#Education

May 21, 2015

The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Food Etiquette

By Stuart Turner

When you talk of Japanese manners, you'll often hear a lot about how 'strict' Japanese culture is when it comes to conventions and rules! It's strange, because much of what we are told is actually quite outdated, and would only be expected of you in the most formal company. 

The Japanese do take respect and manners more seriously than we do, but if you were to go on a trip to Japan now, you wouldn't have to watch your back just in case you get kicked out of a restaurant for not using your chopsticks quite right.

There are however a few things you should know! Here are some videos and useful tips for you to keep in mind:

 

  • I'm sure if you've cooked Japanese food before, this rule will make sense: In Japan you might be asked to eat your food as soon as it comes to the table - this can be strange because in the UK we're usually told to respectfully wait for all the dishes to arrive before tucking in! The intricacy and different cooking methods of Japanese food however, mean it can be tricky to serve up all the different dishes at once in a restaurant, so it's better to eat your food soon as it comes to avoid it getting cold.
  • In some European countries, we still say grace before a meal, or just a quick thank-you to the cook - in Japan you should also be grateful and respectful to your host by saying Itadakimasu before you start to eat. This is likely something you've heard in animes and Ghibli films if you're a watcher! This translates to 'I humbly receive.'
  • As Rachel points out in the video above, you should also say Gochisousama Deshita at the end of your meal. and at a restaurant, it's polite to say this after the meal has been paid for. It roughly translates to something along the lines of 'It was a feast!'. It shows a lot of respect and thanks to your host.
  • Ever tried to eat a bowl of rice with chopsticks and ended up getting it allover yourself? It's probably cause you're not handling things quite right. Take your chopsticks in the hand you use to write and take hold of the bowl with your other hand, bring the bowl up towards your face to limit the distance between the food and your mouth! It's considered rude to bow your head down towards the table to reach your food. Remember - the bowl comes to you!
  • You might have heard the sushi rule that you should only put soy sauce on the topping, and not the rice - this isn't really adhered to that strictly in Japan and no one will really mind what you're doing there as long as you're enjoying your meal! However if you go a very traditional or fancy sushi restaurant, you might want to avoid dipping at all and just appreciate the taste of the fish.
  • Another sushi role that you've probably seen on all the infographics, is that you should eat your sushi in one bite. However, many restaurants don't make the kind of sushi you can eat in one bite anymore! It can be really tricky for chopstick newbies to cut with chopsticks, so don't worry too much about just biting off half of the sushi roll then going back for more. 

We'll be sharing more sushi tips in part 2!


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