A hotel guest is welcomed by a room with a strange culture of taking shoes off, and a big surprise comes into view – there are many ‘tatami mats’ on the floor. Tatami mats are commonly used in Japanese ‘washitsu’, and are made of straw and rush, and consists of a thick base and a soft, smooth surface that covers the base. Washitsu is a Japanese style room with tatami mats in the ryokan (Japanese-style hotel). The main difference between a hotel and a ryokan is that a ryokan has a certain number of washitsu. A hotel guest may wonder why there are no beds in the room as there are only two folding chairs and table at the centre of the room upon entering. In all awe, the staff continues to explain where the yukata (casual summer wear in Japan) is, what time dinner time is, and the facilities available within the ryokan.
“There is nothing fun in Kochi. All I can imagine, is ‘Katsuo no tataki’ (lightly roasted Bonito)” many people commented. Many people may also comment on the image of this prefecture.
Kochi is becoming increasingly popular as a touris destination. In 2016, the second largest number of tourists visited Kochi, and the number of foreigners that came along to Kochi were mainly from China and Taiwan. However, there are only a few ryokans in Kochi in spite of the number of tourists visiting.
Joseikan is one of the traditional ryokan among approximately 50 hotels and ryokans in Kochi, and waits for tourists and business man with kindness and a warm-heart. This is an essential experience to those who come from other prefectures or countries; they cannot leave Kochi without staying at the ryokan. Even though the numbers of tourists are increasing, the number of guests staying at ryokan and hotel are decreasing.
“Finally we found the best family plan ever.” reviewed a mother of a family on one of the travel agent sites. With the change of the Hotel Business Law in 2017, tourists are perplexed about finding the best accommodation and plans out of thousands. “I can’t wait for it!!” their daughter jumped around, screaming with the biggest smile she has ever had.
“The plans are supposed to be considerate of customers’ needs or expectations.” one staff member at Joseikan said. “The plan will be chosen by what customers attach importance to, so it is always the one that is close to their needs.” he added.
“Even though many tourists come from China, they can go back and forth between Japan and China with lower costs, especially from Taiwan.” The staff member from Joseikan said with a bit displeased and looked sad. In Japan, 78,898 accommodations are competing against each other for a customer.
“We sat at the counter seats, and listened to the head cook explain about every dish. It was really delicious.” One of the business men from his group reviewed his experience at Joseikan. The group of businessmen was very excited and happy about choosing one of the plans at Joseikan.
“One strength of our hotel is food. Serving delicious food is ordinary.” The staff member proudly said.
“It was more than I expected. Too many choices…”. A middle age women said. She went to the room in the morning and could not believe what she was seeing. It was the biggest surprise. More than 60 different types of dishes are served for breakfast.
“Access to the sightseeing spots is considerable.” A tourist commented on a travel agent site. Joseikan can also rent bicycles to visit the sightseeing spots nearby. As shown on Joseikan’s homepage “It only takes 15 minutes to Kochi castle by walking.” “Less than 20 minutes from several famous sightseeing spots in Kochi” which was found by every customer after arriving at Joseikan.
“We can relax by having hot spring and meals at Joseikan, and are able to go around by ourselves to see the culture of Kochi.” a mother of a family said. Rather than staying in a Hotel, a ryokan is where people can experience real Japanese cultures.
After a hotel guest takes a shower and has dinner, he may wonder where he can sleep. Once he enters his room, a futon (Japanese style bed) was laid on floor. Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) can only be experienced at a ryokan which surprises foreigners.
Even though people may be happy to stay in cheaper accommodations, a ryokan is an essential part to experiencing traditional Japanese culture which you will never be able to experience at a hotel or cheaper accommodations.
“What we do, is not a service. We better not follow the guideline like a manual. I think ryokan is more like a hospital,” the staff member said as they seemed to reconsider the importance of ryokan in the Japanese society and culture.
“The way of Omotenashi should vary or should not be the same for each customer. We should get close to the customers’ heart and the idea of their needs, and have your own sincere heart to please the customer.”