I?m heading home after a couple of days of customer visit in Minneapolis. The week before, I?d been in Matsue, a small and remote Japanese city. The prices were about the same, but Japanese hotel was decisively better, and it?s just silly that North American hotels are so crappy in so many ways.

In Minneapolis, it doesn?t matter whether it was a Sharriott or or a Hilyard or a Crowne Suites or an Embassy Plaza, hotel brands are dilute to the point of vacuousness. In Japan, it was the Matsue Tokyu Inn, very much like the ?Ladies Twin? illustrated on that page.

MatsueMinneapolis A window that opened and a small unobtrusive air conditioner that could move the temperature up or down unobtrusively.

Window wouldn?t open, and the climate control sounded like a 747 taking off.

Really fast wired Internet included in the price of the room.

$9.95 a day and it got real slow before breakfast and after supper when everyone was using it.

Two small elevators and one of them showed up quickly when you needed it.

Eight big elevators and you had to wait too long at ?rush hour?.

Provided a nice comfy ?yukata? bathrobe-thingie.

Cool high-tech Toto ?Washlet? toilet.

Condensation ran off the toilet leaving floor tiles wet.

Generous selection of bathroom amenities, including a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and so on.

Really slick shower, with independent controls for temperature and volume, both fast and responsive. Shower-head on a hose to facilitate rinsing downward-facing bits.

One control, no control over the volume, which was a pitiful trickle; comfy temperature really hard to dial in.

That shower control really made an impression on me, it was so effortlessly great. It?s at the right of this picture.

At the left, another truly great thing: large bottles of shampoo and so on with effortlessly readable labels. What a concept. In a North American hotel, the labels look something like this:

Puddleby & Soames
Revitalizing oatmeal-and-seaweed
Hand-made in Patagonia
As a result, like most presbyopic people over 45, I have to approach the shower wearing only my reading glasses, so I can pick out the shampoo.

Let?s be fair; the Sharriott did have a couple of advantages. The room was easily three times the size of the Tokyu?s, but I didn?t care. The desk chair was better; I used the spare bed?s pillow to soften the seat in Matsue. And the bar downstairs at the Sharriott genuinely wasn?t bad at all, with friendly and generous staff and a decent selection of cable-TV channels. Also Japanese hotels just don?t do face-cloths, which has always puzzled me.

Still, the hotels in this continent are a lot lousier than they have to be.