Remembering your correct manners is very important in Japan, especially concerning the area of dining etiquettes. This applies especially to foreigners, who should try to remember at least the most basic rules…
In Japanese meals, it is customary to say ‘itadakimasu’ (‘I gratefully receive’) before your meal, and ‘gochisama deshita’ (‘thank you for the meal’) after you have finished. These traditional phrases are to show your appreciation for the meal, especially when someone cooks for you.
The best way to start your meal is with a sip of soup. Then you should eat a little bit of each dish, in a ‘rotation’, until you finish all the dishes at about the same time. Do NOT complete one dish of food before moving onto the next.
Remember that if you are eating from communal dishes, it is considered an important etiquette to pick up the food using the opposite end of your chopsticks, or serving chopsticks if any are provided. Do not start drinking until everyone at the table is served, and do not pour any drinks for yourself. This should only be done by others, and naturally, it is also your responsibility to periodically check your friends’ cups and fill them up if they are empty, too. NEVER stick chopsticks into rice standing up, as this is how rice is offered to the dead.
If you haven’t already heard, it is perfectly acceptable to slurp your noodles in Japan, as people say it tastes better, and it also shows you are enjoying your meal. Remember that it is considered very rude to burp, blow your nose at the table, and talk about unappetizing topics.
Lastly, remember to finish every little grain of rice in your bowl or plate, as rice is considered very precious. Also this shows the chef you appreciate his/her food very much. It is also considered polite to return all plates and dishes back to their original positions, and to place chopsticks back in their paper slips or holders.
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