Photo/IllutrationChildren try out the new “touch to cross” switch for pedestrian crossings in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward. (Shoko Rikimaru)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Kindergartener Koshiro Tsuchikawa tried the new pedestrian crossing button installed in a corner of Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward and pronounced it easy to use.

“It is easy to push the big panel,” the 6-year-old said.

The pedestrian button, accompanied with a multilingual sign, was installed on Feb. 8.

The new switch and sign are designed to help disabled people who have difficulties with the older buttons and the ever-increasing foreign visitors ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

In Japan, pedestrian crossings in the area with light foot traffic often have a “press to cross” buttons that will change the traffic lights only when pedestrians want to cross the road. Some crossings become “press to cross” only at night.

According to the traffic control section of the Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo, the current push button mechanism was introduced in 1981. Currently, there are about 13,000 pedestrian crossing controllers in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

However, as the “press to cross” system is not always common overseas, sightings of foreigners waiting for long periods without activating it were occasionally reported.

Also, as the older, common pedestrian buttons generally required a strong touch for activation, requests from the disabled have been received, asking for crossing buttons that can be pressed more easily.

The new pedestrian crossing button has a touch panel that can be activated by a light touch. The panel has a diagram, illustrating how the switch works. The touch panel works even when one is wearing a glove.

A sign in English, Chinese and Korean that instruct pedestrians to “touch panel to cross the street at night” is also installed above the switch panel.

The sign also carries a QR code that pedestrians can scan with their mobile phone and receive directions for the system in 11 other foreign languages, including French.

The “press to cross” buttons in Tokyo will be replaced with the new “touch to cross” switches in stages.