[Left photo shows the full length of the front part of the second floor of the Tsutaya Starbucks Resto in Dotonbori, Osaka; while the right photo shows the rear part thereof]
I always thought, perhaps due to some air of patriotism, that the Filipinos are the most hospitable people in this part of the globe. But, I now feel based on what I have experienced in our 6-day touring stint in Osaka-Kyoto-Nara, Japan is that the Japanese people would defeat us Filipinos, by a long mile.
However, the trait of Filipino hospitality, is I think still deeply ingrained in our character. But my gut feeling pointed to a direction where I could sense that there may have been some kind of moral suasion from the Japanese government unto its citizenry to be extra hospitable, especially among tourists.
A subtle persuasion plausibly made through the media, which has encouraged the Nipponese people all the more to be friendly with tourists. It is a logical thing to do as the tourism industry is one industry where the multiplier effect of economic benefits is so much resonant.
My first encounter with that Japanese brand of hospitality was at the Kansai International Airport where we partook of some ramen dinner in a restaurant within the airport’s premises. The waiter who served us, plausibly not much familiar with the English language, and for lack perhaps of any other English greeting within his ken, kept uttering MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of us every time he delivers food unto our table. And that greeting is coupled with an obeisant bow.
During our train ride from Osaka to Kyoto where we were billeted in a modest hotel, particularly at the URBAN HOTEL MINAMI-KUSATSU, I sat beside a couple of senior aged Japanese.
I got easily detected by the Japanese lady as a foreigner, as I felt by the way she was muttering some Nippon phrases, that she was asking for our nationality. I just uttered the word “PHILIPPINES” and a great smile formed on her face while repeating the word “PHILIPPINES” with the unusual Nipponese twang. When I barked out a controlled cough, the Japanese lady was quick in offering me a couple of Japanese-made lozenges while she was pointing to her throat. A way of saying perhaps that it is good for an ailing or sore throat. I took it and popped it then into my mouth. When my youngest daughter Alee, snorted out too a muffled cough, the lady was again quick in his offer. And after sensing perhaps that we were travelling as a family, she distributed the lozenges to all of my kin.
What struck me most was how a high-heeled lady with a coat made of expensive-looking fur went out of her way to show us the direction as to where to buy train tickets for a particular destination. The Japanese lady who was in her late 30s, not perhaps convinced that we understood her instructions delivered in halting English, walked with us for a distance of about TWO (2) kilometers just to insure that we will be able to reach the destination where she wanted us to reach. That was amazing hospitality indeed.
What was most amazing however, as a clear and eloquent display of Japanese hospitality is the 230 seater Starbucks Restaurant located within the Dotonbori district in Osaka. It is a 2 storey resto which doubles up as a library at its second floor. The name of the Starbucks outlet is Tsutaya Starbucks. At the second floor, you can browse through for free into a plethora of books with diverse subjects from Michelangelo, Greece, Hinduism, etc. The first floor has about 50 comfy seats and another 80 seats on the second floor. The Starbucks outlet is so well-illuminated and so commodious. Easily, it has become the point of convergence among tourists especially Filipinos (who would usually digress into their separate shopping destinations within the Dotonbori district) to rest their wearied feet and relax their tired legs after hours of walking, ambling, hiking and perambulating in the busy streets of Dotonbori. I myself got so wearied and tired with those long hours of walking for which reason, I asked that I will just sip coffee at the Tsutaya. And piece by piece, I became the depository in one corner of the coffee shop of bags of goodies and items brought by each one of my family members. Though I ordered a cup of coffee and a piece of pastry, it would seem, as there is no one “policing” the ingress of habitues into the coffee shop; one does not even need to buy either a sandwich or a drink, to seek refuge to this relaxing and hospitable sanctuary, the TSUTAYA STARBUCKS in Dotonbori, Osaka, Japan.