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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogJapanese Etiquette You Need to Follow in a Japanese Restaurant! 

Japanese Etiquette You Need to Follow in a Japanese Restaurant! 

Bianca BacheBianca Bache
Published TimeNovember 10, 2022
Modified TimeNovember 22, 2022

When it comes to dining out in Japan, knowing the rules and Japanese etiquette is vital in having a smooth restaurant experience. The polite dance around the food affair is an art you must master before coming to Japan.

Luckily, here at TokyoTreat we have the top 5 things you need to follow in order to avoid sideways glances and disappointed headshakes! 

Japanese business man bowed saying thanks for the ramen in front of him
Japan is not without its rules, even in restaurants, so make sure you do you best to follow them! Image via Shutterstock

1. What to do before eating according to Japanese etiquette

Before you step into a Japanese restaurant and begin your eating and drinking, your Japanese etiquette journey has already started! Arguably the most important one to note too, is checking how you can pay for your meal.

In Japan paying by visa, credit cards or other E-money is still not the norm, and many establishments only accept cash. To avoid the embarrassment of having to get the rest of your dinner party to cover the cost of your bill, make sure you have at least ¥5000 (35 USD) in cash. 

Upon entering the restaurant it’s important to note whether your seating area has tatami seating. In traditional restaurants that serve Japanese cuisine and some izakayas (Japanese pubs) it is common to see tatami seating with zabuton cushions.

Make sure to remove your shoes before standing on the tatami flooring. It is customary to be offered slippers that you can wear while you dine. But, this doesn’t give you an excuse to wear holey socks, so make sure they are fully intact and smell free! 

Group of Japanese women getting served sushi by a waiter
Slurping is encouraged when you’re at a Japanese restaurant. Image via Shutterstock

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2. General table manners for Japanese etiquette

Now that you’re settled down you’ll be ready to order. But before you do, sometimes you are given a dampened towel called an oshibori. Oshibori is used to wipe and wash your hands. It should not be used to wipe your face, or other parts of your body.

As much as it is tempting to wipe your face and the back of your neck, especially at the height of summer, don’t do it! Just think about the next person using the same towel. Once you have finished wiping your hands, make sure to try and roll it up and set it aside, and be ready to order! 

Depending on what type of meal you’re eating in Japan, here is a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t pour soy sauce directly over your food. Use the small bowl provided and dip it.
  • Don’t bend over and eat rice off of the table, pick up the small bowl and raise it to your mouth.
  • Avoid using your teeth to bite food in half. It is impolite to place half-eaten food back onto your plate. It is common practice to cover your mouth with your hand when chewing larger pieces of food. 
  • Slurping your food is A-OK!

Before you devour the feast in front of you, don’t forget to say itadakimasu, which translates to “I humbly receive”. This phrase gives thanks to the person who made the food, and the produce used to create the food too. Although it’s not taboo to not say this phrase, it is something definitely worth mentioning! 

a table with plates of seafood and sushi with people reaching with chopsticks
Make sure you practice your chopstick etiquette. Image via Shutterstock

3. Chopstick etiquette

Now, although chopsticks are part of the general manner of Japanese etiquette tips, it’s probably one of the most important ones to remember. Here is a quick rundown of what you need to remember.

  • Never hold chopsticks with two hands. Always have them placed together into one hand.
  • Don’t rub your chopsticks together. It implies that you think the chopsticks are poor quality or are cheap. 
  • Avoid pointing at people and things with the chopsticks.
  • Never dig down directly vertically into a bowl with chopsticks. As this is reminiscent of funeral practices.
  • After a meal, don’t rest your chopsticks on the bowl. Instead place them down the chopsticks on the small trays or chopsticks holders provided.
  • Don’t pass food from chopstick to chopstick, as this is also another funeral practice.
  • Even if you’ve just had the most amazing meal in your life, please don’t lick clean your chopsticks! It is considered rude, and of poor etiquette.
  • Lastly, never, ever stab your chopsticks through the thing you are eating and lift it like a fork! 
a group saying cheers with beer together
Kanpai! Cheers with your group members to show your Japanese etiquette. Image via Shutterstock

4. Drinking and pouring 

When visiting Japan the perfect time to explore all the delightful alcohol like sake, and nama biiru (fresh beer)! If you are drinking alcohol, or any other drink it’s important to remember the Japanese culture around it.

Firstly, If you notice someone else’s glass is empty, it is common practice to pour for others. And in turn, others should do the same for you. But before you take a sip, make sure everyone has a full drink before the first kanpai or cheers!

When pouring a drink for others, make sure to hold the glass bottle with both hands, with the label pointing upwards. This is so the receiver can see what drink is being offered.

Now, drinking and being merry is all fun and games, just make sure you’re not talking loudly! As a rule of thumb is that if the table in front of you can hear you talking, you’re probably a bit too loud. 

Japanese man look of joy as he eats sushi
Don’t forget to show your appreciation for you meal by by saying gochisosama-deshita. Image via Shutterstock

5. After the meal 

After you have finished your meal, and you’re ready to continue your Japan adventure it’s time to pay the bill and leave. If it was a delightful experience you may want to show your gratitude by leaving a few extra yen coins. But, unlike the US and some other Western countries where tipping is mandatory, Japan is the opposite.

There is no tipping culture in Japan, and for some places it may actually be taken as an insult. Even if you leave a few coins on the table you may run the risk of a waiter chasing you down the street to return your forgotten change. 

So, make sure you’ve collected all your spare change and politely bow as you leave while offering thanks for the meal. Saying thank you for the meal in Japanese is simple, all you need to say is gochisosama-deshita or simply gochisosama for less formal occasions! 

an outside restaurant seating area in japan with people sitting and eating food showing Japanese etiquette
Some restaurants in Japan extend their seating area to the sidewalk. Image via Shutterstock

When coming to Japan, it’s important to remember these Japanese etiquette points. Although it’s not the end of the world if you make a faux pas here and there. It is still key to keep your intentions respectful towards the restaurant you’re eating at and for other Japanese people around you!

So did we cover all of the rules? Which ones have you heard of before? Let us know in the comments below!

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Author avatar
Bianca Bache

Tokyo based writer that's very enthusiastic about snacks, treats and all things sweet!

3 Responses

pikachu says
November 13, 2022, 7:22 AM

You forgot to mention it’s bad etiquette to lick chopsticks. Americans lick their utensils so it’s good to warn them.

Reply
Nada Jovovic says
November 14, 2022, 3:40 AM

Super text, Thank you

Reply
Michael Rivera says
November 14, 2022, 9:37 PM

Kept That In Mind. Thanks!

Reply

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