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Omotenashi: Rugby World Cup Day Eighteen

07th October 2019

Why do so many neutrals want Japan to make a breakthrough this week and reach the Rugby World Cup quarter finals for the first time? 



Not every word or phrase can be translated literally. When a certain way of behaving becomes part of national culture and a source of national pride, it’s not easy to pinpoint what it means to outsiders. When Christel Takigawa, Japan’s bid ambassador for the 2020 Olympics, told the International Olympic Committee that her country would show visitors omotenashi, linguists found it hard to define. The meaning has become clearer during this World Cup as day after day the Japanese people have delivered a welcome so warm that visitors don’t want the tournament to end.

Omotenashi captures the Japanese approach to hospitality. The essence of it is putting the guest first without being obsequious, anticipating and acting on the needs of others and taking enormous pride in the satisfaction this brings. Those of us who’ve been lucky enough to experience it understand why Japanese people proudly say that in the West the customer may be king, but in Japan the customer is god. Visitors to hotels, restaurants and even shops are treated like honoured guests. Strangers in the street will put their own needs aside to help guide others to their destination. As a visitor to this country, you’ll be greeted by a smiling army determined to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. This, along with the vibrancy of their rugby, is why so many neutrals are willing Japan to make a breakthrough this week and reach the quarter finals for the first time. We want these people to be rewarded for their omotenashi.

It’s our way of saying ありがとうございました

Thank you.


Reading and writing in Japanese is complicated by the use of three sets of characters: Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. Kanji consists of Chinese characters, while Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic alphabets designed to make the Japanese language more accessible.


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