Food and Dining Etiquette of Japan

The land of rising sun has a culture that attracts many people from around the world. They are considered as the one of the disciplined, passionate and creative race. This is of course reflected on their cuisine and food mannerisms. Their food is simple and delicious, with a hint of artistic display. Each dish is meticulously prepared and served in a dishware that suits the flavours, season and mood. Of course not every cook is allowed to prepare the food without undergoing many years of training and learning the art of presentation.

Each meal consists of a bowl of rich (gohan), pickled vegetables (tsukemono), fish or meat, and a bowl of soup (miso shiru). Adapting to their surroundings, the island of Japan makes a great use of seafood and eats a wide variety of different types of aquatic animals such as octopus, eel, shellfish and fish.

Now that we know what the meal is made up of, let’s look into the dining etiquette and mannerism adopted by the Japanese people. These are rules and guidelines that have been practiced for many centuries and are still in use. So next time you visit japan, remember to use them or else you will be ticking many people off.

Etiquette and Guidelines.

  1. Never leave chopsticks sticking vertically in a bowl. This often resembles incense sticks that are placed vertically in the ground during funeral. A very offensive sign for the Japanese. Using chopsticks to pierce food or to point is also considered rude, the worst thing to do is bite chopsticks.
  2. Always hold chopsticks towards the end, and never in the middle or the front. This shows poor upbringing.
  3. When you are not using the chopsticks, place them in front of the dishes with the tip of chopsticks facing the left. Use the same tactic when the meal is over.
  4. Do not ever pass food with chopsticks right into somebody else’s chopsticks. Again, this resembles passing of bones during creation.
  5. Do not play or move chopsticks unnecessarily. While talking, remember to place the chopsticks down.
  6. Do not move plates or bowls around using chopsticks.
  7. If you want to separate a piece of food into two pieces, exert little force and gently separate the piece with chopsticks while moving the two sticks separately.
  8. It is expected to eat rice to the last grain. Picky eaters are often seen as uncouth and disrespectful. Also asking the host for special request or substitutions is frowned upon. Unless there is an allergy, please refrain from making requests.
  9. Even during informal situations, a toast is made before drinking alcohol when everyone is ready. Do not start to drink, till the toast is complete and everybody is served.
  10. It is frowned upon if one pours oneself a drink; rather, people around the table are expected to keep each other’s drinks full. When someone is about to pour you a drink, remember to hold the glass with both hands as a sign of respect and gratitude. Also remember to thank the pourer.


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