Thursday, August 16, 2012


Japan is famed for its elaborate fine dining and eating experience. And when I say “experience” I mean everywhere, even in department stores. The country is also a mecca for high-quality cuisine from all over the world, so you can look forward to a truly international dining experience.

Japan is a place of many traditions, foods and etiquette. Everything in Japan has its own way to be done and if you do something differently, everyone will look at you in amazement. If you don't know how to do something just look around and wait or if you are with a Japanese friend, just ask the best way to go forward. Tourists coming to Japan are amazed by the large variety of  good food available. There are also some basic table manners that foreigners should know so that they don't feel like a fish out of water.  People start a meal by saying "itadakimasu" ("I gratefully receive") and after finishing eating they say "gochisosama (deshita)" ("Thank you for the meal") with a bow. It is crucial for you to say these phrases, especially when you are invited for a meal or someone cooks for you. Netty and I were invited to a Japanese meal and all I said was "Thank you very much", and bowed profusely.

Chopsticks are used widely in all Japanese homes and restaurants and it was difficult for me to use them. Besides knowing how to eat using chopsticks, foreigners have to know some rules when using the chopstick utensil. One of the most important rules is not to pass food with your chopsticks directly to somebody else's chopsticks and vice versa. You shouldn't point your chopsticks at somebody or something. Playing with your chopsticks at a meal is also considered bad manners. It is impolite to use the end of the chopstick you are eating with to get food from a shared plate to your own plate, use the other ends of your chopsticks.

In Japan it is advisable to wait until everyone is served before you start eating. It is also considerate to eat everything on your plate completely. If you are given some extra food; for example a bowl of rice, accept it with both hands. When eating, try not to stuff your mouth. You should separate the large piece with your chopsticks and eat every small piece. In comparison to some Western countries where people are often taught not to make slurping noises when eating soup or noodles, it is considered a normal thing in Japan to slurp. It even seems strange in Japan if you eat noodles without a sound!
If there are alcoholic drinks at the meal, you shouldn't just pour the alcohol into your own glass. You should check your friends' glasses frequently and if their glasses are getting empty, you should serve them first. There are usually no napkins used at Japanese meals, instead you are given a small cold or warm towel to wipe your hands, but not your face.

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