Thursday, February 01, 2007

One satisfied customer

I am one satisfied guest of Swissotel Nankai, the hotel we were billeted in for four days in Osaka, Japan. Swissotel is a five-star establishment, but it's not the most opulent hotel I've ever had the fortune of staying in (that would be Ritz-Carlton in Seoul, so far). I'm not even sure if its amenities are par for the course in the high-end hospitality industry of first-world Japan. But for the four days I stayed there, Swissotel surprised me with little touches that convinced me they had thought long and hard about how to please their guests and make their stay as comfy as possible.

For starters, the toilet seat in the bathroom automatically warms up when you sit on it. That eliminates the discomfort of having to plop down on a bathroom throne that's been rendered ice-cold by the air-conditioning seeping into the room. Lamigin ako, so this technology was heaven-sent for me. The seat also comes with an automatic deodorizer and a built-in "shower" that at first I thought was used to open the real shower, but turned out to be a very handy way to, uh, clean up. We've got those water hoses now in some of our rest rooms here, but as usual, the Japanese have done better by installing retractable water spouts inside the toilet bowl itself. Bullseye!

Take a hot shower, and what happens? The mirror fogs up, naturally. Swissotel's large bathroom mirrors, however, have a surprise: they will fog up, except for that portion by the sink where you will shave, brush your teeth, examine your face, etc. Saves you the trouble of wiping the mirror, while gently telling you that the hotel has anticipated your need.

And the first time I turned on the TV, a welcome message appeared on screen with my name on it! That's how personalized the service is. I looked for a pair of slippers, and there were two, with a note saying I could take them with me when I checked out of the hotel. They also came with two pairs of soft pajamas--another improvement over standard five-star hotel fare. The pajamas were changed everyday. I don't wear PJs to sleep, but at Swissotel, what the hell, I had them on for as long as I could.

The best touch for me was a very human gesture: the hotel's "weather forecast" cards. It's winter right now in Osaka, with temperatures dropping to 3 degrees C and lower. Every night, as you stagger into your room after a day of hunkering in your bulky, shapeless clothing against the piercing cold outside, you will find a small white card on your bed (in English and Japanese) telling you the weather forecast for tomorrow. These are not machine-generated cards. The room attendant assigned to clean up your room patiently writes down the high and low temperatures for the next day, then signs the card at the bottom. One day it was Imori, the next it was Arai. I never got to meet them, but I appreciated very much the hotel's effort to help its guests prepare for how they should dress up the next day.

The only kink I saw in the hotel was the rather bland breakfast buffet every day. But then, I don't usually eat breakfast anyway, so it was no big deal. The meal coupon allowed me to sample salmon in the morning. That was a good enough luxury for me.

P.S. Highlight of my trip: dinner and chat with two real geisha in Kyoto. More soon.


snglguy said...

Ahhh, the infamous, or rather... famous toilet seats of Japan. You gotta had it to the Japanese, they think of everything, right down to that retractable nozzle, haha. :-D

Gypsy said...

O, wow. Galing! Its like having a solicitous but invisible butler--without them around to invade your privacy. :)

AnneMac said...

What a coinky-d! My aunts and I were just talking about hi-tech Japan is and exactly about these things you mentioned! I especially like the fog-free portion on the mirror. Coolness. Ever encountered the toilet seats that not only flushes the toilet seat cover automatically but replaces them too? Ibang klase!

Oh, and I was also pleasantly surprised seeing my name flashed on the TV screen when I turned on the boob tube in our hotel room in Madrid. :)

gibbs cadiz said...

agree, SNGLGUY! yet it's fascinating to watch such a high-tech society successfully preserving its age-old culture in many other ways, from clothes to habits to religion. :)

exactly, GYPSY! :)

haha, pareho pala tayo experience, ANNEMAC. it's fun to feel like a giddy child again in the presence of new wonders like these. :)

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