Japanese Table Manners

Dining at a Japanese Restaurant

It has been two decades since the advent of globalization. It has insidiously seeped into all facets of our living. Whilst the economists have marathon lists of pros and cons, it is unanimously agreed that it has done nothing but good to the F&B industry. Thanks to globalization, today food is not limited to boundaries and the world converges under a single roof and global-cuisine is the newest trend.

Considering how there is a paradigm shift to dining, there is a need to explore cuisines from across the seas. But every time there is something new and unfamiliar on the table, one has a million questions ranging from ‘how do I start?’ to ‘how do I end?’ and to make the whole process an easy one, we have taken up the responsibility to help you dine Japanese cuisine.

Knowing how to dine right is a need and a luxury too. Japanese culture is an enigma with complexities to it. Its food culture is no exception. If you are at a Japanese restaurant with your colleagues, family or friends, how do you drink your soup? Will you put the chopsticks on the bowl to rest? Each of these questions has a specific answer. Not that it is a blasphemy to be unguarded on rules, but when things are done in a style, it has a beauty of its own. On this note, here are a few etiquettes to remember while you dine at a Japanese restaurant.

It is Ok to make noise while eating

While being involved in relishing a delicacy and soaking in its culinary brilliance, one tends to appreciate it involuntarily and sometimes that may be by slurping and munching. The Japanese embrace such appreciation and such sounds are accepted gracefully.

Avoid biting food in half

There is a very good reason why the Japanese make their food that’s bite-sized. Be it the Sushi or the Onigiri, never bite your food and put the rest on a plate. It is best to eat the whole portion at a time and when the portion is too big for you, cover your mouth while chewing as the flavours traverse all over your palate.

Don’t invert the lid of your bowl

Inverting the lid of your bowl is taken as a cue for ending the meal. The next time you eat Japanese food, don’t give away the wrong messages. The right cue is to replace the lid on top of the bowl, just as it looked when it was brought to the table.

Place the clam shells in the bowl

When served clams or other shellfish, most diners who are foreign to the cuisine tend to put the empty shell in the lid of a bowl or on a separate plate. This is actually an etiquette faux pas. Diners should instead leave the shell inside the bowl it was served in.

Don’t hold your chopsticks before picking up your bowl

When eating a Japanese meal, one should first pick up the bowl they would eat from and then pick up the chopsticks. When changing bowls, it is etiquette to first put down your chopsticks, and then change bowls. Only after you have picked up the second bowl should you pick up your chopsticks again.

Not to rest chopsticks across the top of your bowl

Using your bowl as a chopstick rest is a breach of etiquette and resting of the chopsticks, have to be done on a chopstick rest provided on the table. Few such gestures are reminiscent of Japanese funeral symptoms.

How important are these rules?

As mentioned before, there is no cardinal rule of eating. Food is to be eaten for the joy and pleasure of it. However, most of these etiquettes are not simply socially accepted rules but also the ones that will help you dine comfortably when you are handling the kind of cutlery for the first time. But these snippets of information can be passed around while you dine on sumptuous Japanese food or you can simply flaunt it like you mean it!

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