Japanese Dining Etiquette

Posted on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018 by Stephanie Miera

Upon arriving at a restaurant, guests are greeted with a friendly Irasshaimase (Welcome!) and will then be led to a table. Once the guests are seated they are given a wet towel to wipe their hands in preparation for the meal. In Western culture it is perfectly normal to rub wooden chopsticks together to scrape off any slivers before using them, however that practice is considered quite inappropriate in Japan. Chopsticks are never to be placed vertically in a bowl of rice, or used to pass food between people, as both of these practices have associations with death. When setting them down, they are to be placed in a chopstick holder (if provided), or laid horizontally across a bowl or plate. It is also customary for drinking companions to pour drinks for one another. Once a glass is empty, someone should offer to refill it. As a result, it is not appropriate for one to fill their own glass.

At the end of the meal the host almost always picks up the bill. However, it is considered good manners for everyone else to make an effort to pay. Typically a Japanese person will offer to pick up the bill two or three times, as it is ritual to refuse an initial offer or two. If the host still insists on paying, the others at the table will thank him and offer to pick up the next one. Tipping is also not custom in Japan, as a 10-15% service charge is already added to bills ahead of time.

A few more etiquettes to keep in mind while dining in Japan: rice bowls should be passed with both hands; soup and broth should be sipped directly from the bowl instead of with a spoon; slurping is acceptable and shows a good appetite and appreciation of the meal; rice should never be drowned in soy sauce, but instead should be dipped in a small amount poured in the soy sauce dish.

It is always a challenge to adapt to another culture, especially when customs can be quite different from what one is used to. In Japan, there is much forgiveness and understanding for foreigners, so dining can be a fun and exciting experience for anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone and enjoy the amazing cuisine that Japan has to offer!

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