A Rural Japanese Onsen Ryokan that Provides English Support!

Rural Onsen Ryokan

We at Shima Onsen and Kashiwaya Ryokan are so happy to see more and more visitors from other countries. The number just keeps growing with each year! Some visitors are looking for a quiet getaway near Tokyo, while others have been to Japan before and are looking for new experiences.

Most of our international visitors are from America, but many others come from Australia, Canada, and Singapore too. This means that we at Kashiwaya Ryokan really need to brush up on our English communication!

Currently, only 2 members of the Kashiwaya staff can speak English conversationally. Language level varies among the rest of our staff, but most are far from perfect. Despite this, we seem to have developed a reputation as a rural onsen inn that can accommodate English speakers. Just take a look at some of the glowing reviews our international visitors have written for us.

“As someone who barely speaks Japanese I was a little worried about travelling out into the countryside but my concerns were put to rest by the kind staff who were able to patiently explain things about the inn, in English.” ~Trip Advisor
“The staff is very friendly and can speak English, which is a great plus for the foreigner discount they already include!” ~Trip Advisor

Though we have a strong reputation now, there was an unfortunate incident years ago that made us strive to better accommodate international guests.

Years ago, when international visitors were still very rare here, there was a couple from Northern Europe who arrived at Kashiwaya Ryokan before their scheduled check-in time. I wasn’t there to help when they arrived, but I heard later from the staff that the couple ended up leaving immediately without staying at the inn.

Concerned and wondering how something like this had happened, I sent an email to the couple asking why they had left so abruptly. I received the following reply afterward:

“Though we were greatly looking forward to staying at your ryokan, we were not greeted very kindly when we arrived, and were actually made to feel as though we were burdening the staff. Though we didn’t think the staff would be able to speak English very well, we were surprised to find ourselves completely unable to communicate. Because of this, we felt that your inn wasn’t the sort of place we should be staying, and we decided to leave. We were very disappointed by all of this.”

I realized what had happened then. Because there were no English-speaking staff on site when the couple arrived, the available staff simply froze up and were unable to speak at all.

After this unfortunate incident, I reflected upon our mistakes and set out to implement the following measures to improve our treatment of English-speaking guests:

  • Strive to make guests feel welcome in any way we can, even if we are unable to communicate verbally
  • Use gestures, notes, simple Japanese, and other methods of communication, keeping in mind that the spoken word is only one type of communication
  • Print out important information about how to conduct oneself at a Japanese inn so that guests can read and fully understand, leading to a more enriching stay
  • Conduct periodic English workshops for the staff

Over time, even some of our originally rigid and unfriendly staff started to loosen up when interacting with customers. Little by little, with “practice makes perfect” as their motto, the staff became warmer and more welcoming to guests. Now not only our hospitality staff, but even the cleaning and kitchen crew can be seen offering warm greetings to guests.

English Workshop for the staff

Just the other day, we invited an English instructor to Kashiwaya and held an English workshop for the first time in a while. Here’s what one of our staff had to say afterward:

“I can’t speak English very well, and I try using gestures a lot to convey things. So a lot of people just give up, realizing they can’t communicate with me. But after today’s workshop, I have a little more confidence in my English ability. After hearing the teacher’s advice, I’ve decided how to do better. I’m not going to say, or even think the words, “I don’t understand.” As soon as you let those words out, you stop thinking and are unable to say even the simplest words or phrases. I realized that it’s really a matter of mentality. I learned some very important things at today’s workshop!”

The Kashiwaya staff are still working on their English, but we are determined to make our customers from all over the world feel welcome and happy when they visit, just as any quality ryokan should!

Welcome to Kashiwaya

So if you have a chance, please come and visit our rural onsen inn. Whether you speak Japanese or not, we’ll be waiting with warm smiles and the highest quality service.

If you interested in Japanese style Onsen, Please click here
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan >

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