The term Omotenashi has recently come into the international media and is being repeatedly highlighted in the news. It is due to the 2020 Olympic that is to be held in Japan. Literal translation of the Japanese term Omotenashi means “hospitality” or “service” that is integrated with the Japanese culture in their everyday life. One can tell the high level of customer service the Japanese provide in every sector if they have visited the country. It far exceeds the expectation of the foreigners that can never be found elsewhere. The presence of Omotenashi is evidenced from the early days or Japanese culture that will be discussed in the following. Moreover, there are certain characteristics that Omotenashi carries, which is also discussed in the essay.
Evidence of Omotenashi is present in their culture since the early history of the country and they have emphasized it. It is believed that the concept of Omotenashi has originated from cha-no-yu, which is their tea ceremony. This tea ceremony exists in Japanese culture since 16th century and was established by Sen-no-Rikyu (Sato & Parry, 2015). Japanese tea ceremony is indeed popular and known around the globe. The host of the tea ceremony is expected entertain his or her guests and expect nothing in return. Guests on the other hand are expected appreciate the warmhearted nature of the host and reflect their gratitude toward the host (Fuji-academy.co.jp., 2017). It is believed that this reflects optimum purity in communication or referred as spiritual communication and much different from the pragmatic practice seen in daily life. This is indeed a spiritual aspect of Japanese culture, which is not visible or tangible. Concept of Omotenashi does not restrict the Japanese to provide good and efficient service to their guests, but asks the service provider to put their heart and soul into the service. The Japanese take special training and devotion of the individual for fully understanding the process of service deliverance with a true heart. This is what makes the Japanese service or Omotenashi different form services provided by other cultures. Moreover, this concept is not limited to special occasions or ceremonies, but is seen everywhere in daily life. It is involved in every aspect of Japanese society starting from industry to private lives (Al-alsheikh, 2014).
The existence of Omotenashi is no consequence in Japanese culture, as the Japanese are known to be specialized for doing things. “Kata” is another Japanese word often related with Omotenashi that means rules to be followed. It is integrated in almost everything in Japanese culture. They have a set of rules for doing almost anything and their life is bound by the rules.
The reappearance of Omotenashi and Kata in Japanese culture became visible to the outsiders after 1950s when the country took back their control in their hand. Prior to that, the Japanese products were believed to be poor in quality as the foreign importers only focused on the quick profit. Japanese then reestablished their traditional kata and omotenashi for providing optimum quality in any field.
Another believe prevails that the Omotenashi has originated from the late Heian period and the early Kamakura period when emergent warrior class of Japanese society started using renga as a tool for discriminating between friends and foes as well as for confirming the solidarity. They started using it as an efficient tool for building human relationships in the unquiet times. According to Aishima and Sato (2015), this can be a possible origin of Omotenashi in the Japanese culture.
Different scholars have identified a range of characteristics that are the outcome of various factors exists in Japanese culture. Some of the identified characteristics are mentioned below.
Japanese society is a collective one where the individuals in a group come with the mindset to cooperate with each other and without seeking anything in return. The members go to high level of anxiety if detached from the group. These type of groups are called ‘Ingroups’. Al-alsheikh (2014) further identifies that the group members share common goal, viewpoint, fate and needs and the members always prioritize the interest of the group more than their individual needs. He further related this to the high context culture as proposed by Cardon (Cardon, 2008). It is a form of art that displays sophistication, nuance and cultural identity. It can be related to the tea ceremony where the participants have to read the atmosphere and act accordingly with it for enjoying the Omotenashi without saying a single word (Aishima & Sato, 2016).
The Japanese behavior, art, history and life is characterized by coexistence of the mind and emotion. Both the mind and emotion of Japanese people maintain harmony that is reflected in their life. This leaves the Japanese to put strong emphasize on harmony and act in the group accordingly to in order to achieve it in every aspect of their life. This differentiates the Japanese mindset from the non-Japanese, where they tend to direct their mind for logical thinking. There is no room for emotional elements to enter the sphere of the non-Japanese disabling them to explore the world form the Japanese viewpoint. This helps the Japanese to provide the optimum level of customer service or Omotenashi as it is beyond logical that the non-Japanese are capable of (Sato & Al-alsheikh, 2014; Al-alsheikh, 2014).
Al-alsheikh and Sato (2015) in their study related servant leadership with Omotenashi through Kagaya case study. They addressed the Omotenashi of Kagaya form the brain science view point. The ascetic practices in Japan lead the people to practice imitation that is the imitation of the teacher. However, their mind side represented the in the omotenashi heart of the teacher. It leads the followers to cultivate the model and understand about the model with stronger notion. This leads to greater circulation between the model and the heart of omotenashi. This circulation results into the formation of servant leadership as the leadership is best justified by this particular leadership style (Nakagawa & Kuwahara, 2017).
Horiguchi et al., (2015) on the other hand identified the core elements of Omotenashi that ensures the efficiency of the service provided to the customers. These elements are host, way of performance and skills, and knowledge. Host is responsible to follow the guideline to create the atmosphere required to make the customers feel pleasant and relaxed. The second element speaks about the performance the members have to perform. Every gesture is carefully choreographed to fulfil the purpose and represent their wholeheartedness. The knowledge of the product is the utmost criteria for omotenashi. The host cannot serve their customer without having a complete knowledge about the product they are providing. The complete knowledge of the product will enable the host to be true to their selves while providing service.
It can be concluded from the discussion that the concept of Omotenashi exist in Japanese culture for very long time. Moreover, this is not just a service that the host provides to their customers, but much more than that as is considered to be an integral part of their culture. The mindset of the Japanese is coordinated in a way that it expects every individual belonging from the culture to provide this kind of service to their customers. The collective norm is responsible for this type of behaviour seen exclusively in the Japanese culture. Moreover, the elements of the omotenashi help them to maintain the course and value of the service.
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