Friendship Lost In Translation

After seeing several of my friends travel to Japan over the last couple of years, I gave into FOMO and decided to go as well. There is a reason for its popularity, Japan is an amazing destination and I would recommend anyone visit if they have the opportunity. The great experiences I had there – the culture, food, nightlife, the sights – could probably warrant individual blogs in their own right, but for this particular entry I’ve decided to write about the experience I had planning my trip instead.

Before getting my passport stamped and ensuring my boarding pass featured in a spate of social media posts, there was a lot of planning to get done. I was able to check off most of the pre-flight to-do list with the help of my trusty old pal Google, but when it came to booking my accommodation, I opted to get some advice from some other friends of mine.

My first friend claimed to have lots of experience when it came to hotel bookings, and admittedly he knew his stuff. When I asked about places to stay in Tokyo, straight away he was able to list off a heap of available rooms detailing specific amenities and facilities for each. But then while weighing up the options he’d given me, he started to get a little pushy. He explained he had also told other travellers about the same spots, and claimed he just didn’t want me to miss out on a great deal. I wanted to have a further think about it so I thanked him for his advice. But later than day he emailed me, again not-so-subtly reminding me that rooms in Tokyo were filling up fast. Unfortunately, what started as a promising advice had now put me off.

Fortunately, I wasn’t short of options. I had another friend recommended to me who had only just been travelling recently, and I was keen to check out what advice she could offer. Speaking to her was like hearing from the Japanese locals themselves. She told me which rooms were in the best location for sight-seeing or for nightlife, as well as which were easily accessible by public transport and airports. The best thing is that I could tell she was being open and honest when taking me through each potential booking. With her transparent advice, I really started to trust her recommendations.

I had a markedly difference experience speaking with both of these two accommodation aficionados, and it was obvious whose advice I was going to take. I knew I’d made the right choice when arriving at my accommodation in Tokyo. My second friend sent me a message as I was checking in, wishing me safe travels and recommended a few good tours for me while I was there.

Now here’s a twist that will give M Night Shyamalan a run for his money. These two friends of mine weren’t friends at all, but two accommodation booking websites. But I’m sure you guessed that, you’re an intelligent reader (and appreciates the fourth wall getting broken). I had faith in both these two websites that they could deliver what they promise – a simple hotel booking – and in essence they both could. So it shouldn’t make a difference which website I book on, right? Well when put in the context of getting advice from two ‘friends’, the choice couldn’t be clearer who you would rather go with.

What really made me realise the difference between the great (and woeful) customer experience I had with both these websites actually came after I finished with my trip and was already back home. ‘Friend’ 2 messaged me to say that many Japanese city governments are currently reviewing legislation that will impact how home-sharing services can operate, and as a recent traveller, thought I might want to sign a petition in their favour. Compare this to my first ‘friend’ who was still sending me emails about how the hotels in Tokyo were nearly all booked and didn’t want me to miss out…

Oh, and if you haven’t guessed yet which websites I’m referring to, let’s just say one left me feeling like I was walking on air, rather than saying booking.yeah.

By James Shelley

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