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26th April, 2023

I am a big fan of Japanese concepts like Ikigai, Kaizen, Wabi-Sabi, Kintsugi and try to adopt them in my daily working and life.

Though ‘Customer is King’ is the slogan in every business, While making SOPs for our organisation and finalising service standards for our clients, we wanted something more and then we came across this wonderful Japanese concept of ‘Omotenashi’ which could be defined as an authentic self-desire for someone’s happiness.

‘Omotenashi’ is a way of life in Japan and is best described as the Japanese spirit of hospitality. The word has no direct equivalent in the English language, so an understanding of its true meaning must come through personal experience rather than knowledge. The word describes the essence of a selfless approach to customer service and hospitality. It involves the subjugation of self in service without being servile. Anticipating needs is at the heart of this concept.

It focusses on always providing the best service and hospitality despite receiving nothing in return. You can experience ‘Omotenashi’ across the service industry, from the shop workers who bow to welcome the first customers of the day when a department store opens in the morning to their zero tolerance to defects. It extends beyond the “customer is always right” philosophy.

The concept of ‘Omotenashi’ is said to have been established by the grandfather of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu, through his ways of entertaining his guests through ‘chakai’ (Japanese tea ceremony). In a ‘chakai,’ each experience is “ichigo ichie” or a once in a lifetime experience.

In the West, “service” generally refers to the relationship between the service provider and the customer.  Transactions between the two entail service fees and returns that are most often monetary.

One of the main differences between “service” and Japanese hospitality (Omotenashi) is that Western service is often done with the hope that customers will pay for a product or an additional service, whereas ‘Omotenashi’ is performed without an expectation of anything in return. Unlike in Western culture where it is appreciated (and sometimes even expected) to tip for good service, there is no charge for ‘Omotenashi.’

Japanese hospitality is often not as visible as “service” and is frequently intangible. It is in the things not done as much as what is done. Service can sometimes be somewhat forward or blatant in order to remind the customer that they are being provided a product. On the other hand, ‘Omotenashi’ is frequently invisible to the customer and essentially should never intentionally remind the customer of the hospitality. The tea master’s dedication to find the right Tea set for the guest is a perfect example of this act of invisible hospitality.

People with the ‘Omotenashi’ Spirit take pleasure in serving others empathetically and skilfully, with no expectation of thanks.

I try and keep this concept in mind when going about my life. Practise ‘Omotenashi’ and see the difference that being considerate and selfless behaviour can make and how it will not only make you happier but also those around you.

Practise ’Omotenashi,’ make it a way of life and stay blessed forever.