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Japan`s Hospitality Vol. 2 - Business Japanese with Human Academy2015.09.04

    Following the last entry, lets think about “OMOTENASHI=Hospitality”


    Last time we discussed the difference between service and hospitality and its examples. This time, we will talk about the misunderstanding many make (Even the Japanese Natives), regarding “Excessive Service=OMOTENASHI (Hospitality)”.


    For Example.


    I went to a store to buy some new clothes couple of days ago.

    I found a shirt I really like and the price was fair, so I decided to make a purchase.

    After the payment was made, and when I tried to take the shirt, I have been told, “ We are currently wrapping it, thank you for patience.”

    Looking at it carefully, the shirt is getting wrapped in very soft paper, and then packed into a clear plastic bag. In addition, the packed shirt, is now stored into a box with the brand`s logo, and then put into a carrier-bag.

    However, it was not over, when I tried to take the bag, I have been told “I`ll bring it to the exit.” The person that has wrapped and packaged my shirt sent me off at the exit. The employee had her head bowed down until I was no longer visible.


    Is this really “OMOTENASHI(Hospitality)”?

    Or am I just a shallow person for thinking time is more important than wrapping a purchased product?


    Plus, there was another situation.



    It happened when I went to a restaurant with my family.

    Enjoying our meal, and when I was about to drink my coffee, there was a piece hair inside it.

    It was a blonde/white colored hair, it was probably a bleached hair some youngsters in Japan have.

    I assumed because my wife, daughter, and I do not have that kind of hair color.

    So I requested, “Excuse me, there is hair in this cup of coffee, may I get a new one?"


    The waiter confirmed my request, and disappeared into the kitchen (rather a bar counter).

    Few minutes later, there were four people that has brought my new coffee is the owner of the restaurant, a part-time worker with bleached blonde hair, the waitress that did not realize the hair, and then the waiter I have requested.


    They all bowed their head down and said, “I am sorry for making you feel uncomfortable”.

    Honestly, I was like “why?” the owner even started apologizing about the hair color of the part-time worker.


    Can you really call this the “Ultimate Hospitality”?


    Japanese people are often called “Service Addicts”.


    The idea, “The customer is god (The customer comes first)” is practiced for a very long time. There are customers who will get mad if a perfect service does not happen, and there are stores that reflect on the error too much.


    However, due to the persuasion of perfection, there are many who forget the roots of hospitality. I think in today`s Japan, many pursue nothing but excessive service, which is very unfortunate due to many thinking standard service=OMOTENASHI (Hospitality)


    I believe OMOTENASHI (Hospitality) is a belief that is not standardized. I believe the basic of Omotenashi (Hospitality) is a practice when one welcomes the customer with their own unique personality.


    In 2020, the Olympics will be hosted in Tokyo. Which is very delightful, until then, as a Japanese I hope the service industry will remember the real Omotenashi (Hospitality), not the misunderstood one.


    “OMOTENASHI” is one of the important factors to create the Japanese society, which many foreigners compliment on. There are many things that the Japanese did not know as well.


    I have read it somewhere before, but the practice/culture of “Omotenashi (Hopitality)”started more than 400 years ago, it is when Japan was in the Edo Era.


    There are many that may know but, “Edo” is the predecessor of Tokyo, and also described as the era when Japan`s own popular culture blossomed. In the past, Kyoto was the center of Japanese government. From Kyoto, the Shogun opened up Edo, and many people gathered, and started the culture.


    It is said when many people are attracted in a small piece of land, the thinking of “not to disturb others” and “allowing each other to live comfortably” adapts, which allowed for the culture of Omotenashi to start. Edo is the small piece of land where many gather, the gesture of “Edo Shigusa” occurred.

    The common ones are “Kasakashige” “Shichisan no michi”.

    Kasakashige=Umbrella Cocking”  When passing each other on a rainy day, in order to prevent the raindrop from touching anyone, one faces the umbrella outwards.

    Shichisan no michi=7:3 Road” – Using only 30% of the road regularly, and leaving the 70% for times of emergencies.




    Here are two examples out of the many Omotenashi that was not known by the author until now.


    ①    The bus tilts!

    Did you know when a bus in Japan comes to a stop the exit (left side in Japan) gets lower. By removing the air suspension of the bus, the height of the left side gets lower, which allows the boarding and leaving easier. Of course the body of the bus will return to normal while driving, did you know?


    ②    The umbrella rack in public bathrooms.

    Sorry this might be a little disturbing story. When going to the bathroom in the train station, there is small hook on the side of the urinal. This hook is used to hang umbrellas when using the urinal on a rainy day, since putting the umbrella on the ground is pretty gross.


    These are all just small examples, however, thinking about these small kind of things could be the real Omotenashi”.


    Service is expected to be seen by the customer, and Omotenashi (Hospitality), does not require the customer to see nor require return.

    Omotenashi is gesture that happens willingly thinking about the other individual.


    As a Japanese, it makes me feel very proud.


    However, I believe there are many misunderstandings, even from the Japanese people regarding the “OMOTENASHI” that they are proud of.


    The misunderstanding is, Excessive Service= Omotenashi.


    Next I would like to think and go over regarding these mistakes. 

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    Article Writer

    Tomonobu Tanaka

    Human Academy Japanese Language School - Chief Manager
    After graduating, Mr.Tanaka taught Japanese in a number of countries in the ASEAN region including Malaysia and Brunei.
    He then taught at a Japanese school for foreign students in Japan for 10 years before making a transition to school management.
    As the role of Japanese language teaching changes, Mr.Tanaka focuses on Japanese teaching methods that fit the needs of students today.

    The Human Academy Japanese School doesn't just teach Japanese language, it offers students the chance to experience Japanese culture and offers a wide range of courses (inc. business Japanese) to students of around 30 nationalities.
    We have developed courses focuses on improving students' overall Japanese communication ability, resulting in a large number of our students passing the JLPT exam and/or going on to the top public/private Universities in Japan.
    We also have a strong reputation for our Japanese classes aimed at foreign workers in Japan as part of their company training.
    Certified by the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education.
    Approved by the Immigration Bureau of Japan.

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