Foreign Staff at Ginmitsu Who Daily Serve with the Spirit of Omotenashi - the Spirit of Japanese Hospitality
- Our artisan-like staff that pursues Ginza Mitsukoshi's signature trustworthy services -
Vol. 1 Tax-Free Counter Attendant Ms. Gyokujyun Lee
Ginza Mitsukoshi Basement 1st Floor
The Tax-Free counter is one of the most popular counter at the Overseas Customer Service Center where many customers from around the world visit.
There are 15 Japanese staff and nine Chinese staff working at the center. Other than tax-free services, they offer services including hotel delivery and overseas shipping in four languages, including Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. More than 1,000 foreign guests visit the center every day, making it one of the most popular center for foreign tourists in Tokyo.
Ms. Gyokujyun Lee we interviewed this time is from China. She is known for her hard-work, and is fluent in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. We had the opportunity to ask her about her work at the Tax-Free Counter and life in Japan.
Ms. Lee was born and grew up in Heilongjiang Province in China. She encountered the Japanese language when she was in Jr. High school.
"I started learning Japanese as a second foreign language. When I look back, this might have been the beginning of my future coming to Japan."
She decided to study abroad after graduating university. She studied Japanese at a Japanese language school for a year, and studied Japanese and English for two years at a vocational school.
She then had a life-changing experiencing when she was shopping in the town she had dreamed about-Ginza Yonchome, the most luxurious towns in Japan.
"When I purchased cosmetics, the staff served me with a smile with the spirit of omotenashi (Japanese hospitality). I felt attracted to it and became an employee of Ginza Mitsukoshi in October, 2015."
Although Ms. Lee joined Ginza Mitsukoshi being touched by the spirit of omotenashi, there were many things she had to learn from scratch after she started working as an employee, such Ginza Mitsukoshi's know-how of how to express the spirit of omotenashi. The signature expression is the art of bowing.
"There are three angles to bowing: "There are three angles to bowing: 15°, 30°, and 45°. In the morning when the department store just opened, we bow using the 45° angle. We also bow in the 45° angle at the end of serving a customer, showing our gratitude. We bow in the 30° while standing and responding to a customer's question, showing our apologetic feeling of making the customer wait."
The art of bowing that requires the staff to change the angle, thinking about the other person - This is the kindness and heartfelt service famous at Ginza Mitsukoshi with a long history. It expresses the omotenashi and kindness unique to Japanese customer service.
Although Ms. Lee is now a leader and instructs employees younger than her, there were times she struggled about her work when she just joined the company.
"There were times I couldn't give a satisfactory reply to the customers' questions. The employees who came in earlier than me told me, "Don't focus on your failures, but focus on your successes." This made me make a decision, "I will always provide services that represent Ginza Mitsukoshi, not matter what kind of customer comes!""
Although Ms. Lee is fluent in Korean and Chinese, she has recently started to start studying English again, in addition to her on-going Japanese studies.
"I believe more English-speaking customers will come as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaches. I started studying using my commute time. I keep studying Japanese reading newspapers or watching TV dramas."
The notebook she uses for her English studies is packed with phrases and vocabulary that are convenient for customer service.
She also is taking the Eiken Test which is one of the leading English tests in Japan.
When I lastly asked her about what she feels is meaningful working at the Tax-Free Counter, she shared with a smile,
"I really feel happy that there are many customers who keep coming back who remember my face."
Ms. Lee is called a pure-hearted, and hard-working staff who is committed to the Ginza Mitsukoshi hospitality. Other Japanese staff has said that "She has a omotenashi spirit that surpasses that of normal Japanese staff."
Please come and stop by the Tax-Free Counter at Ginza Mitsukoshi for your next travel to Japan. You might be able to see Ms. Lee, daily refining her work with a spirit like an artisan.