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Omotenashi: The Spirit of Japanese Hospitality


Some words in foreign languages don't have a simple translation into English, and omotenashi is one of them. The most widely accepted definition is "Japanese hospitality" or "Japanese service". The term gained widespread attention during the bid process to the International Olympic Committee in 2013, and is becoming even more frequently heard in advance of the 2020 Olympics--to be held in Tokyo.

The Michelin guide defines omotenashi as:

'“Omote” means public face – an image you wish to present to outsiders. “Nashi” means nothing. Combining them means every service is from the bottom of the heart – honest, no hiding, no pretending.'

It is respectful, genuine service provided without the expectation of reward.


In the private club industry, we strive to use the Three Steps of Hospitality Service in everything we do:

1. The Warm Welcome

2. Anticipate & Exceed the Member's Needs

3. The Fond Farewell

The level of hospitality service provided nearly everywhere in Japan is similar to what we would expect to find in a private club with these three steps of service.

THE WARM WELCOME: Customers--whether at a high end restaurant, a small mom-and-pop shop, a department store, or even a 7/11--are greeted warmly and sincerely, with a smile, by all employees. At restaurants, diners are greeted with a hot towel and water to wash their hands, or at the very least a warm towelette.

ANTICIPATE & EXCEED CUSTOMER NEEDS: When raining, umbrella bags are readily available--even in the subways. Stores will even offer you a poncho for your shopping bags during rainy weather, so that the goods inside don't get wet. Handbag holders are conveniently positioned in restaurants and at ATMs. Complete strangers will stop on the street and offer guidance if they see you struggling with directions--and not only will they stop, but many will offer to accompany you to where you need to go! In Japan, it is difficult to 'want' for anything when patronizing a hospitality venue.

THE FOND FAREWELL: Upon departure from any store or service venue, guests are thanked profusely with a cheery "Arigatou gozaimasu!" (the formal, polite version of "Thank you!") and a bow of respect. Frequently, candies, mints, or some other parting treat is also offered.


Even in the most modest of shops, you are treated like a guest of honor. A key part of the omotenashi concept is that service is offered without expectation of a reward. That means no tipping. Instead, the superior service is a product of pride in one's work and a genuine servant's heart--precisely what we strive for in a private club environment.

To our friends and colleagues in the private club industry--perhaps it's time for an educational work trip to Japan!


The RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services), honored five times by BoardRoom Magazine for excellence, is the "go-to" group for private clubs and golf courses seeking state-of-the-art consulting that combines 21st-century techniques with the timeless values of America's great club traditions, to prepare for the next generation of members, guests, and employees.

Learn more about the award winning RCS Hospitality Group and their team at or visit their online learning platform at

#hospitality #japan #privateclubservice #memberservice #clubservice #customerservice

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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