Sushi Etiquette Part 3: Japanese Dining Etiquette and Table Manners
The Japanese put a lot of value on etiquette. There are several things you can do when eating Japanese food to communicate respect and gratitude for the food and drink. Whether you are eating sushi, miso soup, simple rice or any other kind of Japanese food, follow these rules to make a good impression on the Japanese people around you:
- Forget the soup spoon. Japanese soups and broths are meant to be drunk directly from the bowl. Lift the bowl to your mouth with one hand, and use chopsticks in the other hand to direct solid pieces in the soup toward your mouth. Feel free to slurp – this is not bad manners in Japan. If they give you a spoon, feel free to stolidly ignore it.
- Leave no food behind. In Japan, it is considered offensive to the itamae and the host to leave any food on the plate. It is especially rude to leave rice left on the plate, even if it is only a single grain, because this symbolizes waste.
- Accept a drink from the chef. If the itamae pours you a drink, thank him or her with a nod, raise your glass and say “kanpai” before drinking. This is a way of saying “cheers” in Japanese.
- Pour drinks for others. It is considered uncultured to pour your own drink or to allow a friend to do the same. Instead, always pour drinks for others and allow them to pour your drink.
- Hold the teacup properly. Tea is a common drink at any Japanese meal, and traditional Asian tea cups do not have a handle. Hold the tea bowl in one hand and use your other hand to support it from underneath.
- Use soy sauce wisely. Soy sauce is not used like ketchup. It should be used in moderation to flavor fish or vegetables, and it should never be poured directly on rice. Overuse of soy sauce can be seen as inconsiderate and wasteful. Only pour a small amount in your soy sauce dish – you can always pour more later.
- Do not pay the chef. Money and food are always kept separate in Japan. The chef and kitchen workers that prepare the food will almost never handle the money.Instead, pay the server or cashier.
Because etiquette is such an important and omnipresent part of Japanese culture, it is essential that diners who want an authentic experience follow all the rules of Japanese dining. These guidelines should be used when eating at an authentic Japanese restaurant in America as well as when eating in Japan. By following the basic rules of dining, Americans and other foreigners can show that they know a thing or two about how to eat sushi properly and show respect for the food, the chefs and their fellow diners.