The Japanese are famous for their civility and they are especially particular about their dining etiquette. Whether you’re dining with your Japanese friends or eating in a restaurant in Japan, there are many unspoken rules when it comes to Japanese table manners that you must pay attention to. Here are 5 tips to get you started on eating politely in Japan to avoid an unpleasant dining experience!
1. Using the Correct Utensils
Every Japanese household has their own intricately-designed bowls and chopsticks to distinguish between the different sets of utensils. Japanese usually have a separate set of utensils for guests, so don’t eat from the wrong bowl!
2. Be Careful With Your Chopsticks
It’s rude for two people to hold the same food at the same time or pass an item from chopstick to chopstick. This is an unwritten forbidden rule as it reminds Japanese of funerals when after cremation, family members pick bones out of the ashes and transfer them to the urn using chopsticks. In Japanese culture, this is the only acceptable situation when two people can use chopsticks to grab the same item or pass an item from chopstick to chopstick.
Most Singaporeans should already know this. In Chinese and Japanese culture, it’s considered rude to stick chopsticks vertically into your rice — this action symbolises that your food is meant to be eaten by the deceased.
Japanese are rather particular about their chopsticks usage — these are the ten other things you shouldn’t do with your chopsticks. Don’t point at someone with your chopsticks to point to someone, don’t use your chopsticks as drumsticks on the dinner table, don’t lick or bite your chopsticks etc.
When you’re done with your chopsticks, don’t put it down immediately! The paper in which the chopsticks were previously placed in is meant to be folded into a makeshift chopstick holder for you to rest your chopsticks on.
3. Do Not Spit Out Your Bones
It’s considered universally rude to spit the bones from your food onto your plate. Instead, take the bone out of your mouth using chopsticks and place it onto your plate. Additionally, Japanese do not have the habit of gnawing on a bone; some Japanese might find it irritable if you do it in public.
Unlike in Singapore where our mothers constantly remind us to eat quietly, slurping your noodles in Japan is an appreciative gesture to tell the chef that you enjoyed the meal. In fact, some restaurants will not provide you with a spoon so patrons can go ahead and drink the soup up directly from the bowl.
5. Removing Your Shoes
Many restaurants in Japan have a traditional washitsu room. Remember to remove your shoes before entering to avoid dirtying the tatami mats flooring as Japanese restaurants are fussy about cleanliness in order to create the best experience for their customers.
There’s a protocol for placing your shoes as well. After removing your shoes, you may sit on the walkway as you use your hands to turn your shoes, making sure that your shoes point outwards. This prevents your shoes from obstructing the walkway; Japanese consider it rude if you don’t place your shoes in an orderly manner.
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