Japanese Hospitality: Omotenashi
A key to your cultural Japanese experience

Thinking of Japan you probably imagine or recall its people as thoughtful, helpful, friendly, kind,… What we could call Japanese hospitality is actually much more than that, it’s a true and unique way of life. Below we tried our best to explain what Japanese call Omotenashi.

Omotenashi’s definition is ambiguous. “Omote” is your public face (“Ura” being your private face). Omote would be the fake personality or fake smile that you might find in tourist traps. “Nashi” means “without” so Omotenashi means that people are not putting on a fake mask of politeness, they are showing you their authentic selves. Omotenashi could be defined as someone’s authentic self desire for someone’s happiness.

The best way to experience Omotenashi is without a doubt to stay in a Japanese Ryokan and appreciate a Kaiseki style dinner. This is an experience in Japanese hospitality that you will remember for the rest of your life. At Japanese Guest Houses, our team of ryokan experts works with the best ryokans all over Japan. Your reservation will be personally handled with great care and attention to detail by your ryokan expert. Using our service you will already have a first taste of Omotenashi . To learn more about ryokans and Japanese hospitality download Our Brochure.

Another good plan to discover Omotenashi is to witness a tea ceremony, especially in Kyoto or Uji. The Japanese tea ceremony is a Japanese tradition steeped in history. One of the main purposes of the tea ceremony is for the guests to enjoy the hospitality of the host in an atmosphere distinct from the fast pace of everyday life. Nowadays, the tea ceremony is practiced as a hobby, and there are places where tourists can experience it, particularly in Kyoto or Uji. Tea ceremonies of varying degrees of formality and authenticity are offered by many organizations across Japan, including at some traditional gardens, culture centers and hotels. Join a small group authentic tea ceremony led by an English speaking kimono clad tea master. Focus completely on the present and to make every movement on purpose without wasted effort. It is beautiful to watch a skilled tea master perform this art.

Another unique opportunity to discover Omotenashi is to enjoy a home-stay with a Japanese family. They will provide you with a variety of experiences that only they can give. They will cook traditional Japanese dishes for you and tell you the fascinating story of their family and ancestors. A home-stay will introduce you the Japanese traditions, the strength of the Japanese people, the dedication to excellence… In fact you will also learn about yourself and how to enjoy life in a traditional Japanese way.

For a good example of Omotenashi, you will find below the review that Maria wrote after her stay at Nakaya in Ainokura:
“We arrived at the end of December and were happy it snowed a little. But it didn’t stop the whole night. In the morning the whole village was white and soft and silent like a winter dream. Our stay (a family of four) in Nakaya was very pleasant and one of the most impressive experiences we had traveling in Japan so far! The room was specious, the futons comfortable and warm. Even though it was cold outside and a traditional Japanese house doesn’t have a central heating and very thin walls, even the hallway and the toilet and washing area were not cold. The house is very clean and much effort is put on even small details and decoration. For example the washing area had three thick layers of carpets piled on each other so the cold couldn’t creep into your body. The dinner was excellent and very beautifully arranged. I liked the grilled fish on a stick, held warm at the fireplace till we arrived for supper, best! I can warmly recommend a stay at Ainokura village and of course at Nakaya. An excellent price-value-balance and an unforgettable memory!”

Omotenashi wasn’t a worldwide expression until 2013 when Krystel Takigawa, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Bid Ambassador gave her famous speech explaining that Japan would be the best destination to welcome due to its culture of O-Mo-Te-Na-Shi.

If you stay longer in Japan you might be surprised to see Japanese planning to meet their friends or even family members several months in advance. It’s not really because their agenda is overbooked it’s more because they like to try everything they can to make the event perfect. For example when kids visit their friend’s home, mothers will schedule a specific day, prepare sweets or bake cakes while children will write cards,…Again this is Omotenashi. Japanese want to show their appreciation and care to others.

Note that each culture and country has a different definition of good hospitality. For example, in restaurants in the US people are friendly and personal. Attention is placed on the food’s taste, less on presentation. While in Japanese restaurants, hospitality is less intrusive and great attention is placed on presentation. Staff won’t necessarily stay around you during your meal like in western gourmet restaurants. Here they want you to peacefully cherish your Kaiseki.

Contact us once you are ready to discover Japanese hospitality or if you have questions about ryokans.