The Japanese people are proud of their country and culture. One of the top things they take pride in is ‘omotenashi’ (おもてなし). This is a Japanese concept that’s identified as ‘hospitality’. It’s deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and it’s something the rest of the world looks up to Japan for.
This top quality customer service and overall hospitality is prominent in all aspects of the culture. You’ll definitely experience it when you travel here. If you’re planning to work in Japan, especially in the customer service line, you would also be expected to adopt omotenashi. You’ve come to the right place if you don’t know exactly what it is. In this article, we’ll cover the definition of omotenashi, how it came about and how it’s different from regular customer serivice!
What is omotenashi?
As we mentioned earlier, omotenashi refers to Japanese hospitality. This word became popular when it was used in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics candidate speech. Omotenashi is extremely prominent in customer service where staff pay extensive attention to detail and be at the beck and call of guests’ needs.
One simple example is shop workers bowing to customers as they walk in or out of a store to thank them for coming to the store. Even if they didn’t buy anything, it’s part of Japanese culture to show the utmost level of respect and politeness to customers.
However, the translation to ‘hospitality’ is such a loose translation as its meaning runs far deeper. Omotenashi is not just hospitality and impeccable customer service – it’s a way of life of the Japanese people. You’re focused on providing the best, regardless of what the situation is. This form of Japanese language is one that’s highly respected and abided by by all locals.
The origins of omotenashi
So, when did this concept of omotenashi come into existence? It is said that the grandfather of Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591), was the one that established this Japanese hospitality. The great tea master started the tradition of chado (茶道), which translates to “tea ceremony”. In a tea ceremony, every experience is “ichigo ichie” (一期一会), to mean “once in a lifetime experience”. He said:
“Because life is full of uncertainty, one must engrave in his heart the events of the day as if there is no tomorrow. Today’s tea ceremony is a once in a lifetime experience, and one, along with his guests, must wholeheartedly approach the meeting with sincerity.”
Sincerity for the host is going through immense preparation so that the guests can have the most memorable experience possible. Preparation can take up to a year to prepare for a single tea ceremony. Flowers are picked properly, and so are the tea set, hanging scrolls and confections to match with seasons and guest preferences. If these parts aren’t perfect, the host will search high and low until they find the perfect match. Most tea masters agree that while this is the most difficult aspect, it’s also the most creative and interesting part of the process.
Omotenashi in the tea ceremony doesn’t stop there. Preparation of the tea in front of guests is also crucial. This involves cleaning cups performed in a ceremonial way to show their honesty and transparency.
One of the roots of the word “omotenashi” is the phrase “omote-ura nashi”. This can be literally translated to “there is no front or back”. This means that guests are provided with genuine hospitality from the heart. Another root of the word is from a phrase that means “to accomplish through both conceptual and physical objects.” This combination, of decoration and intention, provides the best set up for the guests.
Now in the present day, omotenashi is present in life encounters. Everything from customers treating guests to how one invites a guest to their home and how business partners treat each other.
Omotenashi vs service
Outside of Japan, service refers to the relationship between the service provider and the customer. It’s like a transaction between two parties, sometimes involving service fees and monetary returns.
Japanese omotenashi is nothing like that. Service elsewhere is expected to get something in return. Omotenashi is done without expecting anything in return. It’s genuine from the soul. Japanese people are not providing Japanese hospitality for tips or charges.
Another difference is that omotenashi is sometimes not as visible as service. It can frequently be intangible. It’s similar in the things done as it is in the things not done. For example, omotenashi needs no recognition. Service outside of Japan might be a topic raised to the customer to remind them they are getting customer service, whereas in Japanese hospitality, it’s the opposite. It’s best to not mention it blatantly, or at all.
More to omotenashi
Omotenashi doesn’t just stop at customer service. It extends way past that. The wet towel you get when you enter a restaurant is part of that. That toothpick packaged together with that disposable chopsticks is also part of omotenashi. When a worker slips an ice pack into the box they’ve packed your cake with, that’s also part of omotenashi.
Even the smallest of actions that would usually go unnoticed are part of omotenashi. Sometimes you would have to really look for it to figure out what is considered Japanese hospitality or not!
Don’t be surprised by Japanese hospitality!
When you come to Japan for the first time, don’t be surprised if you are on the receiving end of omotenashi. Don’t think you need to tip the worker. They’re doing all of that because it’s part of their culture, and they’re happy to do it. All you can do is treat them with the same respect they give you. Omotenashi is beautiful, and you can only truly feel its beauty when you experience it.
Working in Japan sounds like a dream come true for some of us. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. And I can tell you that it’s definitely an experience to remember! Japan has such a rich culture that affects every aspect of life here, which includes the work environment. There are just some things about the Japanese working culture that you can’t experience anywhere else in the world!
While there’s always pros and cons to everything, we’re going to focus on the pros here. In this article, there’s a list of 7 things why you should work in Japan!
We actually have a whole season dedicated to the theme of “Working in Japan” in our podcast series, Season 6, so if you’re interested to know more about working life in Japan, check that out!
1. Job Security
The first reason you should work in Japan is job security. For full-time workers, once you get offered the job, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a long-term contract. It’s quite difficult for companies to fire employees without a clear reason.
Plus, Japanese companies look to hire employees who will be able to work for them long-term. In fact, they will go to extreme lengths to not let go of their employees. Instead of cutting people off, companies here are known to shift employees around into different positions, implement hiring freezes or other similar ways to cut costs.
So don’t worry about getting sacked a few weeks into the job. You’re pretty much good for a few years.
2. Health Insurance
Depending on the country you come from, you might not have healthcare covered. That doesn’t happen in Japan, which is another plus point when you work in Japan.
A lot of Japanese companies provide health insurance with your working contract. However, the amount covered by your insurance plan can vary. It depends on the type of policy your company provides. Some companies offer an insurance plan where you basically get check ups for free! The most common type of plan involves you paying your consultation for a very low price. You don’t have to worry about paying $300 on just a five minute consultation.
On top of that, Japanese companies often provide annual health checks for free. While you might have to endure being poked and prodded for a few hours, these regular checkups are pretty essential at catching diseases at early stages.
One of the best things about working in Japan is that you don’t have to pay a single penny commuting to work. The company covers that as well! In Japan, it’s normal to commute almost an hour or more to work. Sometimes, that can rack up quite a bit of cost, especially if you’re taking a few different lines on the train.
An average commuting expense costs about ¥20,000 a month, but sometimes even more. You don’t have to worry about setting aside the sum of money from your paycheck, because your Japanese company will add that into your payslip, on top of your monthly salary!The best part is that this applies to both part-time and full-time positions.
You have the option to get a teikiken (定期券), which is a commuter pass. It’s a set price for a route from point A to point B for a month, but even if you alight anywhere in between, you still won’t get charged. Oftentimes you save between ¥5,000 to ¥9,000 a month!
Oh boy, don’t we all hate taxes and doin them. Unless your job is an accountant, this can be quite a chore. In Japan, there are various types of taxes as well. It can all get quite confusing, too. But when you’re working in Japan, your company takes care of your taxes for you! Isn’t that a good enough reason to work in Japan?
Companies would spread the tax payments over the course of the year. This not only saves you time by not doing the paperwork yourself, but you’re also budgeting your finances better. You won’t have to pay a lump sum in April to cover tax charges.
5. Customer Service Skill
Japan’s level of customer service is top notch. That’s all thank to the “omotenashi” (おもてなし) culture, which translates to the Japanese hospitality. When you work in Japan, you’ll be put through a ton of training and practice of the traditional style of service. And that’s not a bad thing. There’s a thing about Japanese hospitality that we can all learn from.
You’ll be able to notice what’s wrong without having to ask, not disagreeing directly while still standing your ground, and make your clients feel comfortable. I believe those things are the positive things you can take away from the omoteshi culture while working in Japan!
6. Clean and safe environment
As we briefly mentioned before, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. You wouldn’t have to worry about going home alone after dark or being followed. While these are situations that could happen in the country, Japan is one of the countries with the very low crime rates!
On top of that, it’s also extremely clean! You wouldn’t know how much an unclean environment affects your day-to-day mood until you’re in one that’s sparkling. Even though it’s hard to find a bin on the streets, you’ll be surprised how little litter you see on the floor!
Last but not least, another reason why you should work in Japan is the opportunity the country has to offer to foreign workers. Most positions are well-paid with perks and benefits. You have your visa settled for a few years. Sometimes, your accommodation is provided by the company you work for as well.
Not to mention that when you commit to a Japanese company for a long time, it really bumps up your resume. You’re going to acquire so many various skills that will be able to make you stand out from the crowd of people in your industry.
Let’s work in Japan!
Are those reasons not good enough for you to job hunt for a position in Japan? Well, check out Season 6 of our podcast series! We discuss various aspects of working in Japan – the good, the bad and the in between. Head over there for more exclusive content! And happy job hunting!