultaneously, the service provides a searchable online guide for tourists, helping them to find places to eat in Tokyo that have multilingual menus. Customers can search by food type or area. The site also offers additional services, such as anime guides and descriptions of Japanese food types for the customer, and printable conversation sheets and hospitality guidelines for servers.
Menu Tokyo is not the first platform to enable menu translation — Menu Multi Tool offers a similar service — but the government funded project has gone further by creating a comprehensive, browsable website of all establishments offering translations, useful to both the restaurant staff and their customers. Could similar projects be undertaken in other major cities?