The Japanese Omotenashi Spirit

The Meaning of Omotenashi

The meaning of Omotenashi, simply put, is “to treat others with respect and without asking for compensation. It may sound simple, but there is actually an interesting etymology hidden in the word Omotenashi.


Etymology of Omotenashi

What is the origin of the word Omotenashi?
The word “Omotenashi” originally comes from the verb “to treat”. This word became a polite word and became omotenashi, but the meaning of omotenashi itself is “to accomplish something with something.
to accomplish using “things” means to “use things and mind to make the treatment and attitude toward customers good. From this etymology, the meaning of “Omotenashi” also includes the meaning of “satisfying others by treating them with respect.

“Omotenashi” means without fronts.

Omotenashi is a heart without fronts and without backs.
It is said that Omotenashi comes from the word without any backs . “Omotenashi” means to show how the heart should be. And when there is no front side of the mind, it means there is no back side of the mind. In other words, it means to treat you with a heart that has no front or back.
From these two etymologies, Omotenashi means “to treat people with respect and a good attitude to satisfy them with a heart that does not ask for compensation.

History of Omotenashi

Omotenashi spread with the tea ceremony.
“Omotenashi, which consists of the words “motenashi”(service) and “Omotenashi”(without any underlining meaning), has been a deep-rooted culture in Japan for a long time, but when did the culture of Omotenashi originate?
In fact, the history of Omotenashi runs deep, and the word was first known in the Heian period. The word “Omotenashi” was first known in the Heian period (794-1185), and was even mentioned in the Tale of Genji.
Omotenashi is also deeply related to the tea ceremony. As the tea ceremony developed from the Heian period to the Muromachi period, the spirit of hospitality also spread.
The tea ceremony requires special manners and occasions to welcome guests. In the tea ceremony, proper behavior, attitude, and treatment are required. It is this behavior that has become the basis of hospitality. Sen no Rikyu, who was active in the world of the tea ceremony, compiled a set of principles of hospitality called the “Seven Rules of Rikyu”.

Sen no Rikyu believed that hospitality is to provide the best space for each individual guest. This spirit has been passed on and has become the starting point of modern hospitality.
Words that are easily confused with Omotenashi
Omotenashi is a culture peculiar to Japan in which people treat others with respect and care. However, there are a number of words that are similar to the word “Omotenashi”.


Manners are to act in a way that does not make others uncomfortable.
Manners are to act in a way that does not make people uncomfortable. In particular, the words “manners,” “service,” and “hospitality” are similar. Let’s take a look at what the difference is between hospitality and manners.


Omotenashi requires sincerity.
“Omotenashi” is a word often heard in Japanese hospitality. Omotenashi is a unique concept that originated in Japan, and it refers to serving customers with an open mind and a respect for spirituality and sensitivity, such as magokoro.
As with hospitality, the provider and the recipient are equal and have the same characteristics. However, there is a difference between hospitality and hospitality in that the recipient is also thinking of and respecting the provider, and both parties put their heart and soul into making each other feel comfortable.
Omotenashi is also characterized by using the unique Japanese sensibility and trying to impress the senses and the heart. It is important to have an attitude of serving only this person, at this time, and for this occasion. Because the recipient is also an equal, we can have a better time by appreciating and respecting their treatment.
Manners” is a word often used in public places and in various situations. The word is said to have originated from the Latin word “manus,” which means hand. Manus refers to the attentiveness and manners of using one’s hands when eating so as not to cause discomfort to others, and in Japanese, it is translated as courtesy, manners, and attitude.
It is recognized as the minimum morals and manners to be observed in human relationships, and is therefore considered obligatory rather than an action consisting of thoughtfulness. It is mostly used for dining etiquette and traffic etiquette.


Service of giving a blanket
We often hear the word “service” when we make a purchase at a store. The word comes from the Latin word “servitus,” which means “slave. It is translated as slave. Service is translated in Japanese as service or engagement, and it means to treat the customer as the main subject.
There is a clear distinction between those who provide and those who receive service, and there is a price to be paid. It is characterized by the fact that it can be received by anyone at any time.


Hospitality is valued in hotels.
The word “hospitality” is used in situations where generous hospitality is provided. The word is derived from the Latin word “hospes”, which means to protect. Omotenashi is often translated into English as hospitality, but it is actually a slightly different thing.
In contrast, hospitality, when translated into Japanese, means caring and thoughtfulness, and it implies providing comfortable services to customers.
It is characterized by the fact that there is labor for others, but the provider and the recipient are equals. Service is obviously not an equal relationship, but hospitality is equal and provides the best space. It is a voluntary action to make the other person feel comfortable without asking for a price.

To practice Omotenashi

Omotenashi is to serve customers with all one’s heart and soul, but what exactly can be called Omotenashi? Here are some of the elements and attitudes necessary for hospitality.

Don’t ask for anything in return

Hospitality with a heart that does not ask for a price
Omotenashi with a heart that does not ask for compensation
The first thing you need is a spirit that does not ask for compensation. Some of you may have had the experience of tipping for services when traveling abroad. In Japan, however, there is almost no such culture.
For this reason, when people from overseas come to Japan, they are often surprised by the high quality of service despite the lack of a tipping culture. This is because the spirit of hospitality without asking for compensation is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.
This is because the spirit of hospitality is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. This is the first step of hospitality.

Caring beyond imagination

Hospitality involves caring beyond imagination.
Hospitality is about caring beyond imagination.
Hospitality must be inspiring. To do this, it is necessary to care beyond imagination.
In order for the recipient to have a comfortable time, it is necessary to spend time thinking about what the recipient wants and what would make them happy.
In such a time, we need to think about what we can do, and the best hospitality is the kind of concern that can be called care beyond imagination. The hospitality we receive is also the result of such care and time, so it would be wonderful if we could express our gratitude again in the future.

Hospitality in other countries?

The IOC general meeting where the Tokyo Olympics were decided. Omotenashi is becoming more and more popular due to the presentation of “OMOTENASHI” just before that. It is expected to spread to other countries in the near future, especially since Japan has been sending out information to the world under the slogan “Japanese hospitality to the world’s OMOTENASHI”.
Japanese hospitality is about putting the other person first and acting accordingly, but other countries have similar cultures. Here are some of them.

Korean hospitality

Being treated with lots of home-cooked food
A lot of home-cooked food
In Korea, hospitality is often seen when inviting guests to one’s home. There is a perception that having guests in your home is a sign of good fortune, so you clean your house to the nth degree and serve a lot of home-cooked food.
The history of serving home-cooked food dates back to the time when Korea was poor and providing food to those in need was considered “hospitality.
In Japan, people tend to think that it is polite to eat all the food that is served to them because there is a tendency not to take food for granted. In Korea, on the other hand, people dare to serve more food than their guests can eat.
In Japan, it is considered polite to finish the meal because it is not allowed to waste the food, while in Korea, it is considered polite to leave the food behind. Even though they share the same hospitality, you can feel the big difference in culture and values.


In Brazil, hospitality means trusting your guest completely.
In Brazil, hospitality is about trusting your guest completely.
In Brazil, there seems to be a hospitality of showing the whole house when a guest comes. In Japan, when a guest comes to your house, it is more common to invite them only to certain places and not to show them. However, in Brazil, this kind of hospitality is used with the meaning of trusting the other person with everything.
They also serve meat dishes as the main course. This is also because there are many kinds of meat in Brazil, and they serve it with the hope that people will get to know Brazil.
Compared to Japan, you will definitely be surprised to see that the things they take care of and do differ greatly from country to country.

Omotenashi seen in daily life

Omotenashi is a Japanese culture and a tradition that continues to this day, but what kind of acts are actually called Omotenashi? Here are some examples of hospitality.

Tea ceremony

Omotenashi performed for the moment and for the person
Omotenashi performed at the time and for the person
It is no exaggeration to say that hospitality was originally born with the tea ceremony. You can learn about hospitality in the Seven Rules of Rikyu left by Sen no Rikyu, the most famous tea master.
As an example, one of the seven rules of Rikyu is: “Tea should be served in a way that is good for the clothes. This means “to make the temperature and amount of tea in such a way that it is easy for the other person to drink. In other words, it means to serve the person in the room in an appropriate and thoughtful manner.
If the person is thirsty, serve a little more, if they don’t like hot food, serve a little lukewarm.

Ryokan and hotels

Careful consideration is also given to the Japanese food served.
Japanese food is also served with attention to detail.
The culture of hospitality is especially evident in Japanese inns and hotels.
The “irasshai-mase” (welcome) that is said when you visit a ryokan or hotel is part of the service. But in addition to that, “Irasshai-mase (Welcome). You must be tired in the heat. Please have a seat here for a while. What would you think if you were offered cold tea?
Thinking about the visitor, what they want and how tired they are, and acting accordingly, is truly hospitality.
Also, if you let them know in advance that you are allergic to something you cannot eat, they may offer you something else in season. Even if you can’t eat some of the foods, they will prepare seasonal foods for you to enjoy as much as possible and share them with the kitchen and serving staff in advance. This is wonderful hospitality.

Careful consideration is also given to the Japanese food served. -Bishamon Japanese Restaurant-