Eating in a different culture sometimes have different rules or etiquette that one has to follow. Here are some basic rules to Japanese table manners that will save your skin when you’re dining in Japan, especially in private homes.
Tables & Sitting
In Japan, some restaurants and private houses are equipped with low sitting tables and chairs. It’s very much different from the western type of tables and chairs because in Japan, sitting on the floor with your feet crossed (for men) or kneeled down (for women) is a common thing. It is important to know which way to sit, esp for men and women. Only men are supposeto cross their legs and women kneeled.
Itadakimasu and Gochisosama
In Japan, it is polite to say “itadakimasu” (”I gratefully receive”) before starting to eat, and “gochisosama (deshita)” (”Thank you for the meal”) after finishing the meal.
Individual vs. Shared Dishes
It is common to have several dishes being served that is to be shared. Unlike western culture where food is served individually, in Japan, dishes are shared because it’s part of their food culture. If you are being served shared dishes, you are supposed to move some food from the shared plates onto your own plate by yourself, using the opposite end of your chopsticks (if you have used them already) or with special chopsticks that may be provided for that purpose.
The proper use of chopstick is the fundamentals of Japanese Table Manners. Click HERE to learn how to use chopsticks properly.
Some Table Rules‘
* Blowing your nose in public, and especially at the table, is considered bad manner.
* It is considered good manner to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
* Talking about toilet related and similarly disappetizing topics during or before a meal is not appreciated by most people.
* Unlike in some other parts of East Asia, it is considered bad manner to burp.
* After finishing eating, try to place all your dishes in the same way as they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lid of dishes which came with a lid and replacing your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or into their paper slip, if applicable.
* Read more about chopstick rules.
When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is a Japanese custom to serve each other, rather than pouring the beverage into one’s own glass. You are supposed to periodically check your friends’ cups, and serve them more once their cups are getting empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you more alcohol, you should quickly empty your glass and hold it towards that person.
While it is considered bad manner to become obviously drunk in some formal restaurants, for example in restaurants that serve kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine), the same is not true for other types of restaurants such as izakaya, as long as you do not bother other guests.
Do not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a drinking salute, which usually is “kampai”. Avoid using “chin chin” when drinking a toast, since in Japanese this expression refers to the male genitals.
How to eat:
Rice – take rice bowl in one hand and chopsticks in another and lift it to your mouth, while taking your chopsticks to “scoop” the rice into your mouth
Sushi – Pour some soy sauce into the small saucer provided and dip your sushi in (just a little bit, do not dunk). You don’t need to add wasabi as sushi usually already contain wasabi and there are some that are to be eaten without wasabi. But if you do want some wasabi anyway, take a small amount as you do not want to offend the sushi chef. Take sushi with your chopsticks and pop it into your mouth in one go. Or if sushi is too big, just take a bite of the sushi using your chopsticks to hold them. But it is preferable that you eat it whole.
Sashimi – Pour some soy sauce into the small saucer provided and mixed in some wasabi. Just a little bit because you do not want to overpower the taste of your raw fish and also, you do not want to offend you sashimi chef…he weilds a very sharp knife. Dip your raw fish into the soysauce and pop ‘em into your mouth. Savour.
Miso Soup – the ingredients in the miso soup are eaten with chopsticks and the soup, drank from the bowl
Noodles – eat them with your chopsticks and slurp them (not too loud), copy your neighbor’s slurping noise if you want to gauge how loud you can slurp.
Kare Raisu – dishes where rice is mixed with sauce is usually eaten with a spoon
Big pieces of food – this can be harder as it requires you to maneuver your chopsticks well but you should cut the pieces with chopsticks and pop the smaller pieces into your mouth. OR you can just bite off a piece and put the rest on your plate.