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Japanese Table Manners


 About Chopsticks

The proper way to hold chopsticks.

The proper way to hold chopsticks.

Below are points considered to be impolite when using chopsticks. Keep them in mind when eating with chopsticks.


Sorting food with chopsticks, as in selectively picking out the items you like from a serving dish should not be done.


When resting your hands during a meal or when finished, refrain from placing your chopsticks across the rim of the bowl. Try using the chopstick rest or edge of the tray, instead.


This is pulling a dish out of reach closer to you with the chopsticks. Use your hands to reach for the dish instead.


Sticking chopsticks into the food. Even if the food is difficult to grasp, stabbing the food is strictly prohibited.


Dripping liquid from the chopsticks. Take care when eating ingredients in soup or sashimi dipped in soy sauce.


Waving your chopsticks above the dishes, while trying to decide what to eat. Make your choice before picking up your chopsticks.

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 Dining Etiquette

While dining, it is customary to place both hands on top of the table. Fully enjoying a Japanese meal consists of appreciating the beauty of the serving dishes and arrangement of the food on the plate, as well as the fragrance of the ingredients.

Q: Is it bad manners to cup your hand under the food without holding a dish?

A: Avoid this action, as it is considered unsightly. Basic Japanese dining etiquette states that a dish should be held in the hand. In principle, bowls, chawan bowls, larger rice-bowls (don), small bowls, and small plates should be held in the hand while eating. The exception is while eating from larger plates, with items such as sashimi, grilled fish, or tempura, these dishes should be kept on the table.

Q: If a dish is far away, is it impolite to reach for the food with my chopsticks?

A: It is poor manners. Pick up the dish with both hands, and bring the dish closer to you before eating. Also, try not to slide it across the table when moving the dish closer.

Q: What should I do with the lid of the soup bowl?

A: When uncovering the soup, take care not to drip any condensation that has formed on the underside of the lid. Place the smaller rim (the graspable part) of the lid upside down on the table, to the right of the soup. When the soup is finished, place the lid back on the soup bowl just as it was in the beginning.

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 Sushi Etiquette and Information

Q: Should sushi be eaten by hand?

A: Sushi is normally eaten by hand, but if chopsticks accompany the sushi, eat it with chopsticks. When using chopsticks, eat the sushi without dropping any of the shari (rice portion).

Q: How should I use the soy sauce?

A: Soy sauce should only be placed on the neta (raw topping). Use as much as you like. If soy sauce is placed on the shari (rice), it makes it fall apart easier. When eating a large piece of sushi, separate the topping and rice. Cut the rice in half and eat part of the rice, then eat the remaining portion by wrapping the remaining rice with the topping.

Q: What is the reason for the pickled ginger garnish?

A: Pickled ginger is eaten to cover the fishy odors of some fish, and as a palate cleanser.

Q: What if I don’t care for wasabi?

A: When ordering, say “wasabi-nuki,” which means “without wasabi.”

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 How to Eat Tempura

When eating tempura it is a good idea to always take from the edges or top. Lightly mix the grated daikon into the tempura dipping sauce, and take the dipping sauce bowl in hand, quickly dipping the tempura in the mixture before eating. With items that are difficult to bite off, such as squid, try not to place the item back on your plate after you have taken a bite. With sauce bowl in hand, finish each piece of tempura. In the event you are not able to finish the whole piece, place the remainder as out-of-sight as possible from other people.

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 How to Eat Fish

Eat the upper portion of the fish starting from the head to the tail. When finished with the topside, without turning the fish over, continue to eat the inner portion. To eat, brace the head with your left hand, pull apart the mid-bone from the inner meat. When eating cut pieces of fish, use your chopsticks starting from the left side. When dealing with fish bones in your mouth, rather than removing them with your fingers, cover your mouth with your left hand and try to remove the bones using your chopsticks. The bones removed from your mouth should be placed on the edge of the plate. If you are unable to remove the bones using your chopsticks, it will not be considered impolite to use your fingers.