• Basic tempura. (SBS Food)Source: SBS Food
Dining at the home of a Japanese family? Don’t even think about blowing your nose at the table. We grill a Sydney chef for more unspoken etiquette tips when dining with your Japanese friends.
April Smallwood

4 Jan 2011 - 1:46 PM  UPDATED 1 Oct 2013 - 12:51 PM

Japanese, Naoki Nishimoto of Emon Cafe

Is there truth to the rumour that the slurping of soup – miso or otherwise – is encouraged? "Unfortunately, some Western people still believe that we wear kimonos and wield samurai swords. When you eat noodle soup, you can make noise, but you do not have to. However, when you eat rice, take the bowl to your mouth since this is the polite way to do it."

If you’ve got time to spare before the dinner party, set aside five minutes to brush up on your Japanese. Two phrases to scribble on your palm are: Ita-daki-masu, which means "I receive" and is the way to show appreciation for a meal prior to eating; and Go-chiso-sama, which should be said after the meal, means, "thanks for the feast".

As for acceptable dinner party conversation, Nishimoto reveals the no-go zones. "Do not talk about unclean topics. And you had better not blow your nose at a table with Japanese guests." Should you feel the need, politely excuse yourself to the bathroom. Also, be prepared to be waited on with utmost care and hospitality. Nishimoto says, "When I was invited to an Australian friend’s home, I was a little surprised when they said, 'Please help yourself'. We are not used to being treated this way. When we are invited [for dinner], we will be looked after very well, as though we’re in a hotel or restaurant."

Finally, Nishimoto reveals his chopstick dos and don’ts. During the meal, "Do not stand them in your rice, as this looks like a grave," he says. "Do not lick chopsticks or stab your food with them; this gives the impression you don’t appreciate the meal." Also, when you’re first seated you’ll notice the table is set with the chopsticks placed horizontally in front of you. "At the end of the meal, return them to their original position," advises Nishimoto.