Principles on Japanese dining tables

Asia Travel Jun 14, 2019

Origin of famous cherry blossoms and respect for principles, even in everyday activities such as eating and drinking.


Japanese cuisine is famous for its fine ingredients and artistic processing and presentation. In addition, Japanese people also have interesting rules in the way of eating which makes the tourists surprised.


Dining table and seating


Many Japanese restaurants have low tables and mattresses on Tatami instead of Western-style dining tables. You must remove shoes and sandals before stepping on the mat, avoiding stepping on other people’s mattresses.


How to eat



Restaurants serve wet towels so that customers clean their hands before eating. After ordering, people often wait until all the food has been served to the new table, and start with the phrase “itadakimasu” meaning “invite people”. If you need something to eat right away but others don’t have food, you need to say “osaki ni itadakimasu” – “allow me to eat first”.


When eating in a small bowl, you should bring the bowl up close to your mouth to pick up food. When eating dishes placed on a shared plate, you should use that dish’s own chopsticks to pick up food. Nose blowing, eating sound (except for noodles) is considered impolite, and you should not leave any leftovers. Japanese people have to eat all the food that has been served. Meals are often small and enough for people not to leave. If there are certain ingredients that you cannot eat, you can ask the restaurant to change to other ingredients.



After eating, you need to put the bowl back in the original order like when the food is served, turn the lid over the bowls, place the chopsticks on the chopsticks or wrapper. The Japanese ended the meal with the phrase “gochisōsama deshita” meaning “thank you for the meal”, showing respect not only to the chef but also to the ingredients for making the dish.



How to drink


Don’t drink until everyone at the table has a drink and then toast. When drinking, you should pour it to someone other than pouring yourself. Remember to watch the cup with you and pour more if the cup is about to run out. When someone wants to pour more wine for you, drink a few sips before giving the cup to the person.



Drinking drunk in elegant restaurants is often considered impolite. Affordable restaurants allow guests to drink drunk, as long as they do not disturb others. If you can’t drink alcohol, you can speak straight and ask for permission to drink another type without being forced. Alternative drinks include non-alcoholic beer, tea, fruit juice or carbonated soft drinks.


The principles to remember


1. Never use your hands to catch food: Using your hands to catch food when picking is considered rude in Japan. Do you think it would be more polite to use Tezara portable disc to catch sauce or falling food and avoid getting dirty? It’s best not to do that and pay attention to the piece of food you will grab.


2. Avoid using teeth to bite a piece of food: In general, you should eat whole pieces and avoid using small teeth. Japanese dishes are often divided into many parts that are very moderate. Placing a piece of broken food into a bowl is considered impolite. You can cover your mouth when chewing on big pieces.


3. Do not mix wasabi (green mustard) with soy sauce: People in other countries often mix soy sauce with wasabi when eating sashimi, but you should not do that. You need to add a bit of wasabi on the sashimi, then add soy sauce.


4. Don’t turn upside down the bowl: Turning upside down the bowl will make others think you’ve finished eating. You have to be upside down when the bowl has just been served.


5. Do not put shells or shells of seafood on a bowl or on another plate: Many people have a habit of putting seafood on a bowl or other plate after eating. Japanese people consider it rude and should be avoided. The eater needs to put the shell in the bowl of the seafood after eating.



6. Do not hold chopsticks before holding the bowl: When eating Japanese food, you should hold the bowl or plate first and then hold the chopsticks. When changing the bowl, you first need to put the chopsticks down, after holding the new bowl, you can hold the chopsticks again.


7. Do not use chopsticks to touch food without picking: You will be considered impolite if you use your chopsticks to touch the food on the plate but then do not pick up.


8. Do not put chopsticks on the bowl: If you want to put down the chopsticks, you must use chopsticks. If not, you must wrap the chopsticks in the original chopstick paper and place it on the table.


9. Don’t turn the head of the chopsticks when you pick up food from the shared dish: Since the tip of the chopsticks is where you put your hands, it is actually not clean and should not be used to grab food. You should ask the service to get another pair to use to collect the common dish.


10. Don’t raise food too high: It is considered impolite to raise food too high.