3 kinds of omotenashi styles you can experience in Japan

  • We are very excited to have Tokyo Olympics in 2020! Not only watching sports, but also seeing many foreign visitors coming visit in Japan.

    By the way, have you seen a presentation done by a Japanese IOC member, Ms. Christel Takigawa? The word she mentioned in her presentation has become very popular: omotenashi.

    Omotenashi is one of the Japanese traditional services. To entertain people with unconditional hospitality without expecting anything in return. Many service industry in Japan follow this omotenashi spirit when they serve their customers. Here are some omotenashi examples that you may experience in Japan.

    1. Subtle service

    This is what a friend of the author experienced when she stayed at a Japanese inn. She went there for a special trip with her boyfriend to celebrate her birthday. They enjoyed a lot and got up around noon. She quickly realized that they were supposed to check out before 11:00 a.m. and got panic. She hurried to call the reception and told the stuff that they were going to get out soon. And the stuff started to speak to her. “Lady, you don’t have to hurry. You have time for makeup, picking up today’s outfits, and getting all ready. See you later.” She was stunned. It’s already after noon! After minutes they went down to the front desk and apologized to the stuff for being late. The stuff started off by saying good morning to them, and to the surprise, gave them couple a little gift. “Thank you for picking up our hotel for your special birthday trip.” She was stunned again. She has never told them about her birthday at all. It seemed that the stuff saw her application form she filled in when check-in, and found it was her birthday.

    They never called their room even after 11:00, which was their fixed check-out time, and waiting them to wake up. Then they celebrated her birthday when they sent them off. This service sounds very subtle and very Japanese.

    2. Too-much-talking service

    Meanwhile, Japan has this kind of service. When we shop at a fashionable apparel store, huge department or accessory shop, sales clerks often talk to us about the popular items at the store. Some of us feel bothered. Some of us prefer shopping just by themselves.

    Those 2 examples are both called “omotenashi” but sounds very different. Speaking of the second one, not everyone feels good about this service.
    So… let me introduce the third omotenashi example.

    3. Non-talking service

    This has been introduced over the past several years in order to allow everybody and his brother to enjoy their shopping. We can find these bracelets around the entrance of some departments.

    When you hurry to buy something particular, pick up the white one. If you would like sales clerks to advise about something, put on the green one. If you are a kind of person who just wants to enjoy shopping by yourself, the pick is the one. Sales clerks can think about what they are supposed to do for each customer by seeing their bracelets.This should be called omotenashi as well.

    What did you think of these 3 sorts of omotenashi actions? Which service are you going to pick up when you have a chance to come visit to Japan?