Meet the Department Store Staff Who Bring Japan’s Unparalleled Service to Osaka Malls
If you’ve ever spoken to a friend or family member who’s returned from a trip to Japan, you’re likely to hear about the kindness or thoughtfulness of the people they encountered in shops and restaurants, and the unusually high level of sensitivity to small details, all to improve the experience of customers. It’s almost a cliché, but omotenashi, best translated as a kind of wholehearted hospitality, remains a remarkable feature of travel to Japan for many, especially since it was evoked during Japan’s bid for the 2021 Summer Olympics. You’ll likely experience it in hotels where you stay (see our feature on hospitality at some of central Osaka’s hotels), but perhaps most often when you’re out and about doing some shopping.
If you’ve done a little research on Japan or done a previous trip yourself, you may know that Osaka is particularly well-known for the friendliness of its people. So it’s no wonder that when you’re looking for some guidance when you’re out and about enjoying this vibrant Japanese city, you can find answers to your questions that are characterized not only by omotenashi, but Osaka’s own unique friendliness and warmth.
Read on for a guide to services available at information centers in some of the best shopping malls in Osaka’s central hub of Umeda, and a word from some of the staff themselves!
Answers to all your questions at Information Centers in Osaka
If you travel to Osaka, or even to Kansai, you’re likely to pass through the Umeda area: it’s the economic center of Kansai, and is served by a great number of train and subway lines—it also happens to be a lively shopping district full of shops, restaurants, and cafés. On this site, you can find information and coupons to use at six of the major shopping malls in Umeda, Osaka.
And while you’re there, you may need to ask for assistance from mall staff. GRAND FRONT OSAKA, HEP FIVE, HANKYU SANBAN GAI, and HERBIS PLAZA/PLAZA ENT malls are all equipped with information centers to help with general questions, guidance on nearby facilities, recommendations for tasty meals or the perfect gift, as well as assistance with tax-free shopping, reporting lost items, or even helping children who wandered astray find their parents. Some malls may offer other services, too. Baby strollers, for example, can be lent out at information centers in HEP FIVE, and HERBIS PLAZA ENT.
What languages can staff speak?
You can rest assured that the professional service staff will assist you, whether with a foreign language speaking staff member, or through the use of an interpreting telephone service that can be used by information service staff at each of the malls. This telephone interpretation service is available in English, Chinese, and Korean until 10 p.m., and in Vietnamese, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, and Russian until 6 p.m.
You can find information centers at the following locations:
GRAND FRONT OSAKA SHOPS & RESTAURANTS
Location: South Building 2F, North Building 1F
Business Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
*Service available in simple English, or Korean or Chinese, when staff are available.
Business Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
*Several staff members speak English and Korean.
HANKYU SANBAN GAI
Location: South Building (Minami-kan) B1F
Business Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
HERBIS PLAZA/PLAZA ENT
Location: HERBIS PLAZA ENT B2
Business Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Meet the Staff
It’s the human touch that makes the difference.
Each dressed in their unique uniforms, which often change with the seasons, Umeda’s information staff are poised to answer questions in a manner that’s friendly, but also discreet and polite.
What do the staff at each of these four malls keep top of mind when interacting with international tourists to Japan?
The language barrier might be one thing, but, “No matter whether the customer is from here or abroad, I focus on greeting them politely with a bow and a greeting made with eye contact,” an attendant at HANKYU SANBAN GAI’s information counter told us.
Another at the HERBIS counter told us, “Most of all, I try to guide guests with a smile and a friendly attitude. Even if we don’t speak the same language, I’d like them to feel at ease, and that they’re welcome.”
For some visitors, though, a visit to Japan is the perfect opportunity to practice your Japanese with native speakers. Many of the staff remarked on this point, to follow the customer’s lead when it comes to their language of choice. As one staff member at GRAND FRONT OSAKA put it, “When assisting foreign customers, I make a point of speaking to them in the language in which they spoke to me. For example, if a non-Japanese person speaks to me in Japanese, I respond in kind.” Staff are used to dealing with not only all kinds of inquiries, but with customers with different language abilities, so you can be sure they’ll be understanding.
Responding to a Variety of Customer Needs
International customers may come with different questions than the locals, but the mall information staff are ready with answers, whether it’s a simple recommendation when you’re in a hurry to find lunch, looking for just the right souvenir, or trying to find your way around.
“I think I most often receive questions about the limousine bus to Kansai International Airport [which departs from just outside HERBIS PLAZA ENT], or about trains,” an attendant at HERBIS told us. Because Umeda is a transportation hub in Osaka and in wider Kansai, it can be both very convenient and a little confusing for new visitors, so it doesn’t hurt to ask for some pointers on getting around!
Many international visitors want to know about tax-free shopping in Japan, too, and come to present their receipts to ask about tax-free purchases, so if you’re unsure, go ahead and ask the staff.
And of course you can make use of their knowledge of the Umeda sights! “Some guests also ask for a photo in front of the red whale art installation,” said staff at HEP FIVE. “The information counter staff know how to take the best photos here, so don’t hesitate to ask us for one!”
Centering on Human Connection
Just as you’ll come home from your trip to Japan and Osaka with incredible memories, customers also leave an impression on the dedicated staff at these highly popular shopping malls. The information desk ladies spoke about many different experiences that they treasure, whether the shy “thank you” of a little girl safely waiting for her parents with the counter attendant at HANKYU SANBAN GAI, or the relief of a Korean visitor to HERBIS discovering he could ask about souvenirs in his native language.
“I have many good memories with international customers,” HEP FIVE staff told us. “A customer who asked about the HEP FIVE ferris wheel went out of their way to stop by the information counter again after riding it to tell us how much they’d enjoyed it, and showed us photos of the view they’d taken while riding. Others came to tell me they were pleased with what they’d found at a store I’d recommended.
“Seeing our customers’ smiles makes us feel good, too.”
“Ours is by definition a staffed service, where it’s really possible to feel the warmth of human interaction,” a staff member at HERBIS explains. “Even when it comes to simply offering information, being able to see the customer’s delight in-person is, I think, the best thing about this kind of work. I’m sure as international customers return to Japan, there will be even more interactions like these. I’m looking forward to it, and to offering the best service possible.”
Welcoming you to an ever-evolving Osaka
With new shops and events constantly popping up, and the development of a new part of Umeda nearing completion (see here for more information), this lively part of central Osaka is always evolving. When you visit, the staff at these shopping malls will be ready to guide you to the best of Umeda, and each shared a message with us for visitors.
“We hope that you enjoy your time here in Umeda, and we are dedicated to providing you with heartfelt hospitality. Come and see us with your questions!” - Staff at GRAND FRONT OSAKA
Staff at HEP FIVE extended some suggestions to visitors, too: “Umeda is at the center of sightseeing and shopping [in Osaka]. From HEP FIVE’s iconic red ferris wheel, the symbol of Umeda, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city, and the vista you see there is sure to become a wonderful memory of your visit [to Japan].
The HEP FIVE mall also carries a lot of fashions and Japanese manga- and character-related items that are popular overseas—there are a lot of spots international visitors are sure to love!
Staff at the information counter can help suggest shops and places to go, so please come stop by! We’ll greet you with a cheery smile and make sure you’re taken care of.”
HERBIS staff remarked on the character of the city as they extended their invitation: “Just like larger Japan, Osaka’s Umeda area is an incredibly interesting place, with a variety of different cultures. Of course, Osaka is also known for its friendly people. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of stories to tell after experiencing this unique city. Umeda is also full of wonderful foods and sightseeing spots, and we encourage you to enjoy it all! Our information staff can offer support to help you do just that, so don’t hesitate to stop by with your questions.”
“In HERBIS, guests can find a variety of shop brands and restaurants to enjoy Japanese food, and even musicals and more.
“Please come see us when you visit Umeda!”
HANKYU SANBAN GAI staff also looked forward to the return of visitors to Osaka, Japan: “As Umeda continues to change, there will always be something new to see, no matter how many times you visit. At the information counter, we’ll be ready to update you with the latest information, and look forward to welcoming you to the city. Welcome to Umeda, Osaka!”
Whatever assistance you need, the information staff here in the center of Osaka will be ready to help you with their characteristically friendly Osaka hospitality.
Get Money-Saving Coupons at Information Centers!
You can also receive the coupons available on this site in-person at information centers in the shopping malls for an even more enjoyable Umeda shopping experience!
If traveling to Osaka by bullet train, from Shin-Osaka Station you can access Osaka’s Umeda district by JR train or by taking the Midosuji Subway Line to Umeda station. If you are traveling from Namba Station, take the Midosuji or Yotsubashi Subway Line to Umeda or Nishi-Umeda Station.
See here for more information on how to easily get to Umeda from Kansai International Airport!
For more information on Umeda, check out some of our Trip Ideas.
*Business hours may be altered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
*Information in this article is accurate as of the date of posting. There is a possibility that details regarding these products and services have changed, or that some shops have since closed.
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