I went to a small, ramshackle Japanese restaurant this evening, and the impossible happened. Namely, I ordered, ate, paid, and left. The food was great, as Japanese food always is, but the service . . . well, I was, as we say in Japan, shock-u.
Specifically, the hostess seated me and handed me a menu. A waiter came and took my order. A tray of soba, rice, and pickles arrived promptly, and when I was finished, I paid at the register. Everyone thanked me on the way out.
To prevent this from ever happening again, let me offer a few tips to aspiring Japanese restauranteurs for dealing with the not-so-teeming-masses of foreigners (or gaijin, if you prefer) of which I am apparently a part.
First of all, when I walk in the door, greet me promptly. Your greeting should be either “Japanese OK?” or “No English menu.”
You should then reply to the next word that comes out of my mouth– regardless of what it is–by remarking on how amazing my Japanese is. Please choose from one of the following: “jyouzu,” “umai,” or “pera pera.” A “sugoi” would also be a nice touch.
At this point I will be feeling at home, so allow me a few moments to glance at the menu, but keep a watch on me out of the corner of your eye. After I order, feel free to query me about my food preferences. Can I drink green tea? Can I eat natto? Have I ever tried umeboshi? Express surprise at my answers.
Now it’s time for a few personal questions. Try something original like, “What country are you from?” or “How long have you been in Japan?” Don’t forget to ask how old I am and whether or not I’m married. If my food arrives, don’t let that disturb you. We’re having a conversation.
By now we’re practically old friends, so don’t hesitate to invite others to talk with me, especially drunk salarymen. Maybe they’d like to sit with me? If there’s anybody within a five mile radius who speaks English, be especially sure to introduce them. Calling someone on the phone and then handing it to me is also a good option.
If I manage to finish my meal and show signs of wanting to leave, make sure everyone I’ve spoken with gives me business cards, shakes hands with me, and exchanges email and phone numbers. One can never have too much email.
As you can see, providing great service in Japan isn’t that difficult. With just a little effort, you can make all of your “foreign visitors” feel right at home.