When you first arrive in Japan there’s always a phrase that will almost immediately get stuck in your head, “Irrashaimase”. This Japanese word of “welcome” is one of the many features of the unique service you are guaranteed to experience during your time in Japan. In western civilization, hospitality is seen more of a service in hopes that customers will purchase a product or service. In Japan Omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality, is a provided service given without any expectation of anything in return. From a simple greeting in a Konbini to a bow or phrase at work, the importance of this hospitality is fine tuned into Japan’s culture. It’s not only the physical service that matters, but the actions behind the scenes that are essential as well.
Omotenashi can be something obvious such as the automatic opening of doors for taxi’s, or the honorific greetings and thank you in stores. While these things are obvious, subtle things such as hooks/cupholders near urinals and ATM’s for convenience or cleaners bowing and announcing their entry into an empty room at the office are also a prime example of Omotenashi. It’s also not just present actions like providing great service at a restaurant for a tip in the West, but anticipating the needs of a guest with actions that make you step back and think “hey, that’s a pretty neat idea” without expecting any kind of a reward.
With the mindset of selflessness and anticipation for guests, the hospitality in Japan in something unique that will stick with you during your time abroad. So enjoy that hot towel brought to you at your restaurant, and experience all the expressions of Omotenashi.