Etiquette Eating Japanese Food
- Say "ITADAKIMASU" just before you eat. It means "I gratefully receive."
- NEVER pour your own drink. Top up the glasses of the people around you.
- When drinking soup, lift the bowl to your mouth and sip.
- Never eat sushi in more than 1 bite. Shove the whole lot in!
- When dipping sushi in sauce, turn it over so only the meat touches the sauce.
- Use opposite ends of your chopsticks to take food from a shared plate.(if there are no serving utensils)
- NEVER mix wasabi into soy sauce.
- NEVER raise your food above your mouth.
- Cleaning your plate down to the last grain of rice is considered proper Japanese etiquette.
- Say "GOCHISOSAMA DESHITA" after you have finished. This means "I thank you for the meal".
- Do not rest chopsticks on the table. Use a chopstick rest or place them sideways across the rice bowl. When finished eating, place your chopsticks flat on the bowl. Do not bite your chopsticks or keep them in your mouth too long.
- Don't hover your chopsticks over all the dishes when thinking what you want. This is considered greedy (sashi bashi).
- Take food from the top of the dish. Don't dig in the dish looking for something good.
- Don't lick the ends of chopsticks. (Neburi bashi)
- Never share food by passing from chopsticks to chopsticks because this resembles a custom at Japanese funerals when cremated bones are ceremoniously transfered to the urn. This is probably the biggest taboo at the Japanese dinner table. You can transfer food using your chopsticks to someone else's plate but get them to pass the plate to you if it is a distance. Ideally you would ask the server for another pair of chopsticks that are placed in the center of the table and used whenever someone needs to transfer food for another person.
- Don't point with your chopsticks when talking or hold them for extended periods of time without eating. Never rub the chopsticks together repeatedly after you break them apart because it is a sign that you think the chopsticks are cheap.
- Don't cross your chopsticks when resting them on the table. Again, your chopsticks belong in their holder and make sure they are parallel to each other when resting. Crossed chopsticks are another thing that remind people of funeral ceremonies.
- It's perfectly acceptable to eat all varieties of sushi with your hands. It's more common for men to do this than women.
- When you eat hot or cold noodles (e.g. ramen, soba and udon) it's considered polite to slurp as loudly as possible. It's difficult for some non-Japanese to become accustomed to this.
Don't swirl your chopsticks in your soup. When you do this it looks like you are trying to clean them. This is sometimes tempting because miso soup remains suspended and does not dissolve. Resist the temptation!
In general the most important rules are the ones that remind people of Japanese funeral rights. Remember that chopsticks are not just two sticks for eating but are deeply ingrained culture symbols. Chopstick manners differ from culture to culture and in China and Korea the rules are different.
If you try your best everything will go well, don't get too uptight about the rules and with controlling your chopsticks. Chopsticks are challenging for everyone and even Japanese people rarely have mastered the art.