Video of customer service in Japan… wait for it…

I’ve been to Japan. I didn’t love it.

Fascinating trip. But can’t say I liked the country. The food wasn’t terribly to my liking (even though I love sushi in the states, raw shrimp and raw squid is an entirely different story). The bigger issue for me was the level of regimentation in the culture. It disturbed me at a rather basic level.

Having said that, damn if Japan isn’t a country that (sometimes) works.

A few days ago I posted a video about Japanese movers who certainly do a nicer job than any American movers I’ve ever used.

japan-subway-customer-serviceTonight I’m posting a video of two Americans in a Japanese subway trying to buy some tickets from an automated machine.

They can’t figure it out, and push the “assistance” button. The video shows what happens next…

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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53 Responses to “Video of customer service in Japan… wait for it…”

  1. Jojo says:

    These guys are Canadian. Its from a great show called “departures”.

  2. citizen_spot says:

    Whatever the origin, those bakery treats are tasty!

  3. mirth says:

    Look on the bright side: No one will ever accuse you of being too humble. Or a Liberal.

  4. isay says:

    *eye roll*

  5. isay says:

    Well, in defense of us lefties who have a “visceral disdain for knowledge, experience and especially any experience dealing with international affairs” (an opinion which, coming from a faux progressive, is disgustingly laughable and very telling), we do not use the offensive phrase “lay back and enjoy it,” but if some one of us should sink that low, we use the correct term lie.

  6. karmanot says:

    Japan has some of the best French bakeries in the world.

  7. citizen_spot says:

    Wow, talk about personal service!

  8. citizen_spot says:

    Based on the Japanese bakeries here in CA, I would bet that the ones in Japan have just as scrumptious if not better baked treats. And not too sweet, just right.

  9. karmanot says:

    In the early days in Nihon ‘hamburgers’ were odd—tasted like some strange saugage. But, other foods especially beer and chocolate were fabulous.

  10. karmanot says:

    I could do it in my teens, but these days can’t seem to see it that often.

  11. karmanot says:

    Doitashimaste Indigo!

  12. karmanot says:

    There’s always azuki bean icecream sundays for dessert.

  13. karmanot says:

    Ramen Girl! Also enjoy ‘JIRO’ (sushi)

  14. karmanot says:

    You bet: Tori Yaki (chicken nuggets), Yaki Nikko (grilled beef), Chinese of all sorts, including delicious Korean barbeque, country noodle soups and of course tempura—-just to start.

  15. karmanot says:

    You upset the flock John when you feel badly. Afterall, reading you and sharing your views on a daily basis makes us senstitve to your well-being weathervane. If I could show you the Japan I knew, I know it would be a great experience.

  16. karmanot says:

    Jim, As I’ve stated before I’ve visited over thirty countries with three languages and at my age have forgotten most of them, including English, but as a result have entered into a world of provinical simplicy, because what I remember most about those experiences are the encounters with persons of extraordinary humanity and soul.

  17. karmanot says:

    Miracle Whip is a totally different matter and I go with John on putting feta on my pizza.

  18. karmanot says:

    Well, I have visited over thirty countries ( some of which no longer exist) with three languages and embrace the provincial with the delight of an explorer. Try hiking the Izu Coast sometime. It may change your mind about Japan. Also, I’ll make you a bowl of Chawan Mushi to put a smile on your face to repay you for all the wonderful pet vids and posts which put a smile on my face.

  19. karmanot says:

    “Once you visit more than 30 countries and speak 5 languages it’s difficult to be provincial” Now that’s condescening. I hope you are joking.

  20. he’s vewwy vewwy sensitive!

  21. putaro says:

    Tonkatsu (breaded, deep fried pork, very similar to wiener schnitzel if you’ve been to Germany) is usually a hit with Americans who don’t like fish visiting Japan. Japanese fried chicken was described by one guy from New Jersey as the best fried chicken he’d ever had. If you’re in Tokyo there’s a very wide variety of non-Japanese food available as well, much of it very good.

  22. putaro says:

    Japanese food in Japan is very different from what’s served in Japanese restaurants in the US. However, there is a wide range of Japanese cuisine and since I’ve been able to feed even very picky Americans in Japan, I’d say you probably just had bad luck in where you ate, not that you hate all food served in Japan. Some stuff can be pretty unappetizing, though. My kids like this snack that is little dried fish with slivered almonds – I can’t even pick the almonds out to eat because they taste like dried fish.

  23. JosephP says:

    This is nothing new. The UNIVAC Electronic Brain (used by Wile E. Coyote in “To Hare Is Human”) worked the same way—in fact, it had only one moving part:

  24. jomicur says:

    Cool. Customer service here in the States seems to be all but dead.

  25. mirror says:

    Weird Pizza. Hot dogs with seaweed!

  26. mirror says:

    Dude, you don’t need a PhD to be qualified to state an opinion that you don’t like mayonnaise on your pizza.

  27. mirror says:

    When you boiled Japanese food in Japan down to “raw shrimp and raw squid” that sounds a bit like a “visceral disdain for knowledge,” the kind that is often labeled “provincial.” And your going so out of your way to make sure we know you don’t like Japan, and your defensiveness about it is a little “provincial” too. And your 5th or 6th or 7th paragraph of protest that we aren’t appreciating your expertise and that makes us like Republicans is just strange, given that the topic at hand was an insinuation that you were ignoring the noodles.

  28. All it takes is you to say “you know that did sound a little pretentious, I didn’t mean it to”. We all say things that come off as completely off base. I don’t hate intelligence but some humility goes a long way. We all know you’re smart and well-traveled. That doesn’t mean you have to sound like a jerk about it. You run a well-read, awesome blog and we are calling you out on your shit not to torment you but to remind you of how you can become a little out of touch. There are a lot of smart people who haven’t visited 30+ countries and speak five languages. I’ve only visited a dozen or so, and only speak 3, but if I were to go around qualifying that to people who spoke and traveled less it’d come off as pompous. Sometimes a little self-reflection is necessary for us all – particularly those on a platform such as yours.

  29. I grew up in Washington. Definitely don’t hate it.

  30. Bye now. I try to engage in the comments, but some of you guys really do seem to look for opportunities to be rude.

  31. Okay, thanks. Yeah, didn’t come off good-natured :)

  32. Don says:

    Great video. I just came back from Japan and found the country amazing – especially in regards to customer service. No country has ever come close to the amount of customer service and help Japanese people will give. It was amazing. The food is not to my liking as well, but I don’t like fish and that is a staple there. I ate at McDonald’s and the department stores there which have amazing food courts with something for everyone. I did try those Japanese pancakes though for my one authentic meal and thought they were delicious – wish I could get them in the states. Plus nothing beats those vending machines with warm and cold beverages every 10 feet or so – LOVED them!

    The tough part of Japan is that is was so different than any other country I have been to – it took me by surprise. I knew some very basic Japanese, and that helped a little, luckily people were always willing to help out. Can’t wait to go back, and maybe be a bit more adventurous with the food this time – love seeing the plastic versions of food at every restaurant :)

  33. I’m sorry I defended myself, Jim. Next time I’ll just lay back and enjoy it, since apparently we’re no longer permitted to defend ourselves against attacks that we’re “provincial.” I’m sorry that I have an education and international experience that flavors my knowledge when writing about international issues, and that that offends you. Next time I won’t defend myself with facts.

    And we wonder why we get into all of these wars and other foreign misadventures when the left is just as bad as the right about hating education and experience, especially in regards to all things international. I’m sorry but this is a larger pet peeve I’ve had with some folks on the left – it’s a visceral disdain for knowledge, experience and especially any experience dealing with international affairs. We blast Republicans for screwing up the world, and when we go and become experts on the world, we blast those experts for being snotty, elitist, “Washington” etc. It’s an arrogance, and anti-intellectualism, that the left shares with the right, and it’s really sad.

  34. I didn’t like Japan, so it makes me very insecure and having something to prove. You have blanket disdain for Washington DC and everyone in it and that’s a badge of honor. Interesting, since I said nothing about the Japanese themselves, but you openly hate Washingtonians

  35. Well, it’s a common dilemma you face when critics accuse you of being dumb, uneducated, provincial, living in a bubble, etc. You respond with proof that you’re not the above, and then you’re “hoity toity” for responding to the ad hominem.

    As for my comment about the food, I’m sorry, but if you’re going to criticize me for finding the food in Japan surprisingly distasteful, and using that point to suggest I’m provincial, then it’s kind of relevant that I’ve eaten food in over 30 countries and generally enjoyed it. There was something very particularly about Japanese food that I generally found very distasteful, which was odd, since I really like Japanese food at Japanese restaurants here in the states.

    And if you think Skippy wasn’t being a dick, I suggest you read up on your Skippy :)

  36. I agree – I’m glad I don’t know everything. I know a lot but life keeps sending me surprises and wonder. I’m grateful. I also don’t have anything to prove to myself or anyone. It’s a very insecure Washington mentality. So glad I got out of that city.

  37. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Tooting your own horn requires great flexibility.

  38. Too busy staring at those guys. What happened? :)

  39. not to toot your own horn though!

  40. SkippyFlipjack says:

    sorry, meant ‘provincial’ to be good-natured — I know you’ve travelled a lot and seem to embrace other cultures, which is why I thought it funny that you wrote off such a large and diverse country in such a seemingly offhanded way

  41. HeartlandLiberal says:

    Ask Teh Google about Kobe Beef in Japan. Then look into the history and color of Ramen soup as an almost religious sub-culture. Watch one of Brittany Murphy’s (RIP) movies: The Ramen Girl (2008).


  42. and they speak English as well!

  43. Mighty says:

    wow. I literally dropped my jaw.

  44. OtterQueen says:

    I’m curious – what kind of good non-seafood dishes are widely available in Japan? I’ve thought about visiting, but I don’t eat seafood and that’s all you ever hear about. I’m sure I could find something to eat, I just wonder what that might be…

  45. mirror says:

    I think your food comment left you open and the response wasn’t as harsh as you make it out to be. On the other hand, the form of your 30 countries, 5 languages, comment makes you sound kind of hoity toity. I have to say that one of the most endearing character traits that comes through the web is that your worldliness has not crushed your (provincial?) capacity to be joyfully amazed. Keeps me coming back. Thanks.

  46. Once you visit more than 30 countries and speak 5 languages it’s difficult to be provincial :-) But I appreciate the condescension in response to my honesty.

  47. Scott says:

    “Who rang that bell?

  48. SkippyFlipjack says:

    To each his or her own, of course, but I love Japan. Lots of food choices — they have a lot more options than raw squid, for sure. I particularly like okonomiyaki counters, pancake-things grilled right in front of you. We had a woman and her young son walk us several blocks to our ryokan because they saw us looking confused at a subway station — and this was in the middle of Tokyo at night. (Building addresses in Tokyo are known to be confusing.) Learn a couple phrases and you’ll make people happy — it’s a very phonetic language, so you can make yourself understood reading straight from a phrasebook. One particular quirk I enjoyed — they have vending machines containing hot and cold drinks all over the place, so no matter how rural an area you find yourself in, within a short walk in the middle of the night you can find yourself drinking hot tea or some weirdo carbonated drink. One thing that I did find a little difficult was that the best restaurants aren’t the ones with the pictures on the menus and tend to be located away from the tourist drags and not have English-speaking proprietors, so it’s a little work and adventure for non-Japanese speakers to get the best food.

    Japan is something like the length of our entire Eastern seacoast and the geography and culture is more varied than the Maine-to-Florida spread, so not liking the whole country based on whatever part you visited seems rather.. provincial.

  49. Gaijinjoy says:

    I have been to Japan about 30 times and have seen many instances of exceptional customer service and general kindness to others. Of all the countries I’ve been to, Japan is absolutely tops in offering help. The problem is, it’s difficult to visit unless you have someone show you the ropes because, even though it is a very civilized and advanced culture, it is quite different from what Americans are used to.

  50. Indigo says:

    No kidding! That’s totally awesome. Domo arigato, Mr. Robato!

  51. condew says:

    That is great! I want vending machines with an “assistance” button like that.

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