Photo/IllutrationA screenshot of “The Ancient Capital of Western Japan” app (Provided by the Dazaifu board of education)

DAZAIFU, Fukuoka Prefecture--Picture the heartbreaking scene ... You're a foreign tourist enthralled by Japanese culture and history. You fly to Japan, head to the famed historical city of Dazaifu to learn more of its rich heritage, but you can't understand anything because all the information is in Japanese.

Things have now changed in a bid to boost the local tourist trade here.

To help more foreign visitors fully appreciate historical sites and even to visit them in the first place, the Dazaifu city government is now providing a smartphone app, official website and a pamphlet in four languages--Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.

The historical stories covered by the initiative have been officially designated Japan Heritage narratives under the title of “The Ancient Capital of Western Japan: A Political Center of Cultural Exchange with East Asia.”

Japan Heritage is an effort driven by the Agency for Cultural Affairs to promote historical and cultural resources in local areas. As of last year, 18 narratives had been designated as a Japan Heritage.

“The Ancient Capital of Western Japan” is one such narrative and is comprised of 19 historical sites and cultural properties including the ruins of the Dazaifu Government Office and the Mizuki Fortress.

The smartphone app gives directions and distances to the historical sites and other landmarks using its global positioning system function. It also provides text and audio commentaries about the area. The app also allows people to have their photo taken next to a superimposed image of a character modeled after the kind of woman found in “Manyoshu,” the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry.

The official website covers almost the same content as the app, with officials hoping it will promote Dazaifu in foreign tourist markets.

Available in A2-size, the pamphlet can be folded into a palm-sized wad. Six thousand copies were printed for distribution at the city’s tourist information center at Dazaifu Station on Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. (Nishitetsu)’s Dazaifu Line, the city hall and elsewhere.

The app, the official website and the pamphlet were produced by the city’s Japan Heritage Utilization Council, whose members include city officials and representatives from Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine.

“We made them to let people know what Japan Heritage is in the first place,” said Nobumasa Inoue, who works for the cultural properties division at the city’s board of education. “The app is for strolling near the sites. It is made suitable for easy walking.”

According to the city government’s tourism economy division, 8.9 million tourists visited Dazaifu in fiscal 2015. Of these, about 1.7 million came from abroad.

Visit the official website at (