Japanese food is renowned for its delicate flavors and intricate presentation. In Japanese culture, dining etiquette is important, and several specific rules should be followed to avoid offending.
Whether you’re a Japanophile who wants to learn more about the culture or are planning a trip to the land of the rising sun, you’ve come to the right place to learn more about the country’s dining customs.
A Guide to Japanese Table Manners
Chopsticks are the primary utensil used in Japan. If you’ve used them before, you know they’re very versatile and can be used to enjoy most types of food; this is especially true in Japan where many popular dishes come in bite-sized bits that are easy to pick up (like karaage!).
When not in use, chopsticks should be placed on the hashi oki, a small wooden or ceramic rest for chopsticks that is provided at most dine-in restaurants. It is considered bad manners to stick your chopsticks into your food— like a bowl of rice— because it brings to mind a popular ritual for honoring the dead. In Japan, many people leave a bowl of white rice with chopsticks as an offering to their departed loved ones. Doing so at a meal is thought to bring bad luck.
When picking up food from a shared dish, it is polite to use the opposite ends of your chopsticks from those that you used to take the food from the plate. In a post-COVID world, this custom feels especially right.
Eating & Drinking
There are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to eating Japanese food. Firstly, it is considered rude to begin eating before everyone at the table has been served. Secondly, it is good manners to eat everything on your plate as leaving food behind is seen as wasteful.
When dining with others, it is customary to pour drinks for your companions and to refill their glasses regularly throughout the meal. Resist the urge to fill your own glass, and instead enjoy both serving and being served.
The above customs may be familiar and even expected by Westerners, which goes to show that some dining etiquettes are universal.
You want a few phrases in your pocket to show your appreciation when you go to a restaurant. In Japan, it’s good manners to say itadakimasu [ee-tah-dah-kee-mas] before eating, a phrase that expresses gratitude and literally translates to “I humbly receive.”
A few more useful phrases:
- For when you’ve finished eating: Gochisosamedeshita [go-chee-so-sah-mah-de-shi-ta], which is a polite way of saying “Thank you for the meal!” For a more casual version, you can say gochisosama.
- For when you’re enjoying the meal: Oishii desu [oy-shee-des], meaning “I like it!”
- For when you’re drinking with others: Kanpai [kahn-pie], meaning “Cheers!”. Pro-tip: wait until everyone has received their drink and say it before you start drinking.
Making an effort to say a few Japanese words will make a good impression on the staff and your companions.
Now that you’ve learned traditional Japanese dining etiquette, you’re ready for your trip to Japan or are simply a more informed citizen of the world. Get out there and use or share your knowledge!
Authentic Japanese Food at Torisho Beach
Torisho serves authentic Japanese food to Torontonians. We specialize in karaage fried chicken, katsu, and bento boxes. Our chef uses in-house spice blends and special frying techniques to make crispy, juicy chicken you won’t find elsewhere
Come by for a chance to practice your new dining etiquette on us— we promise you’ll be saying oishii desu before too long. And, don’t forget to tag us in your meals @torisho.ca