Japanese Table Manners

Onyekachi Nwabueze
December 16, 2015

16 December 2015

Table manners are something every traveler should read into when going abroad… if they plan to eat in the country they are going to (which should be everyone). More specifically, whether you are deciding to stay in homestay in Japan, dorm stay, or eat at a restaurant in Japan, here are some things that you may want to know.

There are both similar table manners that Japan has (compared to America) and very different ones.

Similar table manners:

  1. Elbows on table

It’s not that putting your elbows on the table is an outright atrocity, it’s kind of just one of those traditional ‘table manners 101’ rules that everyone should be aware of and follow.

  1. Reaching over food

In general, it just doesn’t seem so polite when others are constantly reaching over your food you’ve been anxiously waiting to devour.

Very different table manners:

  1. Itadakimasu!

As you clasp your hands together and say itadakimasu, you’re essentially thanking all for the food and are saying, “let’s eat!” It is a similar phrasing to the French “bon appétit”.

  1. Rice on left, soup on the right

This is also one of those traditional rules that is extremely common throughout Japan. This kind of etiquette is even taught in nursery schools.

  1. Slurping while eating noodles (But not pasta!)

Making sounds while eating noodles such as ramen, soba, and udon is seen as a sign of enjoyment. It is considered good manners to make noises or slurp while you eat these foods. However, be careful not to make too much noise and to not make these same sounds while eating pasta!

  1. Chopstick touching

Passing food from plate to plate is fine, however, crossing, touching, or sharing chopsticks is not. You do not want to pass food to another by giving the food into the other person’s chopsticks.

  1. Eating a little bit of everything

In Japan, food is usually served in many little bowls and plates. It may seem orderly to finish one thing at a time. However, the goal is to eat a little bit of every serving so that you can finish the entire meal at once.

  1. Gochisōsama deshita!

Make sure to thank those around you for the meal and company!

The levels of severity of each of these eating etiquettes are a bit different. Disobeying some of the “rules” may result in wide eyes and stone faces from your Japanese counterparts. However, as you are clearly seen as a foreigner in Japan, forgetting an appropriate table manner from time to time does not result in “death by chopsticks” or anything. But it is still good to know these small tips before you make your way to Japan!

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Onyekachi Nwabueze

<p>Hey there! I am Onyekachi Nwabueze and I am a Nigerian born and raised in San Francisco, California. I am a student at Occidental College studying Cognitive Science, Education, and Linguistics. I love love LOVE to dance, sing, learn, try new things, and paint my nails. My current career paths include varsity athlete, big sister, wanna-be professional dancer, and villainous chiller (one who chills like a villain).</p>

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