Etiquette Guide: How to Dine at a Japanese Restaurant

by Rimsha Ather
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dine at a japanese restaurant

For most of us out there, food is a source of unbounded pleasure. It’s a holistic experience, uniting humanity in an elementary way. That is why we ‘gastronomes’ try our best to expand our culinary repertoire and diversify our palate by extending to various cultures around the globe. One of the most distinct cuisines which we’ve come across on our journey is when we get the chance to dine at a a Japanese restaurant.

Traditional in its essence and eccentric in its taste, this cuisine is something of an art itself. Therefore, there’s a certain etiquette to eating it. If you haven’t had the chance to try this quirky cuisine out, then I urge you to test it. And whilst you’re doing that, follow the below-mentioned guidance tips to make your Japanese food experience truly authentic.

sushi dine at a japanses restaurant manner

Manners Maketh the Man (and Woman)

The old-school adage of “manners maketh the man” exists for a good measure to this day. Manners teache you to eliminate your behavioral crudity and bring a finesse of interacting with people, especially if they’re Japanese. Yes, this culture is super serious about its code of etiquette. That is why it will befit you to bring that charm on when you’re visiting an authentic Japanese restaurant.

Be polite to the host and the waiters. Patiently wait for your turn in case you haven’t made a reservation, which, by the way, I recommend you to make online, or via phone before coming. The point is that if you’re a nice customer, you’ll be treated with a lot of favors.

dine at a japanese restaurant be polite

Apply Oshibori Correctly

The practice of oshibori was started during the Edo periods in the 1600s, and can still be found flourishing at present. An oshibori is a hot or cold towel, depending on the season, which is rolled up in an artistic way, and given to the guests for cleaning their hands prior to eating the food. More than that, it is a hospitality emblem, extended by the Japanese to their local or cross-cultural visitors.

So, it is up to you to respect the extraordinary service measure and use the oshibori properly. Unfurl the towel, wipe your hands and then delicately roll it up again.

oshibori dine at a Japanese restaurant

Premeditate your Order

This is the most important tip: Place your order carefully. Japanese cuisine is as wide and varied as the colors in an aurora. The point is to not let yourself be overwhelmed, to understand the ins and out of each dish, and finally, to carve out a perfect meal for yourself.

ordering in a japanese restaurant

Now, popular dishes include, Rice (white, brown, multigrain, glutinous), Sushi (Nigiri—shellfish set, Gunkan—fish eggs, Norimaki roll etc.), Tempura (prawn, shrimp, eggplant, mushrooms, pumpkin, sweet potato etc.), soy milk Tofu, Udon noodles, Soba noodles, Ramen bowls, Curry, Tonkatsu, Yakitori etc. Other than this, there are healthier options like salads and fruits on the menu too. Understand the lingo and order with gusto.

Learn the Chopstick Rules

They say that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So, in this light, when you  go to a Japanese restaurant, learn the way the Japanese eat their food, i.e. with chopsticks. It’s going to be tricky. I know. But do give it a try.

There are a few rules which will help you along. Don’t let the tips of the sticks touch the table and place the chopsticks on the stand when not in use. Don’t rub the sticks together, and gently use them with a finesse. Do not pass food along to another individual using your personal chopsticks, and use the implement given for the purpose. Do not stick them into a rice bowl, and put them back inside the wrapper once you’re done eating etc.

Serve Each Other First

Last but not least, follow the Japanese tradition of pouring your friend’s drink first instead of your own to strengthen the social bond and to show conformity to the restaurant’s culture. This act will not only raise the level of respect you have between your friends but also garner affection.

serving each otehr in a japanses restaurant

Similarly, allow your companion to pour you a drink in return. Then, raise your glasses, say ‘kanpai’ (to empty one’s glass) and let the joy of good food and drink take over.

Dine at a Japanese Restaurant in Confidence

By following these tips when you dine at a Japanese restaurant, you can have a truly authentic and enjoyable dining experience. And you’ll get to enjoy it more, as I did with my mates.

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