Omotenashi, a word you might hear or read about when preparing for a visit to Japan. It’s a complex word with many meanings, but most importantly, it’s a concept inherent to Japanese culture.
In embodying the spirit of Japan, ANA has undertaken the mission of bringing Omotenashi into the skies.
It is difficult to pair the Japanese word omotenashi with a singular definition. In its essence, it means to look after a guest with wholehearted care—a unique form of Japanese hospitality founded on sincere servitude with no expectation of reciprocity. It is the anticipation of a guest’s needs: to fulfill whatever someone may request before they do so. The Japanese placed their cultural stamp on this custom, and have practiced it with great pride throughout history and to this day.
This practice of Omotenashi lives at 39,000 feet in the air with ANAs Experience Class, a 5-star journey as experiential and authentic as the destination itself. Through the tangible and intangible, ANA’s superior service is crafted to define the magic and adventure of Japan and share it with the world. This spirit exists in not just the fully-flat plush seating and master-chef curated meals, but in the flight crew’s warm smiles, an attendant coming to your assistance before you even realize you need it, a sleep mask provided just as drowsiness begins to set in. These moments deeply reflect the heart of Omotenashi: the farther away from home you are, the greater care you will receive.
Tea and Samurais: The Origins of Omotenashi
The tea ceremony is practically synonymous with Japanese culture, so it comes as no surprise that Omotenashi has roots in sado, the traditional tea ceremony in which tea masters perform the time-honored preparation of tea for their guests. During this ceremony, the host generously entertains guests, who, in turn, are expected to receive this earnest treatment, reciprocating through an expression of reverential gratitude to the host. The tea ceremony is considered the pinnacle of communication and spiritual connection, often forgotten in the hasty and thoughtless exchanges of modern daily life. This ritual, and thus the spirit of Omotenashi that springs from it, is deeply ingrained with the desire to treat others sincerely and generously with no expectation of anything in return.
The idea is illustrated by an old poem, penned by esteemed tea master Sen no Rikyu: “Though you wipe your hands and brush off the dust and dirt from the vessels, what is the use of all this fuss if the heart is still impure?” This points to the second component of Omotenashi. It does not require perfection nor the highest form of material luxury, but rather, the pure intent to give with warmth and care.
Today we see this ethos of deep consideration in everyday Japanese practices. Upon entering stores and restaurants, workers greet you with bows and words of “welcome”– irasshaimase. Shopkeepers place a hand under yours as they dispense change, to catch any coins that may fall. Checking out of inns and other establishments, hosts will often continue to bow in the doorway until they can no longer see you, even as your back is turned. This custom truly defines Omotenashi – the bowing continues even when you do not realize. It is not done to be applauded, but from a source of unselfish respect.
With Tokyo recently named on the 2017 Best Cities in the World list, there’s never been a better time to experience the destination’s unique mix of ultramodern vibes, historic shrines, lush forests, and culinary excellence. So, step outside. ANA welcomes you with the spirit of Omotenashi.