Three Experiences for Managers from Overseas to Learn about Japanese Hospitality


With the Tokyo Olympics on their way, the most powerful impression we want to make on the world is encompassed by the word “hospitality.”

In recent years, it seems like the number of managers from overseas coming to learn about the Japanese culture of hospitality is increasing.

What is Japanese hospitality?

The Etymology and Origin of Omotenashi

The etymology of the Japanese word Omotenashi, meaning hospitality, comes from the phrase “Mottenashi togeru” roughly meaning “to accomplish with that you have.” The phrase indicates a way to treat your customers.

However, the word can also be read as “Omote nashi,” (no reverse side) meaning to serve your customers without any ulterior motives. These two meanings have converged together to create the current meaning of the word.

The origin of the current Japanese conception of omotenashi comes from the tea ceremonies of Sen no Rikyū. These have been passed on through his work, “The Seven Rules of Rikyū.”

“Consider the feelings of your guest; Distinguish their true essence and empathize; Give yourself leeway; Don’t neglect the setting; Pay close attention to all of your guests.” This reflects a considerate feeling for all guests, as well as a classical Japanese way of thinking.

Is There a Difference Between Omotenashi and Hospitality?

Omotenashi is often translated as “hospitality,” and there are even a lot of Japanese people who think they mean the same thing. So, let’s take a look at “hospitality.”

“Hospitality” is defined as “A mode of action not just displayed for customer relations, but embodied in relationships between a person and other people, objects, society, and nature.”

This meaning can be a bit broad and difficult to understand, but we could also say that Omotenashi is a part of hospitality.

That is to say, it might be best if we consider “hospitality” and omotenashi to be synonymous.

Managers from Overseas Want to Learn About Japanese Hospitality

Japanese Hospitality is Remarkable

In Japan, the spirit of hospitality is present throughout society. For example, even if it’s just buying a 100-yen item at a fast food shop, or staying at a zero-star hotel, international visitors are often impressed by the way they are treated in Japan.

At department stores, no matter how many times you buy, they will provide you with a waterproof cover if it’s raining. This thoroughness and attention to detail is distinctive of Japanese hospitality.

Workers’ word choice and tone is also very polite.

Japanese Hospitality in Their Own Country

There are a lot of non-Japanese people who want to learn about this kind of Japanese hospitality, and recently they have been coming to Japan to experience it themselves.

The amount of managers who wish to bring the hospitality they learn about in Japan back to their own country seems to only be increasing.

Three Examples of True Hospitality

Cooking Lessons for Executives from Overseas

Executive cooking lessons provide first-hand experience of Japanese culture via food preparation. With the backdrop of a global Japanese food and liquor boom, executives want to learn about Japanese food, liquor, and culture.

Unlike sightseers, Executives want to experience Japanese culture and cuisine first-hand, in order to use this experience to improve their own business.

Through these cooking lessons, they can learn about the Japanese form of hospitality.

In response to this expanded interest, Japanese leadership and staff use these cooking lessons to share the experience of Japanese culture with international executives. They can also communicate how to better understand Japanese people, and the heart of Japanese hospitality.

This seems like the optimal way to improve communication across the leadership team of global companies.

Learning Japanese Hospitality at a Temple

A historical Japanese temple is a great place for managers and staff from overseas to learn about the fundamentals of Japanese hospitality.

These temples have a long history of sustaining the soul of the Japanese people. Here, one can learn about zazen meditation and mental concentration.

Through the experience of an authentic Japanese tea ceremony, they can learn the spirit, way of thinking, and etiquette of Japanese hospitality from a chief priest.

Through meditation at the temple, by focusing their mind on relaxation, they can learn about the spiritual discipline and study as practiced by Japanese people.

In the tea ceremony and at the temple, when the chief priest makes tea using tools that have been passed on through generations, they can discuss tea ceremony and the spirit of Japanese people with him directly.

Learning Japanese Hospitality at a Traditional Inn

Unlike a hotel, a traditional Japanese inn specializes in detailed service, where the proprietress will personally greet each customer, serve them food, and lay out their futon.

For an international traveler looking for the soul of Japanese hospitality, where one can easily express their troubles and feel at home, a traditional inn is a shining example.

For this reason, there are training courses where you can learn Japanese hospitality at a Japanese inn. For people in the hospitality industry, there is a lot to learn from the considerate attitude of a traditional inn.

It appears that a lot of managers come to traditional inns in order to learn about the soul at the heart of customer service, in order to apply it at their own companies around the world.

At a traditional inn, from the care they put into the use of the ancient building, to the traditional Japanese food they serve, the virtues of Japan are communicated to their customers.

Providing each individual customer with a peaceful, tranquil experience is at the core, and is the essence of the hospitaility afforded by a traditional inn.

The thorough care applied to make sure that each customer who stays at their inn can relax without any inconvenience is another characteristic of traditional inns.

The proprietress can explain the rooms and the establishment, communicating the fundamentals of heart-warming care and service that even goes as far as to change the menu based on a customer’s likes or dislikes.


The Japanese culture of hospitality, characterized by detailed, thorough service that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world, can be seen at any store or restaurant.

This type of hospitality can be superficially learnt by skimming a manual, but since it is so intrinsically connected with the history of Japanese culture, one has to understand Japanese thinking and etiquette in order to fully absorb the fundamentals.

These kinds of personal experiences that allow you to grasp the spirit of Japanese hospitality first-hand and apply them to your own businesses, are becoming quite popular among managers from overseas.