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Ever since Tokyo Olympic bid ambassador Christel Takigawa used the word "omotenashi" - a term expressing the spirit of Japanese selfless hospitality - in her speech to the IOC last week, it has become


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They're polite and work hard, but also dedicated to keeping you strictly in line with their rules.

I remember being in that bar in Narita airport with an America and Canadian who were stopping over for a delayed flight to Bangkok. The bar's "last order" was 7:30... but for snacks it was 7! So one guy, yep, wanted a bag of nuts just before 7:30 along with his last drink. Big commotion. The server had the nuts behind the glass counter in full view but refused sell them, because the nuts' last order was earlier than the drink's last order.

I, the diplomat here, made an attempt to explain to them how Japan works, but they couldn't grasp it. "Selfless hospitality"? Yeah, right.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Ms. Takigawa certainly made a good presentation speech - but, really, would any country represent itself as "heartless and abrupt" or "stickler for rules"? this morning's TV has already had a feature on shop owners' "omotenashi spirit" in relation to visitors to Japan. It is an admirable quality when offered with sincerity: let's hope the meaning doesn't become empty through overuse and convention.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Working in hospitality here in Japan, this word has been with me for a long time. I would have thought this to be very similar in other countries as well, apparently it's not. Or, there is no need to put a word for it, whereas Japanese staff need to be told what really hospitality is about. But as mentioned in the comment above, many staff still "don't get it", because there are so many rules/manuals, esp. in the hotel industry, that young people don't have a chance to develop an "instinct" for what to do with that person in front of them and, much more important, how to spot a problem before it becomes one.

-3 ( +2 / -6 )

It doesn't worry me that they can lead people by the nose and tell them how to think about Tokyo getting the Olympic games.However, it does really worry me that they can lead people by the nose and change the way they think by just saying something over and over. As a foreigner living in Japan I found parts of her speech very offensive but nothing more than I have heard before by parts of the local population who really do believe that they have superior values. Unfortunately there are Japanese people out there who think that kindness, consideration, honesty and trustworthiness are Japanese values. Of course some foreigners can have these values but ALL Japanese have these values is the line of thinking. The distance that many people put between themselves and others (or the other) is the distance they put between themselves and being happy. The ideas that these universal values are somehow Japanese is offensive. Having Takigawa giving a presentation in French may convince them that they have adopted international values but she is a fully hypnotised and indoctrinated Japanese, actually I would say more than most.

On the point of it becoming a buzzword, well that will last a month or so before they are onto the next buzzword which convinces the population of their nobleness and moral superiority. Wasn't kizuna the last one (foreigners can't have that). Having Japan host the Olympics will not make this country join the world, many people want to but they are prevented to do so at an institutional level.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

5 syllables and will fit nicely in the 5 Olympic rings. Motto for the Games........

1 ( +3 / -1 )

methinks the japanese esteem themselves too much.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Race discrimination is alive and kicking in japan Untill they fix a few things this "omotenashi" BS isnt going to fly.

Remove all barriers then consider this slogan.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

JeffLee - thats pretty endemic across the country

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Its a generalization and generalizations can be racist and untrue. However, generalizations are also pretty useful for making sense of big systems full of millions of unique components, like countries.

I'd say that generally omotenashi is pretty typical in most areas of Japan... sadly, Tokyo isn't one of them. I remember once trying to get directions in Tokyo. Eventually I had to step in front of someone and force him to make eye contact just to get him to acknowledge that I existed - after that it was just a quick question, and he offered to escort me to the place (which I refused, I just wanted to know roughly which direction to go in). In fact Tokyo generally isn't very "Japanese" at all, its like living in New York and expecting to experience American Hospitality.... you might get lucky and find some, but mostly you'll experience big-city opportunists, who are the same all over the world.

I sincerely hope that most of the events are OUTSIDE of Tokyo, because honestly Tokyo isn't Japan.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Sounds nice to all the dittoheads, apologists, people in elite circles and people who don't know better but if you live here you know a lot of it is just lame talk to make the world this this place is more special and deserving than other places.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Eventually I had to step in front of someone and force him to make eye contact just to get him to acknowledge that I existed

Did it work? Normally they just keep their heads down and walk around you.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

GalapagosnoGairaishuSep. 14, 2013 - 03:27PM JST

Eventually I had to step in front of someone and force him to make eye contact just to get him to acknowledge that I existed

Did it work? Normally they just keep their heads down and walk around you.

Yeah, it worked... on about the third try. I'm not being down on Tokyo people specifically, you'll find the same attitude in New York, London, Rome (actually Rome they'll try and sell you something, THEN ignore you).

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Omotenashi as long as they ( and more importantly YOU) follow the manual. Step outside the box even a little and no more omotenashi.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Reading these comments suggests to me that:

Most people commenting here have not been to Japan The foreigners posting here that live in Japan don't speak Japanese which will negatively bias anyone who has been here a long or short time, or: People posting here don't really understand the broad meaning of what the word omotenashi really means

I have been in Japan for 11 years, spending 3 years in a small city of 100,000 people which the Japanese call countryside, 6 years in Nagoya which is near to the automotive manufacturing region of Japan and has a population of about 2.5 million and the last 2 years in Tokyo, which is one of the most amazing cities in the world and has a metropolitan population of 35 million people.

I have seen a lot of the country, it's people and their culture.

It's easy to find fault when the "practice of exceptional service and hospitality" is different than the poor quality experienced in your own country but to suggest it is insincere or done to merely "follow the rules" is ridiculous.

I have been fortunate enough to travel to many parts of the world (Europe, Asia, Australia and US) for business and the service and hospitality of the Japanese is so much better than any other part of the world it is almost unbelievable. Welcome, Thank You, courteous service, attention to detail, and genuine concern for your experience are traits of Japanese society and of the service that is expected by its citizens.

Regarding society as a whole, the majority of Japanese consider it normal to be polite, courteous, respectful, law-abiding, clean, helpful and generous. And often this applies more to their interaction with foreigners than to themselves. Why? I'm thinking it has a lot to do with their 10,000 year history, their existence on an island and their large population living on a very small piece of land. If your society is not civilised then life on the island would not be very enjoyable. And if there is one word that best describes Japan it is this: CIVILISED!

When considering the overall health of a society and how the people function in it, there is not a country that is as civilised as Japan. I'm not talking parts of a society (middle and upper class in North America and Europe) I'm talking about an entire country and all of its people. Japan as a country is so consistent among different socioeconomic conditions. I'm not going to comment on that further. Just think about it.

And when it comes to welcoming visitors, they go out of their way more than we do. It's not that we don't go out of our way it's just that the Japanese take it to another level, just like with their service. And they do it with pride and no expectation of acknowledgement. They genuinely want you to like their country, their people, their food, their society and their way of life. Just because they do it better than the rest of us is no reason to be jealous and spiteful. It should serve as a challenge to make our societies as "civilised" as theirs.

Tokyo, Japan - one of the top 3 cities in the world! Don't believe it then come here and let me show you around.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

And then they come and lecture you about omotenashi...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I have lived here for over 14 years.

Brent Ewasiuk has summed up the country and the people perfectly and the Japanese people are why I continue to live here.

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Personally, I am embarrassed for most Japanese people using supplication as a basis for customer service, rather than a true enjoyment of helping your customers. And frankly, the result of "Omotenashi" is not always good service; but it is streamlined and efficient delivery of above average product/service to people at a reasonable price. It is "maa-maa" Personally, I prefer "Burger King"... Have it your way! Where I can literally put pickles on my french fries if I like. And no one will remind me that it is not available, despite the fact they have tons of pickles and french fries.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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