The first establishment in Japan to call itself a “department store” is the Mitsukoshi Main Store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. In 1914, Mitsukoshi Installed one of the earliest elevators in Japan, operated by male “drivers” who doubled as store concierge staff. In the 1930s, the store introduced female elevator attendants — among the most coveted jobs for Japanese women of the time. But over time, with increasingly popular high-performance lift facilities, elevator attendants gradually disappeared from department stores. Today, they are an “endangered species”, both inside and outside Japan.
However, Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi (main store) still keeps its traditional elevator attendants on staff to run two rare-model manually operated lifts. The company carefully maintains these old-fashioned elevators because Mitsukoshi believes that it is responsible to preserve Japanese cultural history and pass on this legacy to future generations. Both manual elevators and elevator attendants are part of the time-honored Japanese tradition of omotenashi (hospitality).
In fact, Mitsukoshi regards its old-fashioned hospitality as particularly important in helping customers enjoy relaxed times in their department store. Elevator attendants serve as elevator operators and store concierge staff. Their work includes listening courteously to customers’ questions and guiding them to the right floors, sales corners, and desired products.
Observe these attendants carefully — their straight posture, nimble actions, practical guidance, clear voices (audible even in a crowded store floor), quick and precise elevator operation, and pleasant facial expressions. Another example of the spirit of Japanese hospitality, at work in Nihonbashi today.
Thanks to such attentive personnel, some customers deliberately let the automatic elevators pass by and wait for the old-fashioned lifts to arrive. They feel peace of mind in the old elevators, in the ever-gracious company of Japan’s elevator attendants.