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Japan must modernize omotenashi while respecting its philosophy

Technology enables balancing of tradition and agility

| Japan
The service staff in Japan are often overqualified.   © Reuters

Despite the geopolitical tensions across East Asia, few doubt that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will boost Japan's inbound tourism. The Japanese word omotenashi, commonly translated as "hospitality," was the keyword in Tokyo's final pitch in 2013 to be host city. It promised the world Japan's legendary reception, should it be selected.

But omotenashi extends far beyond polite store clerks, clean public spaces and trains which run on time. At its core, embedded in Japanese DNA, is respect for others. Indeed, in an insular and conservative country, being civil and respectful to others -- elevated to the level of mindreading -- is a mandatory skill we hone from an early age.

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