“Every Olympics is a chance to reveal the best of the host city and its people,” says Condé Nast Traveler travel specialist Amy Tadehara. She works with InsideJapan Tours, which has put together several itineraries for the Tokyo Olympics. “I am thrilled that the world will see true Japanese omotenashi: a generous spirit of selfless hospitality towards visitors that goes above and beyond expectations.”
If you are one of the lucky ones who manage to get a ticket to travel to Japan to next summer’s Olympics, no matter which venues you visit, you are going to have to stay somewhere.
And when you do, you’ll be able to experience the hospitality and service culture that is in many ways unique to Japan.
The Japanese use the word “omotenashi” to describe this culture and, perhaps for our benefit, describe it as a “hospitality” culture. But in many ways it is almost the opposite of how we approach the hospitality industry in western hotels.
The western approach to hospitality is highly organised and provides a growing range of services, amenities, experiences and culinary choices that go way beyond what most guests need. It increasingly uses technology to commoditise and automate the provision of these features in the same way Henry Ford turned the automotive factory into a production line. For our hoteliers, more services to sell is “more $”, more processes to automate simply means more clock cycles and bandwith.
The Japanese approach is almost the complete opposite.
It remains one in which the gracious host engages one to one with his honoured guests. It is not commoditised, codified and automated. Because it can’t be. Not at least, at any significant scale. For this reason, Japanese professionals in the industry will tell you that Omotenashi is something only the Japanese can “do”, or “deliver”.
For the Japanese, less is more, from decor to amenities, what you can sell turns into what you might give away for free and there is less interest on service elements that can be duplicated for every guest and more on magical moments that can never be duplicated. One time One meeting
East greets West
But the Japanese have been learning how to deliver our western brand of “hospitality” at scale, in many of their world class hotels that deliver a 5* guest experience to their international guests. An experience that is quite recognisable as to us as professional “hospitality”. Now increasingly automated and codeified.
Inevitably though, it is the combination of both approaches and cultures that points the way to the future – a unique form of mass personalisation with technology enabling both the mass hospitality process automation whilst freeing up the hotel’s hosts to deliver the peronalised human connection experiences.
Difficult to put into words
It is quite difficult to capture the feeling that an “omotenashi hospitality” experience can leave you with in which even the most banal service interaction can be deeply memorable.
If you are genuinely curious as what what “omotenashi culture” is all about, there really is only one way to find out.
Leave your cultural preconceptions at home, treat your hosts with the generosity of spirit with which they will treat you and find yourself on the receiving end of something that is quite remarkable and, as you can see from my failing attempts here, rather difficult to put into words.