There are so many Japanese words that don’t have the same word in English. It’s probably because of the culture, like certain things don’t exist in English like it does in Japan. Many times, I am asked, “How do you say this in English?” by a Japanese person, and I’m left silent.

Today’s lesson: OMOTENASHI. This is a common word, perhaps made even more popular by a newscaster named Christel Takigawa, when she made a presentation to the 2013 IOC Committee in Argentina for a bid for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics.

So what is this word, Omotenashi? Or as in the memorable way of Christel, “O… MO…TE…NA…SHI?”

This, I believe, is a very Japanese word. It’s the utmost hospitality, the service, the act of going above and beyond. When you enter a department store in Japan, you will have door people (not always men) that will open the door for you. When you use the elevator, there will be “elevator girls” who will lead you to your desired floor. (I have yet to see an “Elevator Boy,” however…) You don’t encounter too many of these in the states, unless you go to a ritzy place.

This is again, off-topic, but something that I can’t figure out is why Japanese shop staff speak in a nasal-y voice when they greet customers. “Irasshaimase~i” ALWAYS nasally. WHY!? I have asked a few of my Japanese friends, and they suggested it was maybe because the higher tone was more pleasing to hear?

Despite wondering about silly things, I am always left amazed at how good service usually is at a restaurant. In America, it seems people aim to give good service, only so they can have good tips. In Japan, there are no tips! And yet they still work hard and exceed expectations!

It’s the experience of dining/shopping and being completely catered to, and leaving feeling good about the purchase/consuming that you just did. You will rarely get that here in the states. I used to work for a hotel that was owned by a Japanese company, and we aimed to adhere to the omotenashi spirit to the best of our abilities. It was appreciated, and of course, it felt good making someone’s day as well.

I haven’t been with PacSet too long, but I am pleased to find that the OMOTENASHI spirit is very much alive here too.

Well, here’s your first Japanese lesson with me. If you’ve learned anything from this at all, I’m thrilled. And when you have a chance, check out Christel giving the Omotenashi Tokyo 2020 pitch on YouTube. Definitely memorable. I bet you will remember this word forever. 🙂