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.


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