Japan Actually Lacking in "Omotenashi" HospitalityBritish Company Owner Acquainted with Kyoto Advises Bitterly5 December 2014 - Tradition/Culture
The number of foreign tourists continues to increase. It appears Japan is steadily moving toward its goal of 20 million foreign visitors annually in anticipation of the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, David Atkinson airs objections to the present situation in his new book titled "British Analyst Nihon no Kokuho wo Mamoru," or a British analyst conserves Japanese national treasures, published by Kodansha +alpha Shinsho. He made an unprecedented career change from working at a major U.S. securities company to becoming the president of a long-established restoration company for Japanese cultural properties. He says, "The Japanese sightseeing industry is lacking in hospitality, the so-called 'Omotenashi' in Japanese." The former analyst who has lived in Japan for 25 years, owns "Machiya," or a traditional Kyoto townhouse in Kyoto City, and is also knowledgeable about tea ceremony, offers his opinions about Kyoto sightseeing.
Responses Appropriate to Guests' Requests Are Necessary
"O-Mo-Te-Na-Shi." The speech by Christel Takigawa, who took the stage as a presenter for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games' bid at the IOC (International Olympic Committee) meeting last September, has been frequently featured on TV or in newspapers. Atkinson felt uncomfortable with the excitement in Japan as if Japanese hospitality was special enough to receive a high evaluation in the IOC qualifying competition.
"Foreigners are impressed by Japanese people's individual consideration such as guiding tourists, but they give the service of accommodations and restaurants little credit." In fact, some unilateral and inflexible treatments are severely criticized.
He describes his own experience as an example. When he worked for the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., he went to Hakone on a two-day trip in order to show his important clients a sightseeing spot of Japan. Their accommodation was a prestigious, long-established Japanese inn. He and his clients expected to fully savor Japanese "Omotenashi" hospitality.
They arrived at the hotel ahead of schedule, so he asked the proprietress of the inn to allow his clients, who were tired from the long journey, to rest in their rooms. She persistently replied, "Check-in time is at 3:00 p.m." Although the rooms were already cleaned and available, they were not allowed to enter them. With nothing to do but wait, they tried to have lunch at the French restaurant within the inn. Next they were told, "Our restaurant is exclusive for guests." They were not allowed to enter the restaurant because they had not checked into the hotel.
Atkinson said, "The services of Japanese upscale inns give priority to the suppliers in general. Japanese hospitality has no sense of adapting to the guests."
He also said that the closing time of the restaurants surprised him. European restaurants generally have no fixed closing time. Even if staff indirectly prompts customers who've stayed for a long time to leave, for example by asking if they have any additional orders, they never directly tell the customers the closing time as is done in Japan.
"Japanese people should begin by correctly acknowledging the nature of their hospitality."(translated by Galileo, Inc.)