travel

The secret language of Japanese hotel staff

7 Comments
By Fran Wrigley

During my high school years, I worked in a supermarket, where an announcement over the loudspeaker system for “Code 19″ always meant it was time to head to the staffroom for a cup of tea. Just like my clever supervisor, many service industry workers have developed their own set of code words that they use to communicate without letting the customers know too much about what’s really going on.

But thanks to this list of the secret keywords used by hotel staff in Japan, next time you’re in a Japanese hotel you can prick up your ears and listen out for any exciting gossip going on amongst the employees! Just for fun, have a look at this list first and see if you can guess what they mean. What would "obake," "nosho," "aidoru taimu," "chirashi," "donden"and "sukippa" mean in hotel context?

Some of you may have guessed that some of those words come from English, but let’s begin with the spookiest and most exciting of the lot:

1) Ghost (“obake“)

A customer who turns up at the hotel insisting they have a reservation, although they haven’t actually made one. Sometimes, a Ghost might be just trying their luck; or they might have actually made a reservation, but gone to the wrong hotel by mistake.

2) No-Show (“no-sho“)

The opposite of a ghost. A customer who reserves a room but never turns up. A loan word that sticks with the original English meaning. A Ghost customer who turns up on the off-chance there’ll be a room available is also called a “go show” (“go-sho” in Japanese).

3) Idle Time (“aidoru-taimu“)

Time spent hanging around when there’s nothing to do.

Sounds like a Code 19 situation to me! In English we helpfully have a variance in spelling to help us differentiate between the two words “idol” and “idle”. The Japanese, with their blissfully simple phonetic system, are not so lucky in this case. Pity the poor individual who thought a bunch of cute young singers in skimpy outfits were coming to entertain them for “idol time.”

4) “Chirashi”

Small tables arranged around the main table at a buffet, usually for glasses or tableware.

“But I thought 'chirashi' meant leaflet?!” I hear you cry. Well, “chirashi” (散らし) means a scattering of things: in this case, tiny tables sprinkled around a room. Just like pamphlets that have blown away in the wind after some idling employee put them down instead of handing them out.

5) “Donden”

As soon as one party finishes, having to clean up the room and prepare for the next booking.

This lovely-sounding word (try saying it out loud a couple of times!) comes from "dondengaeshi," a complete plot twist at the end of a kabuki play. At wedding reception venues or during end-of-year party season, several groups will be using one venue in swift succession, so it’s “all change” as hotel staff work quickly to get everyone in and out as quickly as they can.

6) “Aisu peiru”

When an item or product is introduced to Japan from abroad, instead of giving that word kanji characters, the original word is often imported too (albeit in Japanese pronunciation which may be amusingly incomprehensible to people who don’t speak Japanese). For some reason Japan has decided that it sounds more sophisticated and generally cooler to call an ice bucket an “ice pail”. I guess “bucket” doesn’t really have wonderful connotations, if you think about it.

7) Skipper (“sukippa”)

Someone who sneaks out in the morning without paying the hotel bill.

Japanese hotel staff use another handy English loan word to refer to the kind of dastardly scoundrel who skips out without even stopping to say goodbye to the friends they made on the front desk, let alone return their key and settle the check. We wonder if they did actually skip across the lobby as they left…

Source: Niconico News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- From Gundam to Wicked: 21 themed Japanese hotel rooms that you won’t believe -- 12 tales of true hospitality from Japanese hotels and inns -- Six Business Hotels in Tokyo You Can Spend the Night in For Under 3,500 Yen

© RocketNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


7 Comments
Login to comment

Uniqlo Japan, according to my wife who once worked there, has a code # for "gaijin in the store" ... no kidding. And the meaning behind it is that employees should be alert to gaijin shenanigans.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I guess “bucket” doesn’t really have wonderful connotations, if you think about it.

Yea, I thought about it and would really hate to be called a "baketo" (female "baka"...)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We used "P.I.T.A" Pain in the ....

The Kimono food service ladies always give you .005 seconds to be presentable when they let themselves into the room.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A customer who turns up at the hotel insisting they have a reservation, although they haven’t actually made one. Sometimes, a Ghost might be just trying their luck; or they might have actually made a reservation, but gone to the wrong hotel by mistake.

Or the hotel staff might have messed up and lost the reservation. This has happened to me several times around the world, and most of the time hotel staff are stupidly stubborn about admitting their mistake, even when you pull out an email showing your reservation or show them your cellphone and point to the call you made to make the reservation.

The customer isn't ALWAYS right, but equally the business isn't always right either. In the U.S. I can understand the reluctance to admit fault because of legal issues, but there's simply no excuse in any other country.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

"The secret language of Japanese hotel staff"? Seems to me that this not so coded list is mostly straightforward katakana-go used by as well hotel staff in English speaking countries - "no show," idle time" and "skipper"? Nothing too secret about these phrases.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Frungy Apr. 17, 2014 - 10:32AM JST The customer isn't ALWAYS right, but equally the business isn't always right either.

Majority of unsatisfied customers will never come right out and tell you they're unsatisfied. They simply leave quietly, later telling everyone they know not to do business with you. So when a customer complains, don't think of it as a nuisance, think of it as a opportunity to change that customer's mind and retain his or her business. Let customers vent their feelings. Never argue with a customer. Never tell a customer "You do not have a problem." Share your point of view as politely as you can and immediately take action to remedy the situation. Promising a solution and then delaying it only makes matters worse. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, make sure they have you or another manager handle the situation.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

sfjp330Apr. 18, 2014 - 06:42AM JST Majority of unsatisfied customers will never come right out and tell you they're unsatisfied. They simply leave quietly, later telling everyone they know not to do business with you. So when a customer complains, don't think of it as a nuisance, think of it as a opportunity to change that customer's mind and retain his or her business. Let customers vent their feelings. Never argue with a customer. Never tell a customer "You do not have a problem." Share your point of view as politely as you can and immediately take action to remedy the situation. Promising a solution and then delaying it only makes matters worse. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, make sure they have you or another manager handle the situation.

If only hotels took your advice, because in my experience when they mess up they are all about covering their own ass.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites