TOKYO 2020 is back on. Officially.

It's official, or at least as official as we might expect, barring some other unforeseen global catastrophe...., the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are definitely on. Come what may.

"The postponed Tokyo Olympic Games will go ahead next year "with or without Covid", the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee says.
John Coates confirmed to news agency AFP that the Olympics would start on 23 July next year, calling them the "Games that conquered Covid".
They were originally scheduled to start in July 2020, but were postponed due to Covid-19 fears.
The IOC had earlier said they would not delay the Games beyond 2021."

When the Tokyo Games are held next year, it will be the first time the world will experience a global activity of any type since the outbreak of COVID19. It will truly be historic. And the significance of this happening in Japan cannot be missed. It's a major statement of forward looking optimism and goodwill that Japan will be meeting the challenge of hosting the games at all in these unprecendented times.

Now, in one respect, the mere fact that the games are going ahead at all is more important than the "how", and in what "spirit" they are going to host the games. Because, remember, the games were won on a bid that Japan will host the games in the spirit of "Omotenashi", that quintessential Japanese spirit of service and hospitality that all visitors to Japan feel almost as soon as arriving in the country. Lucky visitors to the games will experience, many for the first time, exceptionally high levels of politeness, attentiveness, attention to detail, courtesy and friendliness. 

The classic Japanese "other-centered" approach to guest hospitality and social interactions will be showcased. All those behaviours that we are seeing emerging thankfully, here in the west, in response to Covid19. The unselfish respect for your personal space, the unquestioning face-mask wearing, a common feature of every winter in Japan anyhow and the confidence giving cleanliness you notice everywhere and particularly on public transport .

I, for obvious reasons, hope these games are a success and are remembered for all the right reasons and visitors to Japan, as well as those who will only get to watch on television, will remember them as the "Omotenashi Games", and a point in time we put the COVID19 pandemic behind us.


Conde Naste looks forward to the Olympics - now 2021

“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.”

Conde Naste Traveler Tokyo 2021 Olympics

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.

One of many 2021 Olympics Tour operators

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.