Describe an experience of excellent service you’ve had. How about the opposite?

This year I decided to splurge a little and travel to more parts of Japan that I haven’t been to before. It was something I always said I was going to do but the years have just been slipping by so fast. I didn’t go that far but so far this year I covered most of Kanagawa, Chiba, Hokuriku, and Chubu. I took advantage of the seasonal Seishun 18 ticket and really saw some amazing views from the local trains I rode on.

Through my travels I got to stay at a variety of hotels and see a variety of levels of service. Surprisingly or perhaps not so surprisingly, it was the local and smaller hotels that had the best service, not the upscale luxury hotels. I felt that the higher end hotels depended on their reputations and the staff tended to stand on that without doing more than what their job required. At the smaller hotels, however, I felt a personal touch and saw staff go above and beyond what they needed to do so that I had the best possible stay with them.

At a popular ryokan in Hokuriku, except for the service, I definitely had a relaxing stay at their beautiful place. The hot springs were lovely, and the food was nice and fresh. When their system made a mistake with my booking, however, there were no apologies or attempts to make me feel at ease. Even though it was a mistake at their end they referenced their policy and I felt like I was being scolded. In the end they agreed to fix their mistake but let me know that this was a special case. I was shocked, I was being completely polite and yet they talked to me as if I were a child. I felt like I was not a valued customer and that I was not worth their time.

Another hotel gave me a completely different feeling. At the last minute, due to some train delays, I ended up staying in a small town called Minokamo in Gifu. There wasn’t much available in the area, but I had a gut feeling that this was going to be an adventure. The hotel looked like a bunch of storage containers lined up in a row, I was curious what it would be like to stay in a place like that. After booking a room through an online hotel app I got a phone call a few hours later. The hotel staff apologized for bothering me but said I didn’t put the license plate number of my car on the registration for parking. When I told them I was arriving by train they were surprised and insisted on knowing my arrival time. Thinking it was just a formality I told them and prepared to walk the 25 minutes it would take from the station. However, when I arrived at the tiny station, a smiling lady had a sign with my name on it who escorted me to her car. She apologized that the hotel was so far from the station and offered to stop by a convenience store to pick up snacks. She then bought me a frozen meal and onigiri to add to my snacks and took me to the hotel. Even though what she did was simple and kind, I felt like royalty. If I ever find myself in Gifu again, I will be sure to stop by the “HOTEL R9 The Yard” again. Also, staying in a container didn’t feel like a container at all, and the space between rooms created an extra sound barrier so it was very quiet and comfortable.


splurge (verb) – to spend money freely or in an indulgent way
slip by (verb phrase) – (of time) to pass or elapse
go above and beyond (phrase) – to give extra effort, usually more than expected
scold (verb) – to speak angrily to somebody, especially a child, because they have done something wrong
gut feeling (noun) – a strong belief about something that cannot completely be explained