Omotenashi – Japanese hospitality and education

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From an early age the Japanese strive to have education and hospitality as a philosophy of life, a habit rooted in Japanese culture and society, and that culture is called Omotenashi.

In today’s article we will talk about this Japanese hospitality that impresses people from all over the world. Let’s examine and understand all the meanings behind the word omotenashi.

Table of Contents
- Meaning of Omotenashi
- The Origin of Omotenashi
- What Omotenashi involves
- Examples of Omotenashi

Meaning of Omotenashi

Omotenashi is a very popular expression that can be translated as hospitality in Japanese, but its meanings and concept go well beyond that. It refers to education, politeness, harmony and peace.

The expression Omotenashi is written [お持て成し] or [御持て成し] which can be literally translated as hospitality, reception, treatment, service and entertainment. In addition to these meanings, this expression indicates “to do everything possible”.

Let’s examine the meaning of each ideogram:

  • 御 – Honorific of polite, humble, honorable;
  • て – Word that means to be able, to endure, to receive;
    • Ideogram – Hold, have;
  • し – Verb – to accomplish, to finish, to fulfill, to be able, to build;
    • 成 – Ideogram – transform, grow, become;
Omotenashi - Japanese hospitality and education

The origin of omotenashi

The origin of this expression is quite unknown, some claim that it originated from the expression motenasu [持て成す] which uses the same ideograms, but which means “to entertain and welcome”. Others claim that nashi [無し] gives the impression of Hospitality without Superficiality.

According to some ancient records, the phrase mono wo motte nashitogeru [モノを持って成し遂げる] gave rise to the omotenashi used today. This translated phrase means “to accomplish with a thing”, which makes no sense in Portuguese.

But philosophically, it means that we must receive the visitor or client in the best possible way, without ulterior motives and with a pure heart.

The word mono in Japanese means something, but in that sentence it was written exactly in katakana to refer not only to literal things, but invisible things like feelings.

Omotenashi - Japanese hospitality and education

The Japanese are taught since childhood to take care of each other and to act with etiquette, hospitality and education. Much of Japanese etiquette originates from the formal rituals of tea ceremonies and martial arts. 

Delicacy and compassion were central values of bushido (warrior’s path), the samurai’s code of ethics. Today, the concept of omotenashi is adopted mainly in commercial management.

What’s involved Omotenashi?

Omotenashi involves treating your guest, client or neighbor in the best possible way. It is like the golden rule that says “Treat others as you would like to be treated”. And all this without expecting anything in return or with ulterior motives.

All this hospitality is done without fanfare and with much discretion, in a silent, delicate and subtle way. It is a feeling that involves humility, honesty, friendship and love.

Omotenashi - Japanese hospitality and education

Although Japan has problems with social classes, in omotenashi there is no distinction between host and guest, or attendant and client, both are treated as equals, with mutual respect.

It involves helping with a smile, empathy and kindness with all your heart. It is because of this kindness that Japan is renowned as the most educated country in the world. Even though it seems impossible for everyone to practice omotenashi, it is worth remembering that Kindness attracts Kindness! Sometimes even the mafia practices omotenashi.

Omotenashi also involves positive thinking, the person does not see the defects or problems of others, he does not try to meddle in the lives of others, he does not think of things like revenge, nor is he trying to discuss and create strife.

Omotenashi - Japanese hospitality and education

The person who wants to have a humble, honest and hospitable lifestyle should avoid thinking and focusing on negative things, clearing his mind and seeing only positive things. Since it is impossible to act and treat all goods, knowing that everyone has defects, flaws and imperfection.

Unfortunately some follow more omotenashi for discipline and not for education. Some companies and stores have written and precise rules describing how the host should serve and behave in front of the customer.

The true omotenashi involves treating people well, without the need for rules, of course they are vital to teach and root education and hospitality in people, especially children.

Omotenashi - Japanese hospitality and education

Examples of Omotenashi

Below we will see some aspects of Japan and its culture that Omotenashi shows:

  • Wear surgical masks to avoid infecting others.
  • Give neighbors soap boxes before starting work.
  • The practice of bowing and using the keigo.
  • Apologize for anything, even though it is not your fault.
  • Japanese do not accept tips. 
  • Cleanliness, don’t throw garbage on the streets.
  • Punctuality, including public transport.
  • Try to help even if you don’t have the capacity.
  • Find a wallet and take it to the police.
  • Taxi doors opening by themselves.
  • The toilet seat rises on its own.
  • Signs made in a cute way and sometimes apologizing.
  • Children clean schools.
  • Beat the cigarette ash in your hand and put it in your pocket.
  • Accessibility for the disabled in Japan.
  • The art and appearance of Japanese cuisine.

Of course, not everything is wonderful, not all people are the same, this means that not all Japanese people practice this philosophy and lifestyle.

Understand that everything is relative and that there will always be good and bad people anywhere, think about it before commenting blunders. What matters is that everyone does their part and practice omotenashi.

I hope you enjoyed the article. If you liked it, share and leave your comments. Do you know another point that serves as an example to show the culture of omotenashi?

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