Tokyo: Hotels ramp up ‘omotenashi’ for foreign guests

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A suite room with an image of Mt. Fuji on the wall is popular with foreign tourists at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel in Shibuya Ward.

The Yomiuri Shimbun More and more hotels in Tokyo are supplying rooms and services for the rapidly increasing number of foreign tourists, with a particular eye on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next summer. The emphasis has been on improving omotenashi traditional Japanese hospitality, including such moves as renovating rooms to add decorations featuring Mt. Fuji and preparing halal food for Muslim tourists.

The Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, which has 408 rooms, in Shibuya Ward, started renovations in 2014. Aiming at high-end tourists mainly from Europe and the United States, the hotel increased its number of suites from nine to 14. One suite that has been gaining in popularity has a picture of Mt. Fuji on the wall, and features both Western and Japanese interior design, including tatami mats.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Traditional crafts such as Edo kiriko cut glasses are sold in the lobby of the Nohga Hotel Ueno in Taito Ward.

  • Courtesy of RNT Hotels Co.

    Halal bento box meals for Muslim guests

The hotel installed a machine that can exchange dollars and other foreign currencies into the yen for the guests’ convenience. Two more concierges were also put on staff whose command of English is akin to a native speaker.

Foreigners accounted for about 70 percent of the hotel’s guests in fiscal 2018, a big increase from a little over 10 percent in fiscal 2001.

“The number of foreigners is expected to further soar with the Tokyo Games, so hotels must change. We aim to be a hotel chosen by foreigners,” said general manager Yoshiaki Miyajima.

Some hotels have taken into consideration the religions of foreigners.

The Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International, which opened in December 2015 in Taito Ward with 270 rooms, serves bento box meals for Muslim guests. If you apply in advance, you can choose from four types of halal bento that do not use pork or alcohol.

The hotel also has a place where Muslims can use water to purify their hands and feet before praying. It rents out mats necessary for worship so that guests can pray at any time.

“We have created an environment where Muslims can comfortably enjoy a meal. We value our high-quality meals and hospitality,” said an official at Royal Holdings Co., a major restaurant chain that operates Richmond hotels.

The Nohga Hotel Ueno opened in Taito Ward in November 2018 with 130 rooms, in response to tourists’ desire to experience Japanese culture. Fourteen examples of traditional crafts, including Edo Kiriko cut glasses and fountain pens made in Taito, Sumida and Bunkyo wards, are on display and for sale. If guests like them, the hotel will introduce them to craft workshops.

From mid-July, the hotel began to offer tours during which guests can learn from craftsmen how to make traditional handicrafts and visit historical buildings.

A Korean guest in her 30s said, “It’s fun to go to unique, impressive places instead of famous tourist spots. I’m most happy to experience Japanese culture.”

An official of the operating company, Nomura Real Estate Development Group, said, “It’s important for the hotel to sense in advance what foreigners want and provide it.”

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, 31.19 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2018, a 8.7 percent surge from the previous year, surpassing 30 million for the first time. The government aims to increase the number of foreign tourists to 40 million in 2020.

“Hotels are opening one after another in the run-up to the Olympics. The demand is not only for accommodations but also for added value, such as experiences,” said Takayuki Miyajima, a senior economist at the Mizuho Research Institute.Speech

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