Omotenashi Explained: Nurturing the Japanese Spirit through Culture and Etymology!

Mayumi Folio
Mayumi Folio

Japanese “Omotenashi” is attracting attention from abroad.

However, there are many things that even Japanese people do not know about the meaning and etymology of omotenashi.

This article provides a thorough explanation of the meaning of omotenashi, and also introduces points to keep in mind when entertaining foreigners in Japan.

The Meaning and Etymology of Omotenashi, the Spirit of Japan

Three tips for entertaining

Points for actually entertaining foreigners

Five Japanese cultural hospitality experiences that will delight foreigners.

I will be focusing on the following topics.

This article will help you learn more about Omotenashi and how it can help you entertain foreigners, so please use it as a reference for your own unique Japanese hospitality.


The Meaning of Omotenashi

Omotenashi means “to receive guests with cordial reception and hospitality when inviting them over.

Here we introduce the meaning and etymology of the word, as well as its origin, the “Seven Rikyu Rules” of the tea ceremony.

Etymology of hospitality “omotenashi” and “omotenashi

The meaning of omotenashi is “cordial treatment” and refers to the heartfelt hospitality and entertainment of guests.

The verb “motenasu” becomes polite and becomes “omotenashi” (hospitality). And when written in kanji (Chinese characters), it becomes “omotenashi,” which means “to have and to do.

The meaning of “zare ni narusu” is “to accomplish with a thing,” and this “thing” represents the mind and the thing.

So, what we accomplish with things is to “use our things and our minds to treat our customers well and have a good attitude when dealing with them.

From this etymology, the meaning of omotenashi is also said to mean “to satisfy others by treating them with respect.

Omotenashi is also called “Omote-nashi,” or “without front and back,” and is said to treat others with a heart that is open and honest.

This is the heart of hospitality, which is centered on sincerely welcoming important people with sincerity.

From these two etymologies, hospitality is said to be “to have respect for others and to respond flexibly to their needs in order to satisfy them without asking for anything in return.

Origins of Omotenashi: “Rikyu’s Seven Rules

It is said that hospitality began with the tea ceremony, and Rikyu left us the “Seven Rules of Rikyu,” a set of rules for hospitality.

It is said to be the source of the spirit of hospitality.

The Seven Rules of Rikyu by Sen no Rikyu, the spirit of hospitality.

1. Tea should be served as one likes it.

The phrase “yoki-yoki-yoso” not only means “delicious,” but also means “master-customer unity.

Tea should be prepared in an amount that is easy for the recipient to drink and at an appropriate temperature, considering the situation and his/her feelings.

Rule number two: Place the coals so that the water boils.

Be precise and honest in your preparation.

Rather than just swallowing the formalities of a good charcoal joint, let’s take a closer look at the essence of even a single charcoal cooking method.

Three rules: cool in summer, warm in winter

Hospitality is about making the other person feel comfortable.

Be mindful of the seasons and try to blend yourself into nature.

Rule 4: Arrange flowers as you would in the field.

The expression of a thing should be concise, knowing its essence.

Instead of reproducing nature as it is, express the beauty of wild flowers and the preciousness of life given by nature.

Five Rules: Be on time.

Everything is done with a relaxed mind, and relaxed means respecting time.

Not only will you feel relaxed, but you will also value their time.

rule of six: be prepared for rain even if it doesn’t fall

Be prepared to act calmly and practically at all times, and have a free and honest mind that can respond appropriately to the situation.

(as commanded by Jesus) love your neighbour (neighbor)

Make sure that everyone in the room is comfortable and think of the other person in everything you do.

Difference between hospitality and hospitality services

This section introduces the meanings of “hospitality” and “service,” which are often confused with hospitality.


The word hospitality comes from the Latin hospitālis (protection of guests).

The meaning is “to protect a guest or to welcome a foreigner,” since churches and other institutions protected travelers and sick people who came from other countries.

It is very similar to hospitality, but you can think of hospitality as “being willing to respond when asked” and hospitality as “noticing before being told.”

In other countries, the term is often used to describe the hospitality of medical institutions to patients or to deal with certain special situations.

Recommended related article: In-depth analysis of Japanese hospitality services! 28 cases and 10 episodes of Japanese hospitality that impressed foreigners visiting Japan


The word service comes from the Latin word servus (slave), from which the English words slave, servant, and service were derived.

So, basically, service becomes service, which means “service, work, and customer service” to serve others.

It could be said that services are subject to a position of ups and downs, a master-servant relationship, and that there is a price to be paid for the services rendered.

Three tips for hospitality

Here are three tips for success when actually entertaining.

Relax your guests

The more relaxed your guests are, the better their experience will be.

After all, we cannot deliver a wonderful experience if we are nervous, so it is important to create a relaxing environment for our clients.

Creating a relaxing environment includes greeting guests with a smile, calling their names, and talking slowly.

It is also important to pay attention to the intensity of scents and lighting to create a comfortable space that is felt throughout the body.

In this way, keep the customer at the center of your hospitality.

pay attention to detail

Attention to detail makes guests feel more special.

You will be impressed by the attention to detail and hospitality.

For example, we will prepare and fulfill “what we wish we had,” starting with proper cleaning and preparing water.

For meals, it is necessary to confirm in advance whether there are any allergies or foods that cannot be eaten, and to be able to adapt on the day of the event.

For this reason, it can be said that it is vital to imagine the other party.

Stick to first impressions.

Guests will have a better impression of you if you pay attention to first impressions as well.

For customer service, this includes smiling, greeting guests properly, and remembering their names.

It is also important to focus on appearance.

For example, by paying attention to the arrangement of meals and the decoration of the room, you can provide a pleasant atmosphere for your guests.

Thus, it can be gained that the most important thing to consider when entertaining is still to think about the importance of first impressions.

3 points to consider when entertaining foreigners

So, what points should we pay special attention to when entertaining foreigners from different cultural backgrounds?

Here are three important tips for entertaining foreigners.

Attention to language

Language considerations are important when entertaining foreigners.

Of course there are foreigners who are fluent in Japanese, but most of them do not understand Japanese.

So even small things can lead to discomfort and uncomfortableness because of the lack of Japanese language skills.

For example, the menu must be written in English and an interpreter must be assigned, which means that the staff must be able to speak the language of the restaurant.

Explanations with pictures, such as illustrations and cartoons, are also effective, and AI-based translation can be used to solve the problem.

Thus, it is important to consider in advance how language can be used for foreign hospitality.

Understanding of culture and customs

There are many different countries in the world, and each country has its own culture and customs.

Japan has its own culture and customs, and there is no shortage of foreigners who are confused by the differences.

If you are accepting foreigners in an environment where traditional Japanese customs such as temples and public bathhouses must be respected, it is important to explain in advance the manners and customs that you would like them to observe, or provide illustrations or other easy-to-understand information.

It is also a sign of hospitality to avoid problems in advance that may start because you were unaware or did not know about them.

And when entertaining a superior guest, it is important to know the etiquette of the guest’s country.

In particular, since dining etiquette differs from country to country, it is important for the host to know this in advance so that he or she can adapt his or her responses to the needs of the guests.

Thus, understanding the other person’s country and explaining the customs of your own country are very important points when entertaining a foreigner.

Recommended related article: How do Japanese manners look like from overseas? Japanese Etiquette and Customs to Convey to Foreigners

Experience Japanese culture and hospitality

One of the most important points of hospitality is to make the other person happy. The important point of Omotenashi is to make the other person happy.

With this in mind, it seems that Japanese cultural experiences can be recommended for entertaining foreigners.

Many foreigners are eager to experience Japanese culture during their stay in Japan.

It has become very important to incorporate Japanese cultural experiences when entertaining foreign guests, and you can experience the joy of actually experiencing it for yourself.

For example, we can offer Japanese cultural experiences such as tea ceremony and kimono dressing, or provide geisha and Japanese musical instruments for the party.

By treating your guests to traditional Japanese culture, which is not easily accessible, you can provide them with a special and satisfying experience that will leave them with unforgettable memories.

Thus, reading the curiosity of others and planning accordingly is also an important aspect of hospitality.

Japanese cultural experience hospitality that foreigners enjoy

When entertaining foreigners, it will be very meaningful to plan hospitality with Japanese cultural experiences.

First, we can deliver the experience of actually experiencing a different culture in a different country.

One of the most attractive points is that experiencing Japanese culture brings us much closer to each other.

Here we introduce you to some of the most popular hospitality Japanese cultural experiences for foreigners.

Tea ceremony experience

The tea ceremony experience is a Japanese cultural experience that is planned when entertaining guests from abroad at the state guest level.

In addition to the fact that the tea ceremony has a deep Japanese history and that there are many foreigners who would like to experience it, it is a Japanese cultural experience that will allow you to fully experience Japaneseness.

And the tea ceremony is essentially based on hospitality, a culture where everything is done to entertain guests.

The quietness of the tea room is an environment where guests can relax, so we can provide a comfortable time for them.

You can also experience a tea ceremony wearing a kimono, which is a special cultural experience of wearing Japanese traditional costume in a uniquely Japanese space.

This is also an easy after-dinner activity for guests with tight schedules, allowing them to experience Japanese culture in a short period of time.

Thus, the tea ceremony experience is the origin of Japanese hospitality culture, where visitors can efficiently experience Japanese culture and be healed in a serene space.

Japanese Food Culture Experience

Japanese cuisine has been designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

After all, many foreigners want to taste Japanese food when they visit Japan.

Japanese hospitality is especially well suited for environments that also play an important role in the international business scene, such as business entertainment and dinners.

From the beautiful appearance of Japanese food to the skill of the chefs and the attention to detail in the ingredients, Japanese cuisine is truly a treasure trove of hospitality.

The spirit of hospitality is alive and well in every corner.

And Japanese alcoholic beverages such as sake and Japanese whiskey are also attracting attention.

Many foreigners are fascinated by the delicate flavors produced in Japan and will be delighted if you serve them with their meals.

Therefore, when considering hospitality for foreigners, preparation of Japanese food is still an important point.

Recommended Related Articles: 17 Restaurants and Izakayas in Tokyo for Entertaining Foreigners

Geisha Experience

Geishas are popular among VIP foreigners and wealthy international guests.

Geishas are professionals in hospitality. They respond tactfully to any situation.

Songs, Japanese dancing, and tatami room games are also available to soothe the atmosphere for entertaining and dining parties.

And geisha are the official inheritors of Japanese culture and are a rare opportunity to appreciate authentic Japanese dance, allowing you to fully enjoy the Japanese tradition.

Above all, it is recommended for parties because of its strong visual impact and glamorous appearance.

It is not always only the seats that call for geisha.

Motenas Japan can accommodate birthday parties and celebrations on a flexible basis.

Today, their soft mannerisms and gracious gestures are popular among foreign women.

Recommended related article: [Hospitality with Geisha] Foreigners are delighted! Ozashiki play and performance as an event

Martial Arts Experience

As the Japanese government’s “Budo Tourism” shows, there is no end to the number of foreigners who want to try martial arts in Japan today.

There are many traditional Japanese martial arts such as karate, kendo, judo, aikido, sumo, and kyudo.

All of them are firmly rooted in the Japanese way of thinking, and you will gain a better understanding of Japan by experiencing them.

Such Japanese-style hospitality using budo has a wide range of possibilities, from experiencing budo as it is to appreciating it.

Martial arts experiences are also popular as training and team building for foreigners, and will be a genre that is expected to be more in demand from overseas in the future.

Reference site; Budo Tourism

Japanese Culture x Entertainment

Planning entertainment around Japanese culture is a great way to entertain at parties and celebrations.

Since it is based on Japanese culture, the project will be full of Japanese spirit and special feeling.

Typical examples are ninja performance entertainment and calligraphy performances.

Performances based on Noh and Kyogen are also gaining in popularity.

We offer entertainment in the form of traditional Japanese stage performances, which are usually difficult to see, in a way that foreigners can easily relate to.

A more detailed related article can be found here. Please read this if you are interested; Japanese cultural experiences popular among foreigners! Recommended 12 Experiential Sightseeing & VIP Entertainment


The meaning of omotenashi is “to have respect for others and to respond flexibly with consideration for others in order to satisfy them without asking for anything in return.

It is conceivable that we should always be aware of the situation and respond mindfully.

Japanese hospitality is a uniquely Japanese culture not found in any other country.

Learn the meaning of hospitality and make your time with us more pleasant!

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We strive day and night to spread Japan's unique hospitality culture to people around the world. Please feel free to contact us for consultations on hosting and hospitality for foreign guests.