Toshiba Corporation; Mitsubishi Jisho Retail Property Management Co., Ltd.; and the Bureau of Port and Harbour of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government opened the world’s first tourist office where services are provided by an android. The opening took place on 17 December 2015 at Aqua City Odaiba in Daiba, Tokyo.

The android at this office is named Junko Chihira, developed by Toshiba. She is characterised by a human-like appearance and natural arm and hand movements. Speech synthesis technology has been utilised to enable the android to speak fluently in three languages: Japanese, English, and Chinese.

Visitors to Japan operate the trilingual input terminal at the tourist centre and select the information they wish to listen to. The android then provides guidance information in the language specified, using body and hand gestures. In 2017, there are plans to develop and evolve the android so that it is able to answer questions posed by visitors.

The work of Junko Chihira is not limited to showing visitors around. When the terminal is not in operation, she converses with visitors through presentations, such as a self-introduction, entertainms them with her singing, and plays a role in providing excitement for visitors.

Prior to placing the android at the tourist centre, Toshiba had previously placed her for a limited period at department stores and commercial facilities. During that time, many visitors to Japan were seen taking photographs of the rare android.

While the android kills two birds with one stone by providing both tourist information and entertainment, humans are essentially still the ones providing fine hospitality to those visiting Japan. Rather than depending on androids, training for salespeople in languages and hospitality should also be provided.