Dining Etiquette

Information about what to do, and what not to do, when dining in Japan...

Sitting: It is normal to sit upright on the floor in Japan. Meals are commonly taken on a tatami floor around a low table. It is customary to sit in the seiza (kneeling) position, but this can be uncomfortable for those not used to it and it is also acceptable to sit cross-legged (men) or with legs to one side (ladies).

Itadakimasu and Goshisosama. It is customary to say "I gratefully receive" (itadakimasu) before eating and "Thank you for the meal" (gochisosama deshita) after finishing.

Shared dishes: It is usual in both restaurants and homes to have dishes for people to share rather than individual dishes.

Chopsticks: The majority of Japanese food is eaten with chopsticks. There are certain rules when eating with chopsticks and some things that should be avoided, such as: stabbing food with chopsticks, passing food onto another person's plate with chopsticks, pointing with chopsticks and waving chopsticks in the air.

Table manners: Japanese culture has fairly strict rules for table etiquette and it is considered bad manners to blow one's nose at the table, talk about toilet related things during meals, or belch. It is also considered good manners to finish all food on the plate and replace bowls and chopsticks in their original position (including putting chopsticks back in their paper slip).

Drinking etiquette: It is not considered good manners to serve yourself an alcoholic beverage, but instead to wait to be served by others. It is customary to start drinking only once everyone has raised his or her glass for a salute (kampai).

Hot towel: It is normal for a hot or cold towel to be provided to wash hands before eating.

Soya sauce: Soya sauce is not normally poured over food (such as rice) but left in a separate bowl for dipping.