Why I’m changing my name, part 1

I’m taking an overnight trip out of town in a couple of weeks, and I decided to book a room in a “business hotel” online. Some of these places are surprisingly cheap: you can stay in the middle of a big city for as little as $40 a night or even less.

Then, I got this email:

Thank you for your reservation at ____ Hotel. We are contacting you because of a matter of importance for our customers from overseas.

At ____ Hotel, our rooms are secured at night with an automatic lock system and PIN pads. While the PIN pad system is very convenient, it is also complicated, and among our customers who are not particularly proficient in Japanese or have difficulty understanding Japanese, many have been unable to use the system, or have been locked out of their rooms at night.

Because of this, we ask all customers who do not speak Japanese to provide a translator at check-in when possible. After one stay the system is fairly easy to use, but as we cannot verify that you, Mr. Joe [sic], have stayed with us before, we are sending this message to you. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Yet another reason I need to naturalize and change my name to Joichi Koizumi.

Update: I was thinking about this over a slow afternoon in the office, and I started wondering: “What would Debito do?” (Somehow he works his way into all of my blog posts.) So I wrote back to the hotel:

Thank you for your e-mail. I live in Japan and work as a translator, so I don’t think there will be any problem. One thing I do wonder about, though, is whether you have had instructions written in English? Many hotels and weekly mansions in Tokyo have similar systems, and they provide instructions in English so that foreign customers do not have to worry about misunderstanding. Maybe something similar would save you from having to send out these warnings (and also be more convenient for your guests who don’t speak Japanese).

The hotel manager wrote me back within ten minutes.

Thank you for your reply. We do indeed have an English version of the instruction sheet you suggested in your e-mail, so please don’t worry about that. Our customers are not generally from the English-speaking world, thus the e-mail you received. Thank you again for your comment, and we hope you have a safe trip.

Sooo, that’s that. I guess the interpreter is only necessary if you can’t read.

6 thoughts on “Why I’m changing my name, part 1”

  1. Japan’s probably the only country in the world where “internationalization” has made the place feel more distant.

  2. To be fair, if I didn’t speak Japanese, I might not be bothered by this. But when I booked the room, I went through several webpages in Japanese, filled out forms in Japanese, and gave them my home address in Tokyo. There was also no place on the form that asked about nationality; as far as they know, I could be a Japanese citizen.

    I suppose they’re only trying to be helpful, but still, they’re assuming there will be a problem based solely upon my name.

  3. Ya and theoretically a Nisei knowing no Japanese at all could end up not getting the letter just because he happened to be named Kenji Shimizu.

    Still, think of it this way — this way you are extra-prepared for the bizarre lock system and they might give you an instruction booklet with funny English in it (though judging from the letter they don’t have a huge English problem).

    Curzon has a good point though — people in Japan seem to think that being welcoming to foreigners is to go out of their way to treat them differently from the way they usually treat people.

    I for one tend to be pragmatic and don’t mind special treament so much since for the most part I wouldn’t want to be treated the way Japanese people treat each other, let alone how they treat non-white minorities. If I had an Asian face people would ride my ass about my weight problem, have zero patience if my Japanese faltered, and be a lot less forgiving of any transgressions of etiquette.

  4. OK, it was in Japanese but addressed to you, who supposedly doesn’t understand Japanese? Now that is just retarded.

  5. They sent you a letter in Japanese telling you what to do if you can’t read Japanese? Err…

    On a slightly different note, and since you link to it in your update, Once again a Japanese hotel failed to ask me for my passport/gaijin card at the weekend, despite all the scaremongering I have heard. I didn’t even bother with the nationality box, and since it was an international hotel and I am the guest, I made zero effort to use any Japanese whatsoever at check-in. They were obviously smart enough to work out that since I’d booked through Rakuten/MyTrip, I must live here.

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