Japanese Dining Etiquette 

Japanese dining etiquette - like many other facets of this fascinating culture's rules on etiquette like taking your shoes off, there are rules of etiquette for dining. But don't believe all the malarkey you may read on other sites where it is horribly complex. Truth be told it's by and far simply common sense for the most part. 

Japanese Dining Etiquette

Japanese Dining Etiquette - Oshibori

Hand Towels or oshibori (おしぼり), literally translated as "wet wipe".
Grammar dudes and dudettes may be amused to know "shibori" is a nominal of "shiboru" which means "to wring out".  You'll be handed one after being seated and before appetizers or the meal begins. 

These are to be used to wipe your hands.  I know, I know... it's hard to resist wiping your face with it especially if it's a cold winter night and you have a clean hot towel. However it is considered uncouth to do so. So fold it up neatly and don't leave it crumpled after you are finished wiping your hands.

An interesting point about the crumbling dining etiquette in Japan is that older people um... don't really follow the rules. You'll often see them practically wash up with Oshibori. But then again they are not seated with clients and students and have thrown in the towel (pun intended) on some points of etiquette

Japanese Dining Etiquette - Itadakimasu

One thing that is as common as frowning when you feel disappointed is saying grace before you have a meal. In Japanese they say "itadakimasu" The direct translation in any dictionary will be "I humbly receive." Many Japanese will bow slightly and put their hands together in an extended gesture of thanks to the divine father for giving them some grub. 

Japanese Dining Etiquette - Tips Are For Kids

In short don't tip. I have seen it. A fellow teacher decided to give a Mr. Donuts waitress a 500 yen tip for bringing over some coffee and doughtnuts. Oh..the look of horror and confusion on her face. Tipping simply isn't part of the culture. Sometimes they will actually follow you out of the restaurant thinking that you forgot you left some cash on the table.

Actually a cool idea, since when do you tip the cashier at Walmart for ringing up your order? How about kicking out a tip to Jeff Bezos of Amazon every time you buy vitamins from him.  Isn't that the job of the company to pay the employee?

Japanese Dining Etiquette - BanshakuJapanese Dining Etiquette - Banshaku

Japanese Dining Etiquette and Drinking

Another big one right up there with the use of chopsticks which we covered in much more detail on our chopstick etiquette page. is drinking. When it comes to drinking it is considered in poor taste to take a sip of your drink before 2 things happen. One is that everyone has been served their drinks or has a drink in their hand and two a greeting "kanpai" or "cheers" is said. Then it is time to imbibe. 

It is also in good taste to top off a person's drink or pour them a bit more if  you notice they are "running a bit low". It is called banshaku. In general Japanese will reciprocate which winds up to be a pour-for-all festival.  In general Japanese dining etiquette is heavily focused on being aware of how your students, co-workers or school heads of departments are doing rather than just getting wasted and busting lose. 

Japanese Dining Etiquette & Some Honorable Mentions

  •  Drowning. Don't drown your food in soy sauce. Two reasons, one soy sauce is strong and easily over powers the taste of whatever you pour it on. So use it very sparingly.
  • Secondly it is insulting to the chef as he or she may believe you dislike the dish and are trying to cover it up by drowning it in soy sauce. So don't pour a pool of soy sauce on the little plates they give you. It's not like deep dunking your chicken McNugget in whatever sauce McDonald's gives you.

  • And another one is the slurping sound that Japanese make when they eat noodles. Yes in Western cultures it is crude but then again you're not in Canada so slurp away (within reason). Why? it is considered to be a sign of appreciation to the chef that me made you a delicious dish.

Japanese Dining Etiquette & Some Useful Phrases You'll Hear & Use When Eating Out

Nan me sama desu ka?
How many people in your party?

Otobacco suwaremasu ka?
Will that be a smoking area? (Lit. Do you smoke?) OR
Kitsuen seki to kinen seki ga arimasuka...
We have both smoking and non-smoking sections.

Onomimono wa okimarki desu ka?
Have you decided on what you'd like to drink?

Go chumon wa okimari desu ka?
Have you decided on what you'd like to order?

Osusume wa nandesuka? 
What do you recommend?

go-chisō-sama deshita 
It was a feast.

You can learn more on Japanese dining etiquette here.

More Related Pages...

Japanese Etiquette: Piles of tips and advice on minimizing slip-ups.
Chopstick Etiquette: Advice, do's and don'ts and the ins and outs on how to use them as the Japanese do.
Japanese Business Etiquette: there's a bit to mastering it. But its not as hard as many would have you believe. Learn the do's and don'ts and ins and outs.

Return to Home From Japanese Dining Etiquette

Advertise Here
Get Noticed
Get Traffic 
Find out more here

FREE E-Book. Speed Learn Japanese & Get Our Newsletter on Japanese Proverbs and Cool Expressions.

Recent Articles

  1. Hi I'm a Teacher With Experience & Level 5 Qualification. I am Very Interested in Working in Japan...

    Dec 07, 19 12:58 AM

    Hello, I have been an English teacher for over fifteen years in England. I have a Cert Ed qualification and a Level 5 English Specialism. I am very interested

    Read On

  2. I Just Bailed. It Just Wasn't Meant to Last Forever

    Dec 04, 19 09:45 AM

    Based off of my personality, I bailed out of the industry. I was a JET and while most of my experience was positive, there were some things I simply did

    Read On

  3. I am 50 years old and plan to work in Japan when I’m 55. Would a CELTA make me more marketable?

    Dec 03, 19 01:15 AM

    Hi I love your site. I am 50 years old and plan to work in Japan when I’m 55. (I’m saving up to quit my current job). I have been told I look much younger,

    Read On

  4. Online TEFL Courses - Higher Paying Jobs, Teach Anywhere,Convenience

    Dec 01, 19 09:35 AM

    Online TEFL courses gives you an advantage over those without them. What goes into making a good TEFL course? One that is worth your money. Find out here.

    Read On

  5. My TEFL's Black Friday Sale is on

    Dec 01, 19 05:28 AM

    description of pic My TEFL is running their TEFL course sale on everything. 50% off.
    This offer wraps up on December 2nd. So if your spring plans include teaching English in Japan or anywhere else your TEFL certificatio…

    Read On

  6. The TEFL Academy's Black Friday TEFL Special

    Nov 27, 19 11:15 PM

    description of pic
    The TEFL Academy is running their barn burner 168 hour TEFL sale at 60% off the usual price until December 3rd. Slashed from $500 to $220 USD. This is a level 5 TEFL course.
    Level 5?... What's that…

    Read On

  7. i-to-i Black Friday TEFL Savings

    Nov 26, 19 11:44 PM

    description of picTEFL Course Provider i-to-i is running their Black Friday special. All courses are 60% off the regular price. Their level 3 online 120 hour course got slashed from $349 to $139.60.
    Their level 3 onli…

    Read On