Patrons who fail to honor their reservations are the bane of restaurants the world over, and ditto for mountain lodges--although in the case of the latter, a no-show could be a harbinger of disaster.

Aside from the issue of foodstuffs going to waste, staff at mountain lodges said they invariably fear a guest who backs out might have been involved in an accident.

Although cancellations may be inevitable in some cases, patrons are urged to call ahead if they find they cannot make good on their bookings.

On July 14, midway through a three-day weekend, staffers at a mountain lodge in Yamanashi Prefecture were preparing to receive 40 climbers. The facility attracts many climbers from the Tokyo metropolitan area.

However, some of the guests didn’t show up at 6 p.m. as expected. When a staff member called the reservation holder, the reply given was: “I gave up on the climb due to bad weather, but I forgot to cancel it.”

By the same token, about half of the 40 individuals who booked overnight stays for that day--18 people in four groups--canceled their reservations, but most of them didn’t bother to call beforehand.

“We have to respect cancellations due to bad weather or physical conditions. But we just want people to call ahead of time,” said a man in his 70s who runs the mountain lodge.

The man said he and his staff had made preparations to receive the guests ahead of the three-day weekend, getting supplies up to the lodge by helicopter and on foot. Male employees lug 30 kilograms of goods on their backs to walk about six hours each way along the mountain trail, while female employees carry loads of 20 kg.

“We have to scrap the food when reservations are canceled without notice after we prepared the ingredients,” the owner continued. “But we can’t be too hard on customers because they have their reasons.”

In mid-July, about 10 people also canceled their reservations at a mountain lodge in Nagano Prefecture. The staff there were only informed that the group was backing out with a phone call made at 5 p.m.

“It gets dark at 5 p.m. in the mountains. Sometimes we worry that climbers may have been stranded due to exhaustion,” said a man in his 20s who manages the facility. “I was able to reach (the reservation holder) on the phone this time, but I have to assume a possible distress situation if I can’t get in touch.”

To make up for damages caused by cancellations without notice, some mountain lodges have introduced cancellation fees.

The Kitayokodake Hutte, a mountain lodge on Mount Kita-Yatsugatake, Nagano Prefecture, charges a cancellation fee of 25 to 75 percent of the accommodation fee, in principle, which is published on its website.

“Cancellation charges are not widely accepted in the mountaineering industry, but I had no alternative but to introduce the fee for sustainable management,” said the owner, Kenji Shimadate, 49.

He noted that large mountain huts can fly in supplies by helicopter and preserve foodstuffs in large refrigerators by operating generators at full capacity.

"But for small facilities like ours, we have to cover the damage from food waste stemming from cancellations,” Shimadate said.

Yasuhiro Hanatani, 42, an alpinist who also helps run a mountain lodge in Yamanashi Prefecture, said: “Recently, many people make reservations for multiple days in advance and cancel the reservations for the days with bad weather. When you change your plans, please give early notice.”