To my eyes, Japan is always a country that is unique in the world. There really is no other country on our planet that is like Japan. Maybe Japan is unique because it is an island. But that is not so unique. Iceland and England are islands. Indonesia and the Philippines have many islands. Madagascar is an island. So are many countries in the Caribbean, like Jamaica and Cuba. Australia is a giant island and there is also the island of New Zealand.
Maybe Japan is so unique because it has an original language. But there are other countries in the world that have very unique languages too. Countries like India, Bahrain, Belarus, and Cambodia. Actually there are over one hundred unique languages in the world that people use in their home countries.
But Japan is still unique. Japan is still different than many other places in the world. Many foreigners who come to Japan say the same thing. Japan is not like other countries, and when you experience Japanese hospitality it is something really wonderful and great.
Maybe it is the power of “omotenashi”. The word does not translate well into English. “Omote” may mean something like “the front of something” or “surface”. “Nashi” can mean “nothing” or “without”. The two parts together do not sound smooth in English, but when we understand “omotenashi” as a feeling of hospitality and service we can understand the meaning more clearly.
Maybe a better English meaning for “omotenashi” is “service without expectation”.
This is a very unique and beautiful idea. The feeling is very pure. It is a feeling of “service to other people because service is important”. Serving others has value. Serving others with a pure mind is elegant. Serving others can be a beautiful and deeply meaningful thing.
If we look at Japanese hotels and taxis and trains we find many examples of the hospitality meaning of “omotenashi”. One of the goals of the Tokyo Olympics was to show the world how this idea is something that is in the heart of the culture of Japan. That really is an incredible and deeply important thing.
But we also see “omotenashi” in many small things every day in your country. Many shops and stores, many restaurants, many people who work in the service industry have this feeling in their minds. So many people work hard and they do not complain. Many people do extra things in their companies and stores to give a good feeling to their clients and customers. To my eyes this is an amazing thing.
And there is more. We see the spirit of “service without expectation” in your teachers here at Otemae. Many teachers work every weekend for your classes and your clubs. They have no vacation times. They have little free time. They do not go out and play or enjoy themselves, because they are helping you in your studies and club activities. This is all “service without expectation”. It is an amazing and beautiful and powerful thing.
To our friends and classmates a kind thing we can say is, “How can I help you?” or “What can I do for you?” We can show this powerful spirit of “service without expectation” by being a good friend to someone. We can show this power if we listen to someone who has trouble. We can show this power by supporting people around us, cheering for their success, and being a good friend when times are hard.
As a country, Japan can export great cars and computers and technology. But if Japan could send “omotenashi” around the world, our planet would be a much better, a much safer, and much stronger place.