Some establishments worldwide only whisper that the customer is the king when a dispute arises.
But in Japan’s hospitality industry and customer service, Omotenashi is a way of life.
What is Omotenashi?
Omotenashi means selfless hospitality or wholehearted service to the customer. The whole concept, however, has a deeper meaning than just excellent customer service.
It refers to the Japanese’s welcoming culture, respect, kinship, and harmony when serving others.
The term Omotenashi first became famous to the rest of the world in 2013, before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Christel Takigawa referred to it when promoting her country Japan for the acclaimed sporting event.
As part of the deep Japanese culture, Omotenashi is visible nationwide in every establishment, store, hotel, and restaurant.
The concept focuses on receiving and treating all guests warmly and kindly and being aware of their presence and needs at all times.
The key focus is to make customers and visitors comfortable by ensuring they exceed expectations.
Besides showing Omotenashi in the commercial service industry, the Japanese also practice it elsewhere.
You will likely experience this art of Japanese hospitality as a guest in their homes, social scenes or parties, and all private and public places.
7 Omotenashi Examples
There are numerous ways you will experience Omotenashi in Japan. Below are instances where you will come across the concept.
Although it may seem normal to the locals, it is always a unique and exciting experience for foreigners.
In Japan, taxi drivers will open and close the door for all their customers without asking.
They will leave the cab and automatically pick up your luggage without expecting or asking for a tip.
The state-of-the-art high-speed bullet trains available for every possible direction in Japan are no exception.
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Not only do they arrive and depart on time, but the cleaners are always courteous to travelers.
They show pride in their job by bowing to the customer, cleaning swiftly, and remaining friendly as they do their duties.
The culinary experience in Japan is always a worthwhile adventure.
Apart from the mouth-watering food variety, the customer service in most establishments is exemplary.
In honoring Omotenashi, here are examples of the exceptional customer service you will experience in Japan’s food industry:
- Every time you enter a Japanese restaurant, the servers will welcome you with a joyful greeting without expecting a response.
- Another person directs you to an available seat and immediately offers you a warm towel to wipe your hands gently.
- The towels tend to be cool during hot summer days while they are hot or warm in winter. A thoughtful touch that never goes unnoticed by guests.
- You may find a toothpick conveniently placed on a wedge in wooden chopsticks.
- The dining experience in Japanese restaurants is only complete with a beautiful display. There is a visible effort in the food’s appearance and arrangement when they bring it to the table.
- When you purchase meat at the fresh foods market, most sellers will pack it with ice to keep it fresh for longer.
- Restaurants place baskets under the table for customers to neatly store their bags and coats away.
Shops and Department stores
Shopping in Japan is an equally exhilarating experience.
Large department stores, such as airports, buses, and train stations, are available conveniently within the transport system.
When you visit a Japanese department store, the staff will bow as you enter, which may convince you to purchase. They will also thank you profusely as you leave.
Other common Omotenashi instances when shopping includes:
- Careful wrapping of any items you shop, including fragile ones.
- If you shop on a rainy day, you will receive a free plastic bag to protect your items.
- The staff remains courteous to even those browsing the stores, and not only those customers who make purchases.
When you move into a new building, you may encounter polite neighbors who warmly greet you.
Since the Japanese hate confrontation, most people will remain polite and quietly walk away from problematic situations.
Other acts of neighborliness that show Omotenashi include:
- Trash is not welcome anywhere in Japan. You will find cute and friendly posters and recycling reminders around buildings and on the street.
- You may also find umbrellas and somewhere to place your bag at a Japanese ATM on a rainy day.
Finding a public toilet anywhere in Japan is easy, and most are always clean. Not only are the toilets clean, but they are ultra-modern.
Some will lift the seat and warm it up automatically. The new transparent toilets tint over for privacy once you go in.
Private Tea Parties
If you are ever invited to a tea ceremony at a Japanese home, you will experience Omotenashi firsthand.
As part of the rich culture, your host goes out of their way to ensure you feel welcome, and they provide everything you may require.
Tea preparation is intricate; they will use the best cups and utensils to serve you.
Additionally, they ensure the room’s arrangement is conducive, with the host remaining courteous throughout the ceremony.
Every process occurs in your presence, making guests feel as if they are the hosts, not visitors.
The public school system in Japan is free for all pupils, and the children learn Omotenashi from a young age.
It is common to find children cleaning their schools.
They are taught the importance of keeping their bodies and environment clean as part of the Japanese culture.
Difference Between Omotenashi And Western Customer-Service Culture
The difference between Omotenashi and western customer-service culture is the extra mile the Japanese go to please a visitor.
Although both cultures focus on comfortably welcoming guests, in Omotenashi, every little detail matters, and they often go out of their way.
One of the unusual things is tipping. It is uncommon to give a tip in Japan as all services include a service fee.
Some people may be offended if you try to offer them a tip. Instead, smile and thank them for their outstanding customer service.
If you ever experience Omotenashi, remember to return the favor. Respect the service provider, be kind and polite, and thank them for their service.
Above all, the Japanese are strict about their rules, so remember to follow them and respect their culture.