Interview with Ms. Yuko Jensen, the owner of the Nagomi Apartment Hotel
One of Melbourne’s most influential business mavericks.
— What made you decide to start “Nagomi”?
“Nagomi” is the successor to the service-oriented apartment hotel named “Shoan Heights” which was founded in 1995. Seven years ago when I was working for “Shoan Heights” as a manager, the owner of the hotel asked me whether I was interested in taking over the business. I was not particularly interested in business itself but I accepted his offer anyway just because I needed to make money in order to continue the tea ceremony, which was my hobby. This was how I took up a new career in midlife in 2002. The spirit of hospitality which I learned from the tea ceremony is really helping me to manage “Nagomi”
— I hear you teach the tea ceremony in Melbourne.
When I was in Japan, I just enjoyed the tea ceremony as a pupil. But here in Melbourne I have often been asked about the essence of the tea ceremony and other aspects of Japanese culture. It was so frustrating that I couldn’t give proper explanation. In 1996, I made up my mind to return to Japan in order to study the tea ceremony over again for a year. Since then I have been captivated by the idea of “Wakei Seijaku” or the spirit of the tea ceremony representing harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Of course there is still so much left to learn. Since I came back to Melbourne, I have been teaching the tea ceremony every weekend. Teaching is also learning for me. It is a precious time for me when I can communicate with those who have different cultures through the tea ceremony and I can feel relaxed even when I am physically tired.
— What is the meaning and concept of “Nagomi”?
I changed the name of the hotel to "Nagomi" meaning “comfort”, wanting to express the concept I took over from the previous owner, of aiming to make the hotel as comfortable as possible so that our Japanese guests would feel relaxed free from language problems while of course providing non-Japanese with good service so that they can feel comfortable at our hotel.
— What do you think makes your apartment hotel distinct from other hotels?
Basically, most of our guests are Japanese. So we have friendly Japanese-speaking staff members who offer considerate service to meet a variety of requests of our guests such as free rental DVDs featuring Japanese TV programs and dramas, the kitchen equipped with a rice cooker and Japanese plates, as well as complimentary goods like slippers and toothbrushes. All our staff members are trying to make the hotel as cozy as possible so that our guests can feel nice and relaxed when they come back here from sightseeing or work.
— What is your motto and what do you value most as a business woman?
I should say it would be “Nagomi” or harmony. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough to have wonderful staff members. They know they are members of the team “Nagomi”, and consider it very important to have “harmonious relationship with guests” as well as “with their fellow members”. I don’t consider myself as a businesswoman. I’m just trying hard to carry out what small business I happened to take over has to offer. But of course it doesn’t mean I don’t have faith in my management. I have strong faith in whatever I do.
— What are your plans for the future of “Nagomi”?
I would like more people from Japan to come and stay at “Nagomi” not just for sightseeing but for studying or other activities for longer periods. Thanks to our guests, staff members, Mr. Tryber and people around me, I have been able to come this far. I know I shouldn’t be content with what “Nagomi” is now and that we should try harder to make “Nagomi” a much cozier place for our guests by improving both our services and equipments. So we would appreciate your informing us of any comments or requests you might have.
I don’t think I have any tastes in anything except, say, that I am particular about what I eat. But I do like the contemporary “Shinochawan”, Shino-ware tea bowl that I bought in Melbourne the other day.
-Thank you very much.