Hello Everyone! This is Wild Cherry Blossom HOSTEL Musashi Koganei, Tokyo.
This blog is “Interview with hostel staff” vol.2! (for vol.1, please click this URL.)
This time, I interviewed Sawatari san and Oya san, who work as managers at WCB. I hope you enjoy!!
From Machida City, Tokyo. After graduating from the university, he studied hospitality management at “The Windsor Hotel TOYA Resort & Spa” to know the hotel industry.
From Hachinohe city, Aomori Prefecture.
After joining the local bank, he found interest in the “hotel as a hospitality industry” and retired from the bank after 5 years. He studied hospitality management at “The Windsor Hotel TOYA Resort & Spa.”
In 2005, he joined as an opening member for “ Tachikawa Washington Hotel (owned and run by One ’s heart Ltd.).”
In 2018, he joined the company “GEN HOSTEL,” which aimed to create a new hostel business in the Tama area. In December 2019, he joined as the opening member for “Wild Cherry Blossom-HOSTEL KOGANEI-” which is the first locally connected hostel in the Tama area. He works as a manager for the hostel, creating projects and managing the business plan.
ー Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule today! I am surprised you already knew each other before working at WCB. Please could you introduce each other?
For Oya san, he is like an ocean. So the season is summer. He loves “Sazan,” the Japanese band too.
We managed many collaboration projects at WCB, and I was always impressed by his ideas and knowledge ー it is like to reflect a beautiful moon on the surface of the sea or make the sea shine. He is open-minded, thoughtful, and frank person.
For Sawatari san, well, it is difficult to explain, but he is like “water.”
He is graceful and persistent at the same time. Also, he is kind to others too. Am I making too many compliments? 🙂
I met with him over ten years ago at the school of hotel management for working adults, an annex with a resort hotel in Hokkaido.
He entered the school before I did, thus he was a senior. I remember the first day of my dorm of the school since he wore a suit and welcomed me. He showed me the building facilities like a brilliant professional hotel staff, and I was very impressed.
I was very excited to get close to “Sawatari Sempai.” However, he started to live by himself and soon left the dorm.
Since the first time we met, we have had a chance to work together. We know each other well now, and I feel we are more than working partners ー our relationship is like “brother in arms”!
ー Thank you so much for the excellent introductions!!
For this interview, I would tell me your thoughts on WCB. To begin with, please could you explain how you describe WCB as an accommodation?
Whenever people ask me about this hotel, I always talk about these two points.
Firstly, “WCB as a transition point for tourism in the Tama area.”
The Tama area has an impressive history, culture, and people, that are relatively unknown. WCB is trying to be a transition point for tourism in the Tama area by delivering attractive information. Since we are a hostel, not a tourist information center, we can make various suggestions to enjoy the Tama area.
Secondly, “WCB as a global hostel in the local area.”
Our team comprises staff from different countries and staff interested in other cultures. We often cooperate with people and local companies, shops to create events for revitalizing the local area.
For some people, “Global” or “International” may not sound familiar. However, the staff from abroad lives in the Tama area, using Japanese, eating Japanese food, and shopping in the local supermarket. They are trying to know about this area and working to improve it every day.
I think WCB is quite a casual hostel. The guest and staff can get close, and we hosted many events for people in the local area.
What is more, we built our facility to make sure the guests can stay safe. The staff team also cleans the facilities every day to sanitize.
The most important thing is our staff team. The team comprises international staff members and 16 students interested in the Tama area. Their ideas and abilities to take actions make a driving force for the WCB today.
ー Thank you so much! I think what Sawatari san has mentioned is related to the comment by a WCB staff member in the previous interview, “the attractiveness of WCB is our heart.”
Also, Oya San mentioned that “WCB is an international and local facility,” which is our most significant feature.
If you don’t mind, I would like to hear more about WCB. On our home page, we defined WCB as “Discover in the Tama area,” “Experience traditional culture in the local area,” and “Relax as a home.” What do you think WCB is for you?
WCB is in the Koganei City. Honestly, I don’t think there are many tourist attractions and contents.
However, the Koganei area is near the center of Tokyo and full of nature. WCB gives our guests the opportunity to experience life in this unique area.
Also, we could create the culture and activities into our new tourism content. How do we engage people to enjoy the Tama area? It is kind of a abstract question, I think answering this question could be WCB’s unique point and what WCB is.
As I mentioned, WCB is global-local, and once we step in, there is a comfortable place as a family. I think this various allure is what WCB is. Our hostel is present in the area a little far from central Tokyo, which adds uniqueness. Isn’t it like a hotel in “Spirited Away” ?(This is from one Ghibli Animation) In Shintoism, it is believed that a god exists for everything. In the animation, all gods from every prefecture come to the hotel to have a relaxing time for themselves. I can not wait for days when we could welcome guests from all over the world for relaxation.
What is more, WCB is trying to create a better place every day. I am excited about the future of our hostel.
ーーThank you so much. I have mainly interviewed the activities in the past; from now, I would like to hear more about the establishment of WCB. Please could you express the feelings you had at the opening of WCB?
We started planning for WCB in 2018. At that time, the number of foreign visitors grew to 30 million people. We wanted to create a unique place to connect local areas with foreign visitors, with friendly staff members to have a welcoming atmosphere.
To establish our dream hostel, we repeated try and error to create operation frameworks for new staff. It felt challenging, as I had to consider different from my experience working at a hotel.
I had a special feeling that I wanted to express the allure of the Tama area creatively with our guests, staff members, and local communities through a hostel project. While I had the experience of working at a hotel, establishing the hostel was a new challenge. I had to start with thinking outside of the box. Especially for the hotel, it is unlikely for the staff members to interact with the guests. However, we considered interactions with the guests and staff members essential for WCB. Therefore, we have a very different approach for the operations, hardware, and exemplary character for the staff for recruitment.
What is more, the operation was significant. We had to consider the simple operation framework for the staff members since we wanted to hire staff members from abroad and students.
It is hard to say I could use the most from my past experiences, I tried to study and input information by visiting other hostels and guesthouses, and we tried to spend a long time creating our unique “WCB” concept.
— Thank you. It had been two years in December in 2021, since the opening of WCB. Congratulations! How were these two years for you? Please could you tell us the most exciting experiences as well?
Thank you so much.
We had such a difficult time since the opening because of the spread of Covid-19; however, I think that challenging experience made our bond very strong.
What is more, we could think positively about challenges, because of the hard time.
I could think about many exciting moments in the past; if I have to say, I will choose “a little Marché on the hill,” a cross-cultural event with the local community and people.
This project brought us an opportunity to consider the concept of “connection to the local community.” We got many ideas to create an ideal event with the local people and shops.
I am sure that this project could express the new style of the hostel and the allure of the local community in the Koganei area.
I want to say thank you to all people supporting our hostel, staff members, and of course guests who gave us kind words.
Thank you so much!!
Thank you so much for the celebration of the two years. We had an opening in December 2019. Three months later, we had a disastrous situation as the widespread of the covid-19, which canceled all reservations from late March.
Since all borders closed worldwide, we had to focus on domestic travelers. Our staff is a multi-cultural team, and I am sure staff members from overseas found it challenging to use Japanese all the time. I am grateful for all of my staff members.
After these two years, I still can not stop preparing to welcome guests from overseas in the future.
ーーThis is my very last question. Please could you tell us what you want to accomplish in the future？
I think it isn’t easy to think about welcoming guests from overseas now.
However, since the opening, we could meet so many people interested in WCB, more than I can imagine. I think what we can do in WCB is quite limited.
Our challenge is to create as many products as possible that meet their demand. On the positive side, we could had amazing connections with local people who are very supportive.
In terms of the stay, if a person changes a plan of a day trip to an overnight trip, it creates more time to spend in the local area, which could positively affect the economy.
I want the WCB to play the role of promoting this movement.
Oh, I want to do so many things!!
Especially “local tour. ” I think it is such a precious thing to express the allure of the local community and information with our voices and feelings. Of course, we would add WCB’s unique arrangements for the contents of the tour.
I predict more demand for the extended stay. Work, travel, and leisure could become more and more flexible today, thus WCB should be a “hub” for the local community and the guests.
ーーThank you for your time!
WCB could celebrate two years since the opening, and we continually challenge ourselves to create unforgettable experiences for the guests.
Thank you so much for all of your support and kind words. We hope to see you soon at WCB! 🙂
🖊 WCB staff – Nanami