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.
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:
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.
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:
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!
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.
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