• Know how to respect your fellow diners when in Japan (s3aphotography via Flickr)Source: s3aphotography via Flickr
While understanding the dos and don'ts can be tricky and trip up travellers, here are a few basic rules that will ensure you don't offend.
Carla Grossetti

21 Jun 2017 - 11:52 AM  UPDATED 21 Jun 2017 - 12:01 PM

Carla Grossetti asked Miss B'z chef Masahiko Yomoda and Sokyo's executive chef Chase Kojima how to help us mind our manners.

1. Give thanks before your meal

Be it in a teahouse in Kyoto or a sushi bar in Sydney, Miss B'z executive chef Masahiko Yomoda advises saying itadakimasu "I gratefully receive" before you start your meal. "Every time you start eating, you say itadakimasu because it shows respect to the people who have made the food and who are serving it." Yomoda - who participated in Iron Chef Sydney in 2008 - advises bringing your hands together in the prayer position, resting your chopsticks over your thumbs and giving a slight bow as you utter itadakimasu

2. Use your chopsticks wisely

Never use your chopsticks to pass food to another person. Yomoda says this is a big no-no. "A lot of times I see non-Japanese people poking the chopsticks into rice or food and standing the chopsticks in the rice. This is super bad. In Japan, when someone passes away, you light a stick on fire and this is bad form because it resembles that ritual that we do near the grave." Yomoda says never point your chopsticks at anyone and don't use your chopsticks to take food from a shared plate.

3. Do not pour soy sauce over everything

Yomoda says he is always horrified when he sees people pouring a moat of soy sauce around their food. "Soy sauce is only there on your table for sashimi. It's not like salt. Whatever you have been served has been seasoned to exactly how the chef wants it to taste. If you start pouring soy sauce over your meal that is very offensive to the chef." Sokyo executive chef Chase Kojima agrees asking for spicy sauces and ketchup is also insulting to the chef

4. It's okay to slurp your soup

Kojima says it's long been customary in Japan to slurp on your soup loudly. But he says the etiquette around this culinary custom is changing because of the fact it makes Westerners uncomfortable. "It used to be that slurping was good when you eat noodles and the louder the better. But because non-Japanese people were taking offence we have had to rethink this and consider other people around the world and how they feel."

Slurp away with this tonkatsu ramen bowl right here.


5. Don't use your wet towel to wipe your face

Kojima explains that if you go into a fine dining restaurant in Japan you will be handed a wet towel. He says although it's common to see Japanese people washing their face with the warm towel, this is considered very poor form. "The wet towel is there because you are expected to eat everything with your hands and wipe your fingertips with the towel as you go."

6. Never pour your own drink

The custom in Japan is for your companion to pour your drink. Kojima says an empty glass is seen as a request for another drink so if you don't want another drink, just sip your drink slowly. "If you are dining with your boss or an older person you must pour their drink for them out of respect. Never ever fill your own drink." Kojima says you have to watch your boss or the elders at the table to see how fast they are drinking and if they empty out their glass that is seen as a request to fill it.


Lead image by s3aphotography via Flickr.

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? It’s Japanese week on The Chefs' Line airing 6pm weeknights on SBS. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more.

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