The purpose of this research is to explore the development of multilingualism in the virtual linguistic landscape of Tokyo in relation to linguistic items in the real-world landscape and related policies laid out by the national and local governments, particularly since 2000. Quantitative and qualitative approaches are applied through (1) website research to investigate multilingual feature and content in various social domains, and (2) document review consisting of policy papers, population statistics, governmental surveys and reports, previous linguistic landscape studies, and other scholarly sources. The study has significant implications for understanding how multilingualism in real-world and virtual spaces are interconnected as well as the potential of institutions in advancing diversity and inclusion. The findings demonstrate that Tokyo has been gradually opening towards partial multiculturalism despite challenges. Multilingualism was first observed in a limited number of domains in the physical public space, then intensified and expanded since the 1990s. The virtual linguistic landscape emerged in the 2000s following the normalization of the internet. Provision of online information and services in the foreign languages followed their implementation in the physical linguistic landscape, albeit comparatively inferior in terms of scale and quality. Since the 2010s, however, technological advancement has significantly improved and diversified the virtual linguistic landscape. Digital transformation and innovation are now also being used to aid multilingualization of the physical linguistic landscape. Findings of the virtual linguistic landscape study show that Japanese-English bilingualization was the most prevalent, followed by the fourlanguage standardization of Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. The increase in multilingual information provision could be attributed to the growth of international tourists and workers. Meanwhile, multilingual signs targeting the Japanese public were mainly symbolic in nature. Variations of the multilingual information function were observed by sector and by municipality. Throughout history, institutional contexts and attitudes towards certain culture and language play a significant role in the development of linguistic landscape in Tokyo. Policy implications suggest support instruments and solutions to translation issues, education and training focusing on communication opportunities and skills, and promotion of proactive role by foreign residents and the host society in establishing multicultural competency and intercultural understanding.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Laar, P. van de
Global Markets, Local Creativities (GLOCAL)
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Ongartthaworn, Ninnet. (2021, August 4). ‘Multilingualism and Inclusion: An Explorative Study of Virtual Linguistic Landscape in Tokyo’.. Global Markets, Local Creativities (GLOCAL). Retrieved from