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A lot of sayings in English have equivalents in Japanese. For example, “everyone makes mistakes” becomes “even monkeys fall from trees.” “Adding insult to injury” morphs into “a bee stinging your crying face.”

Sometimes, though, these proverbs receive a bit of an upgrade in their Japanese translations. So while the English truism states that “the customer is always right,” Japan holds that “the customer is God.” It’s a mantra companies take to heart, as illustrated by these tales of amazing customer service in Japan.

We start our tour of customer worship at Uniqlo, Japan’s biggest casual clothing chain, as well as near-exclusive supplier for wardrobes of recently arrived expats (and certain Internet writers).


As Uniqlo’s commercials from two decades ago show, the company started off with a lenient return system. It looks like the company has stuck by its system, judging from this satisfied shopper.

“I bought something at Uniqlo, and after I’d worn it and washed it once, I decided I wanted to return it. I’d already tossed the receipt, and even though I took the item back to a different store than I’d bought it at originally, they still let me return it.”

Of course, not just home-grown companies, but overseas operations, like Amazon, have to provide the high level of service Japanese customers are accustomed to in order to succeed in the country. Sometimes, this even involves one-upping the Japanese manufacturers of the goods the online retail giant sells.

“I purchased a new Mitsubishi monitor for my PC through Amazon, but it broke almost immediately. First, I called Mitsubishi, and they told me I’d have to mail in the monitor and wait at least a week, or maybe two, for them to repair it. I was ticked off they weren’t going to replace the whole unit, so I contacted Amazon instead. They emailed me back right away saying they’d replace the monitor, and also gave me a coupon for 500 yen (US$5) off my next Amazon order.”

Another foreign company thriving in Japan is Disney, particularly with the Tokyo Disney Resort complex of theme parks and hotels.

“When we were at Disneyland, my little brother got really excited when he spotted Mickey walking around, so he ran over to give him some of his chocolate. I’d heard the park doesn’t allow that kind of thing, but none of the cast members tried to stop him. Instead, Mickey just gave him a hug.”

▼ Hugs for chocolate is always a good trade.

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This level of hospitality is present at Disneyland’s eating establishments, as well.

“We were eating dinner at a restaurant, and we got up to go see a show that was going on outside. When we got back to our table, saw the staff had folded our napkins into Mickey Mouse shapes while we were gone.”


On one occasion, it seems the theme park’s workers even helped lessen the blow of a terrible tragedy for a married couple.

“I heard about a couple whose baby passed away shortly after it was born. They’d been looking forward to going to Disneyland together, as a family, when the child got older. So just the two of them went, and when they went into a restaurant to eat, they told the staff what had happened. The staff thanked them for coming with their family, and even set out a children’s meal on the couple’s table at their request.”

Japanese video game makers have also shown a strong commitment to keeping their customers’ spirits up. Multiple Internet commenters expressed their gratitude towards publisher Enix (now merged with former rival Square as part of the Square Enix brand).

Enix has had several hits over the years, but perhaps none was bigger than the third installment in its Dragon Warrior series of role-playing games. When Dragon Quest III was released for the Famicom in 1989, it caused such hysteria in Japan that a rash of muggings and thefts of the cartridge broke out in the normally law-abiding country. Feeling sorry for customers who had become the victims of such unexpected crimes, Enix offered to replace cartridges that had been taken from boys and girls who filed police reports after their copies of the game were stolen.

▼ Proving you don’t have to slay dragons to be a kid’s hero

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Enix was even generous enough to help out fans who were unable to enjoy the game for less dramatic reasons.

“I broke my Dragon Quest III cartridge, and I couldn’t save or load my data anymore. I sent it to Enix, asking them to replace the battery, but instead, they mailed me back a brand new copy of the game.”

There have been even more stories about Nintendo’s customer service exploits. In particular, stories abound about the Kyoto-based company’s understanding and helpfulness regarding its DS series of handheld systems, which tend to take a lot of punishment in fulfilling their role of gaming on the go.

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“There were a couple annoying dead pixels on my DS Lite’s screen, so I called to ask about getting it repaired. Instead, they sent me a brand new unit, and they even put a protective sheet on the screen for me.”

“It might have just been my imagination, but the colors on the bottom screen on my DS were looking a little weird and yellowy, so I sent it in for Nintendo to check it out. They sent it back with a letter saying, ‘The colors looked OK to us, and we couldn’t find any problems with your DS but we went ahead and replaced both screens for you.”

“I bought a DS in a sketchy online auction, and the unit number on the proof of purchase didn’t match the number on the warranty card. It broke in less than a year, so I went ahead and sent it in for repairs. Nintendo not only fixed it for free, they included a new proof of purchase with the proper registration number.”

Nintendo’s technicians will even go the extra mile in preserving their users’ cosmetic modifications.

“I sent in two broken DS units. Not only did Nintendo replace them both, they even transferred the stickers I had on the old systems to the new ones for me.”

This isn’t a new thing for Nintendo, either. One fan recalls calling Nintendo to ask for help when he was stuck in the company’s 1995 title Yoshi’s Island, and getting the answer he needed in a matter of minutes.

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This might not seem so impressive to gamers who grew up in territories where Nintendo had an entire side businesses of selling game hints through toll numbers. However, Nintendo didn’t offer such a service in Japan, and the person the boy had spoken with wasn’t a specialized game counselor, but rather the company’s quick-thinking front desk receptionist, who had to put the child on hold while she tracked down an employee who could answer his question.

This dedication has been shown to extend all the way to the top at the company. In the early 1990s, an elementary school student was riding his bike when he was hit by a car. During his subsequent stay in the hospital, the boy wanted to play some games, but his Game Boy had been in the basket of his bike at the time of the accident, and was so damaged it had to be sent to Nintendo for repairs.

The maintenance department, shocked at the abuse the handheld system had taken, called the boy’s mother to inquire about how it had ended up in such a state. She told them about the accident, and a few days later the boy received a new Game Boy, along with a note telling him to watch out for cars signed by “Yokoi,” ostensibly Game Boy designer Gunpei Yokoi.

Similarly, another Nintendo fan recalls saving up his allowance and buying a Famicom game on the day of its release, but accidentally breaking the cartridge in less than a week. Distraught, he sent it to Nintendo to be fixed. One week later, a box came for the boy, containing a new copy of the game, repayment of the initial shipping fee, some Mario merchandise, and a handwritten letter, saying:

“Thanks for buying our game, and sorry to hear about it breaking just when you were having fun with it. Try to be more careful, but since you’re still in elementary school, I’m guessing you don’t have much money to pay for repairs, so this time Uncle Miyamoto will take care of it for you.”

▼ Shigeru Miyamoto: creator of Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and all-around nice guy.

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So remember, next time you’re taking care of something at work, go ahead and toss in a handwritten note. Odds are you won’t go on to become a legend in your industry and retroactively make someone’s day 20 years later, but you never know.

▼ Signed…Casey…


Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Wikipedia
Insert images: U Note, NTT Docomo, Exblog, Iso Labo, Wikipedia, Game Informer, Hachima Kiko, RocketNew24