Camp Zama lodging named best in Army for third time in four years

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMarch 6, 2024

Ben Sarabia, left, and Maki Yoshifumi, both housekeepers at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, help clean a room before a guest checks in to the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ben Sarabia, left, and Maki Yoshifumi, both housekeepers at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, help clean a room before a guest checks in to the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Mai Nemoto, a front desk clerk at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, assists a guest checking out of the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Mai Nemoto, a front desk clerk at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, assists a guest checking out of the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
The Camp Zama Army Lodging team in Japan recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities. The facility, which has over 90 rooms in three separate buildings, also earned $15,000 to improve its lodging as well as $500 to hold a celebratory event for its employees.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Camp Zama Army Lodging team in Japan recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities. The facility, which has over 90 rooms in three separate buildings, also earned $15,000 to improve its lodging as well as $500 to hold a celebratory event for its employees. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The Camp Zama Army Lodging team will need to add another trophy to their display case after recently winning the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities.

The facility, which has over 90 rooms in three separate buildings, also earned $15,000 to improve its lodging as well as $500 to hold a celebratory event for its employees.

Mark Akita, lodging manager, said the facility has already placed funds it had won in fiscal 2020 and 2022 toward projects to upgrade some of its rooms.

"We’ve been working on rooms to do different things and just to keep everything spruced up,” he said. “Fortunately, the little things that we are doing have contributed into us winning this award several times.”

The facility beat almost 10 other facilities, most of which located overseas, to earn last year’s title. The lodging facility at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, won the large category.

The recent feat for the Camp Zama facility may be considered even more notable since two of its buildings that typically accommodate families and distinguished visitors were built in 1955.

“[U.S. Army Japan] moved from Tokyo down to Camp Zama in 1953,” Akita said, “so those two buildings themselves are 69 years old.”

Additionally, the facility’s main building, where guests check in, is 33 years old and past its lifespan.

In 2023, a project was approved to construct a new lodge next to Yano Sports Field. The project, which is currently in the contracting phase, includes a seven-story building with more than 100 rooms, 55 of which will be designed for extended stays. The project should break ground in fiscal 2025.

“With these older buildings we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of good things,” Akita said. “But it goes back to the team. If you have a good team, you can get things done. That's the biggest thing.”

Mai Nemoto, a front desk clerk at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, and Mark Akita, left, lodging manager, help customers inside the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Mai Nemoto, a front desk clerk at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, and Mark Akita, left, lodging manager, help customers inside the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Ben Sarabia, left, and Maki Yoshifumi, both housekeepers at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, help clean a room before a guest checks in to the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ben Sarabia, left, and Maki Yoshifumi, both housekeepers at the Camp Zama Army Lodging in Japan, help clean a room before a guest checks in to the facility March 5, 2024. The lodging team recently won the fiscal 2023 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

One of those teammates, Mai Nemoto, a front desk clerk, said all the employees were grateful to be recognized for their hard work.

Nemoto, who has been there for two years, said facility staff will often share their experience with newer employees to ensure the award-winning service at the facility is maintained.

“They always help and teach us,” she said, “so we can learn our job and continue to have a good performance.”

Nemoto is one of the first faces that incoming personnel will see when they arrive to Camp Zama. While at the front desk, she has many opportunities to speak with guests and handle an array of urgent requests.

“We need to make a good impression, and we need to provide good service,” she said. “It can sometimes be difficult, but on the other hand, it's really fun for me.”

Guests have responded with glowing reviews because of those types of efforts at the facility.

Last year, the facility had a 97% overall satisfaction rate out of nearly 240 respondents. It was also voted the “Best of the Pacific” for on-post lodging in 2023 by Stars and Stripes readers.

The facility also saved $111,000 in taxpayer funds for a carpet installation project inside its main building by using carpet tiles instead of rolled carpet to help cut labor costs.

Supervisors also emphasized individual development by providing cross-training for housekeepers to learn front desk operations as well as opportunities for employees to take computer training and English placement tests.

Eric Hill, who oversees the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said he was proud of the lodging team for once again being chosen as the best in the Army.

“They are clearly not resting on their laurels,” he said. “This demonstrates their dedication to continued customer service excellence, and a focus on sound business management practices.”

As one of the services in his directorate’s portfolio, Hill said the lodging facility sets the stage for those arriving to Japan on a permanent change of station move by taking good care of them.

“Coming in to clean and well-maintained facilities, getting a warm welcome at check-in, and receiving great customer service in what becomes that temporary home away from home really helps during that transition time,” he said.

“The same can be said for those staying with us as they PCS out,” he added. “Their time in lodging becomes their last impression of the installation as they move on to their next assignment.”

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website