Customs and Food Traditions in Japan Worth Knowing About

Japanese culture is filled with plenty of nuances most foreigners would not be familiar with. For example, at Japanese restaurants, you will often see the “noren”. This is that Japanese fabric you often see hung at an establishment’s door. It can come in many colors and patterns but will always tell you that you’re about to enter a Japanese shop.

If you plan on visiting Japan or eating at Japanese restaurants in your locality, it pays to know about the culture and tradition behind their food. As one of the most popular cuisines in the world, the dining experience in Japan is unique from others. So, take the time to learn about the unique food traditions and customs in Japan.

Eating with Chopsticks in Japan

Spoons, forks, and knives are largely used in Japan while eating, but chopsticks are the most used utensils. There are a few customs that you need to learn about eating with chopsticks in Japan. One of them is that you should never pass food on to another person using chopsticks. Another major no-no in Japanese eating tradition is to stick chopsticks vertically into your food. You should also never ever move plates with your chopstick.

Finally, never wave chopsticks about your dish. It is also considered rude to point your chopstick towards somebody.

Before and After Meal Etiquette

This is the most important table etiquette rule in Japan: say ‘thank you’ before and after each meal. It is important for the Japanese people to express gratitude to those who cooked as well as served the food. This is very important when you eat with Japanese people.

Eating from a Bowl

Japanese people often use a small bowl when consuming soups and rice. There are a few customary traditions associated with eating from a bowl. For example, you are supposed to lift the small bowl towards your mouth (whether you are eating rice or soup). If you do not have a soup spoon, you can sip right out of the bowl.

And when it comes to dishes eaten from a bowl, one of the most popular or must-try is Nabe. This is a hotpot dish that is highly popular and oh so good!

Teishoku or Japanese Set Meal

Japanese restaurants often serve “teishoku” or set meal. Expect that all the dishes in the course will be served to your table in one go, as a set. Typically, there will be soup, the main dish, rice, and a side dish (e.g. pickles). Ordering teishoku is great if you are looking for a convenient, delicious, and complete meal.

Sushi and Sashimi

These are the most notable food items in Japanese cuisine. To eat sushi and sashimi, you can use chopsticks or your bare hands. If you are not comfortable using chopsticks, then you can go with the latter option. Eating with your hands is more acceptable than letting sushi rice fall into your sauce plate. It is also recommended that you consume a piece in one bite.

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