In 2014, Jann Schwarz checked in to the legendary Park Hyatt Tokyo.
Seasoned travelers consider the contemporary luxury hotel a perfect destination to nurse a jet lag hangover. Impeccable service and a late-night jazz bar help take the edge off.
As Global Agency Partner Lead at LinkedIn, Jann was constantly flying across multiple time zones connecting agencies and brand partners to the professional networking site. It was grueling, tireless work.
This trip included a weekend excursion to Kyoto before returning for a second stay at the Park Hyatt.
In his jet lag haze when he checked out at the end of the first stay, Jann had inadvertently left a jacket and a pair of shoes in the room before catching the bullet train to Kyoto.
When he returned and checked in the following Monday, he was astonished to find the jacket and shoes in the very same room. This seemed very strange. Had they not rented out the room to someone else? Had the staff been uncharacteristically, unthinkably negligent in cleaning?
As Jann pondered what had happened, he was struck by a sudden, startling realization. He rushed to the door to check the room number. Jann couldn’t believe it. He was in an identical room but on a different floor.
There was only one simple and devastatingly elegant explanation. The hotel staff had discovered the left-behind items, noted down their exact location in the room, and then realized upon checking their records that he was due to return in just a few days. They had simply put the jacket and pair of shoes back in the same spot in the new room on the morning before he checked in.
The truly exceptional part? There was no note, no call, no mention whatsoever.
Any Western luxury hotel capable of this level of hospitality would have had a handwritten note on heavy stationery, savoring the moment in an understandably self-satisfied fashion. Or they would have called and offered to FedEx the items - a nice but distracting gesture.
Instead, the Park Hyatt staff chose to underplay it. There’s a name for this kind of magic. It’s called omotenashi.
Like many things Japanese, omotenashi is not easily defined or translated, but it revolves around bringing a full, authentic self to serve a guest in a humble, heartfelt, non-ostentatious way. It’s about a lack of pretense and showing no expectation of reciprocity.
Service from the bottom of the heart - honest, no hiding, no pretending. Exerting maximum effort to seem effortless and completely unassuming.
It’s the refreshing opposite of the showy, theatrical, performative standards of Western luxury.
It’s less but better.