Japanese Food Guide: Etiqutte

September 11, 2013

We know about the abundance of Japanese Etiquette infographics and blog posts out there, but the fact remains, a lot of the 'rules' featured in these posts are often simply the product of misinformation. In fact, most Japanese people in modern times don't abide by, or may never have even heard of these rules!

It's like telling someone international that if they come to the UK and put their elbows on the table, they'll instantly be in trouble - whilst that still might be the case in some very strict households, it's unlikely to ever offend most restaurants and households, and most people won't even notice when you break this archaic rule. 

So what etiquette rules do people actually follow in Japan?


You probably know that most people in Japan still take their shoes off at the door and sometimes replace them with indoor slippers, this is because the floor is considered to be very unhygienic, so try to avoid placing anything that might have been on the floor, on the dinner table. Common mistakes include putting your handbag on the table, which is quite easily done.


We don't tend to have our own personal forks in the UK, but in Japan people often have their own chopsticks at home. Try not to use someone else's chopsticks!


A common rule that's still sometimes abided to in the UK is that when waiting for food to be served, the table will not eat until everyone has a dish in front of them. These days it's more about not letting your friends get too jealous before their meal arrives!

in Japan, however, there are a lot of different cooking styles which require precision and timing, so if you've all ordered different dishes, you'll often be encouraged to eat what has arrived before your food goes cold.


It's still, thankfully, polite to say 'thank you' when you receive or finish a meal in the UK. Japan is similar but the correct terms are generally adhered to - when your meal arrives you should say 'Itadakimasu', which means 'I humbly receive.', and when finished, you should say 'Gochisousama Deshita' which means 'that was delicious!'. It's just a way of showing your thanks to your host.


Generally in Japan, you should hold your chopsticks in the right hand, and pick up small bowls of food like rice and hold them in your left hand to bring them closer to your face. This stops you dropping any food through those fiddly chopsticks before it reaches your mouth! 


One of the most common rules you hear spread around when it comes to sushi is that you should never dip the rice side of your nigiri into soy sauce - this really isn't a rule which is followed commonly in Japan. Perhaps one of the things that would actually be frowned upon is wasting too much soy sauce by putting more in the bowl than you need - this is something most of us do at Yo! Sushi!

You also don't need to eat sushi in one bite. Although some more expensive sushi restaurants will still make bite-size sushi, most modern ones might get out of hand making larger sushi rolls, in which case it's ok to cut the roll-up with your chopsticks or eat it in two bites.

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