Omotenashi: 5 places to experience it in the UK

Some Japanese words are simply untranslatable – and omotenashi is one of them. Often, it is interpreted in English as ‘hospitality’ or ‘customer service’, but its meaning is far deeper and more complex, and its role is wholly intrinsic to life in Japan. 

Walk into a shop in Tokyo, and you’ll be greeted by bowing assistants; hail a taxi in Kyoto, and its door will be opened by the white-gloved driver. Ask anyone for directions, and you’ll be escorted directly to your destination; stay at a ryokan (traditional hotel), and you will likely be welcomed with a personalised gift. In Japan, omotenashi (pronounced oh-mo-ten-asi) is everywhere, and it encompasses remarkable generosity, heartfelt service and meticulous attention to detail.

Etymologically, the word is linked to the phrase ‘omote ura nashi’, which translates as ‘there is no front or back’ – meaning that someone has no ‘sides’, or agenda. And as such, omotenashi isn’t just about grand gestures: it is rooted in small details and actions, such as the unexpected offer of an umbrella, or the exquisite presentation of restaurant food. And it is practised entirely without expectation or reward: in Japan, tipping is always politely refused. 

Omotenashi is, of course, synonymous with Japanese culture – but it can also be experienced in the UK if you know where to look. Here are five places to find it…

In your local Lexus showroom

Omotenashi underpins the ethos of every single Lexus showroom in the world – from our complimentary refreshments and personalised advice, to the legendary dedication and actions of our customer service teams. We have even created the Kiwami Awards (meaning ‘excellence’) to celebrate the retailers who go the extra mile, offering heartfelt hospitality that exceeds all expectations.

Drone tour

In the 2022 honours, Lexus Cambridge was selected from over 300 Lexus centres throughout Europe to receive a Kiwami Award, in recognition of its remarkable customer service. Pascal Ruch, Lexus Europe Vice-President, said: “The fantastic achievement of Lexus Cambridge and our other Kiwami Award winners is only possible through strong leadership, teamwork and a continuous focus on omotenashi.” To experience its heartfelt service for yourself, book a consultation or test drive with the award-winning team. 

Omotenashi: At a time-honoured tea ceremony

When you experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony – known as chadō – you are tapping into one of the oldest forms of omotenashi. From finding a hand-made tea bowl that suits a guest perfectly, to decorating the table and positioning the teaware, every element of this centuries-old ritual is fulfilled by a dedicated host. As tea master Sen no Rikyū wrote in the 1500s, ‘Though you wipe your hands and brush off the dust and dirt from the [tea] vessels, what is the use of all this fuss if the heart is still impure?’

Omotenashi in the UK

At her studio in Kensington, West London, tea ceremony master Keiko Uchida offers this authentic experience in a small-group setting. Dressed in an immaculate kimono, she prepares and pours the matcha tea in the highly stylised tradition, before offering expert insights into the significance of each ritual and utensil. With its unique teaware, exquisite decoration and heartfelt hospitality, this is a glimpse of real Japanese culture and omotenashi.

Omotenashi: From the UK’s top concierge

As president of The Society of The Golden Keys, which represents Britain’s topmost hotel concierges, Toru Machida is also an expert in omotenashi. Born in Kyoto, he is now the head concierge at The Cadogan, one of London’s finest hotels – which is renowned for its superlative service and rich 135-year history. “General hospitality is given when guests need something, but omotenashi provides what guests need even before they know they need it,” explains Machida.

Omotenashi in the UK

“If a guest left their jacket behind in the bar, I send the jacket to the valet to be pressed before it’s sent to the room. If a guest asks me to print a boarding pass, I inform them of the weather forecast of the city they are travelling to, at the time of landing. This intuition comes from my background… we genuinely care about our guests like our family or friends.”

Omotenashi: On an authentic sake journey

As the sixth generation of a sake-brewing dynasty, Yoshihide Hashimoto brought this traditional Japanese tipple to rural Cambridgeshire in 2018, founding Dojima Brewery in the grounds of Fordham Abbey. This idyllic Georgian estate might seem like an unlikely location to experience omotenashi, but Hashimoto’s team works with only the finest rice and grains (sourced directly from Hyogo), and offers guests exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of the brewery. 

You can see the new batches bubbling in the fermentation room, learn what makes premium sake so special, and of course taste the artisan tipples. But perhaps most profound is Dojima’s hospitality: in springtime, guests are invited to explore the flower-filled grounds of the abbey, and a sake-inspired lunch can be served alongside the tastings. 

Omotenashi: During a traditional omakase meal

When arriving at Akira in London’s South Kensington, you’ll be greeted by a cry of “irrashaimase” – which means “welcome” in English – shouted by all of the chefs and staff. It can be a little surprising, but this is a traditional way to greet guests in Japan, and sets the scene for authentic omotenashi. 

Omotenashi in the UK

Shimizu Akira is the executive chef of this Michelin-starred restaurant, and his attention to detail is flawless: from the immaculate presentation of every dish, to the refreshment of each utensil between courses. When ordering sake, guests are even presented with a colourful selection of unique hand-made vessels, from which to select their favourite cup. For the ultimate omotenashi experience, opt for the omakase menu designed by Akira himself, which changes every day to reflect the freshest seasonal ingredients. 


  1. This is why I love and respect Lexus, the attention to detail the politeness of all the staff. Just makes the customer feel special. A lot of other manufacturers dealerships could learn a lot from Lexus. My local Lexus dealership is Milton Keynes, having purchased in the last two years a used IS 300h I can say I am very happy. For me this is a dream car, so much so my son purchased a CT200h and he to is extremely happy. I doubt very much if either one of us would change from Lexus now

    1. Hello Mark,
      Thank you very much for your kind words and commitment to Lexus.
      We wish you and your son many more happy miles.
      Many thanks.

  2. How wonderful to read about the Japanese traditions of hospitality and attention to detail in every respect. It is heartwarming to know this is happening in the UK today. We have always admired the service we have experienced at Lexus Poole. The staff are friendly, helpful and cheerful as we are always welcomed with a smile. The Cadogan hotel room looks superb and the Akira food pictured looks delicious. It would be amazing if we in the UK could salvage some of our old traditions from say the 1930’s when shops and businesses were so grateful of their customers that everyone received a personal service, at no extra cost. In the departmental stores there were even lift attendants taking you to your choice of floor, explaining the range of products available on each floor as you went. However much we may like our ‘self-service’ way of life, there are many times when we need that personal touch from someone cheerful, who is helpful, obliging, and can ‘lift the day’.

  3. After admiring Lexus since it first came to the UK and test driving the original Lexus Hybrid when it arrived in the Newbridge (Edinburgh) showroom. I finally managed to purchase my 1st lexus last year. I do not care that it was 2nd hand. It is a piece of Automotive beauty. All the staff from the Reception to the Sales staff were always courteous and welcoming. I am still enjoying my beautiful RX and look forward to for many a year to come. Then I will look for my next Lexus as it is good to go where people take pride in what they do and sell. Even my son wants a Lexus as his first car.

    1. Hello Andrew,
      Thanks for your feedback and loyalty to Lexus.
      We appreciate your kind words and wish you many more happy miles.
      Many thanks.

    1. Hi Michael, thanks for your comment.

      The width of the LBX including the mirrors in the open position is 2,029mm.


      Lexus UK

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