Hilton Pulls Ad Attacking Ryokans in Japan After Uproar

Hilton Japan ran an ad that seemed to mock the rules at traditional Japanese ryokan — and pulled it a week later amidst an uproar.

Unseen Japan

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By Himari Semans

Hilton Japan ryokan ad

The Hilton’s YouTube channel uploaded a Japanese commercial for Conrad Hotels & Resorts, one of its nineteen hotel brands on November 9th.

Hilton removed the video less than a week later. X (formerly known as Twitter) users bombarded the American hospitality company for “making a joke out of Japanese culture,” as one viewer wrote.

After taking down the video, Hilton reportedly commented that it “had no intentions to degrade anybody or give off negative impressions,” but that it would take steps to prevent reoccurring incidents.

Old and uncomfortable portrayal of Japanese ryokan

The commercial begins in a Japanese ryokan before it segues to the Conrad.

The side-by-side comparison of the two establishments — a rustic hotel lit by glitchy fluorescent lights versus a grand luxury high-rise with sparkling chandeliers — angered Japanese viewers for insinuating that a ryokan is just a musty, old-fashioned hotel.

Another point of comparison was between the ryokan’s Okami (女将) and the Conrad’s manager.

The Okami, whose role corresponds to that of a general manager in a Western hotel, appears to overwhelm her two check-in guests by chattering away each of the ryokan’s rules.

“Bath time is between 5 AM and 11 PM. We will bring dinner to your room at 6 PM. Please finish eating by 9 PM. Breakfast is between 7 AM and 10 AM. The last order is at 9:30 AM. It gets really busy around 8 AM. Checkout is at 10 AM.”

The couple standing at the front desk’s opposite side grimaces at the Okami and each other. Their expressions say: What kind of hotel is this?

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