During my high school years, I worked in a supermarket, where an announcement over the loudspeaker system for “Code 19” always meant it was time to head to the staffroom for a cup of tea. Just like my clever supervisor, many service industry workers have developed their own set of code words that they use to communicate without letting the customers know too much about what’s really going on.

But thanks to this list of the secret keywords used by hotel staff in Japan, next time you’re in a Japanese hotel you can prick up your ears and listen out for any exciting gossip going on amongst the employees! Just for fun, have a look at this list first and see if you can guess what they mean. What would obake, nō-shō, aidoru taimu, chirashi, donden, and sukippā mean in a hotel context? 

Some of you may have guessed that some of those words come from English, but let’s begin with the spookiest and most exciting of the lot:

1) Ghost (“obake“)

A customer who turns up at the hotel insisting they have a reservation, although they haven’t actually made one.

Sometimes, a Ghost might be just trying their luck; or they might have actually made a reservation, but gone to the wrong hotel by mistake.

▼ A customer without a booking is probably the best kind of ghost to find in your hotel, anyway.

Kuniyoshi_The_GhostsImage: Wikipedia

2) No-Show (“no-shou“)

The opposite of a ghost. A customer who reserves a room but never turns up.

A loan word that sticks with the original English meaning! A Ghost customer who turns up on the off-chance there’ll be a room available is also called a “go show” (“go-shou” in Japanese).

3) Idle Time (“aidoru-taimu“)

Time spent hanging around when there’s nothing to do.

Sounds like a Code 19 situation to me! In English we helpfully have a variance in spelling to help us differentiate between the two words “idol” and “idle”. The Japanese, with their blissfully simple phonetic system, are not so lucky in this case. Pity the poor individual who thought a bunch of cute young singers in skimpy outfits were coming to entertain them for “idol time”!

An excellent use of idle time.

TowelImage: Trip Advisor

4) “Chirashi” 

Small tables arranged around the main table at a buffet, usually for glasses or tableware.

“But I thought chirashi meant leaflet?!” I hear you cry. Well, “chirashi” (散らし) means a scattering of things: in this case, tiny tables sprinkled around a room. Just like pamphlets that have blown away in the wind after some idling employee put them down instead of handing them out.

▼ “Scattered sushi” didn’t sound too appealing either, so they named it chirashi-zushi instead.

800px-Chirashi-zushiImage: Wikipedia

5) “Donden”

As soon as one party finishes, having to clean up the room and prepare for the next booking.

This lovely-sounding word (try saying it out loud a couple of times!) comes from dondengaeshi, a complete plot twist at the end of a kabuki play. At wedding reception venues or during end-of-year party season, several groups will be using one venue in swift succession, so it’s “all change” as hotel staff work quickly to get everyone in and out as quickly as they can.

6) “Aisu peiru”

When an item or product is introduced to Japan from abroad, instead of giving that word kanji characters, the original word is often imported too (albeit in Japanese pronunciation which may be amusingly incomprehensible to people who don’t speak Japanese). For some reason Japan has decided that it sounds more sophisticated and generally cooler to call an ice bucket an “ice pail”. I guess “bucket” doesn’t really have wonderful connotations, if you think about it.

▼ This is not a bucket.

Image: Homewetbar

7) Skipper (“sukippā”)

Someone who sneaks out in the morning without paying the hotel bill.

Japanese hotel staff use another handy English loan word to refer to the kind of dastardly scoundrel who skips out without even stopping to say goodbye to the friends they made on the front desk, let alone return their key and settle the check. We wonder if they did actually skip across the lobby as they left…

Have you worked in a hotel or other business that used these kind of code words? Which ones are the weirdest and funniest? Are any that are too well-known to be effective as secret words? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Niconico News
Top image: Tomostyle