Relearning Traditions: Balancing the Old and the New in OMOTENASHI
by Brian Kohaya
In our fast-paced world of social media and bad technology where we are always looking towards the future, it can be difficult to find time to remember the past. Our cultural traditions and customs can at times seem to be the antithesis of our modern era, so finding the balance between the old and the new can be a challenge in itself.
OMOTENASHI tells the story of a family who owns a failing ryokan (Japanese inn) and how they to try to save it. This can be seen through the dual stories of Jacky and Naoko. Jacky is the son of a successful Taiwanese construction worker who comes to Japan to complete the deal to sell the ryokan. Naoko is a cold-footed fiance who is planning her wedding in the ryokan. The more time the two spend at the ryokan, the more they fall in love with the traditional aspects of it.
Jacky, Rika, and Bo Hao are put into a class teaching the slowly-dying custom of omotenashi, the Japanese art of hospitality. The trio are baffled by omotenashi and how they will be able to provide services to their guests. As the film progresses, we see how these lessons change not only how the trio are able to serve their guests, but how they interact with each other.
The ryokan itself is used in the film as a symbol of traditions. Dilapidated and archaic, Jacky proposes to rebuild aspects of the ryokan to fit the modern needs of guests. As construction progresses, the conflicting nature of old and new become more prominent. Glass windows are juxtaposed with the traditional sliding doors and windows. The old is being replaced, but can a balance remain?
OMOTENASHI’S beauty lies in the changing nature of its characters. As they each struggle to adjust to current needs –whether that be learning traditional values or modernizing their thoughts — they find a balance where both of these ideas can survive and grow in symbiotic nature with each other.
You can watch OMOTENASHI at Regal L.A. LIVE on Tuesday, May 8th at 6:45 pm.
Brian Kohaya is a graduating senior at UCLA studying psychology and Asian American studies. He can often be found in the archive room drinking a mango green tea from Twinkle Brown Sugar.