Omotenashi – Service in Japan

by Diane on 12/08/2010

I have just returned from a short holiday in Tokyo. I had already heard about the impressively high level of service people usually experience in Japan, and now that I’ve been there I can only confirm, that being a customer in Japan feels absolutely great.

I can only talk for the Tokyo region, since I didn’t travel anywhere outside of the big city, but I assume it’s the same anywhere in Japan – whatever you do, wherever you go, whoever you encounter: people are always nice and go the extra mile to fulfil the wishes you didn’t even know you had. There was the shower head in our hotel for example, which had a little leak. Not a big problem and I certainly wouldn’t have complained about it, but when we used the shower again the next morning, it had been fixed. Without us saying a word. Not only had the cleaning staff seen the problem, they had even organised the repair. Great service!

There were lots of little things where I though “Wow, that’s great, I didn’t really expect this”, but one of the best things happened to us at Junkudo. Junkudo is a huge book store in Ikebukuro, one of the must-see parts of Tokyo. The store has nine stories, with level nine hosting foreign books. Since neither Kai nor I speak Japanese, we went straight up to the top floor to look for a book we had seen advertised in a newspaper. When we couldn’t find it, I approached the information desk and asked for it. Luckily I had the newspaper clipping with me, so it was easy for the person I asked to look it up in their computer and locate it within the shop. For some reason they had it one level below, and they sent me down to get it from there. Now, in both Germany and New Zealand “Go to level xyz” means that you have to find the item you’re looking for at that location for yourself. At Junkudo it meant, that someone on level eight was informed via phone that we were looking for the book, and while we took the escalator down, which probably took us less than two minutes, this person grabbed the book and placed it at the information desk for us. When we arrived to ask for it again, it was already waiting for us. Great service, again!

I got really excited about the high level of service, and when we met a friend for lunch at our last day in Tokyo I got an explanation as to why the Japanese are so service oriented. It has to do with the custom of “omotenashi”, the atmosphere of hospitality and welcome. It’s the thought of creating a nice, welcoming experience for guests – with an attention to details – that got transferred into the whole service industry. It’s a great custom and it certainly makes Japan a great experience for visitors.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Amank February 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm

This is really great to hear. As a Japanese I am both proud and pleased to know how much Westerners appreciate Japanese culture.
I am actually applying to Cornell’s Hotel School, one of the best hospitality schools in the world and my intention is to introduce the spirit of Japanese hospitality-omotenashi to Western hospitality industry. Anyways, thanks for sharing your experience, I hope I can work to make more people enjoy the quality omotenashi of Japan in the future!

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