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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Restaurant Etiquette in Japan

Japan is a county set on manners. I've mentioned this before in a few of my other posts. This is extremely important, especially out in public. One of the places you should be mindful of your actions is at restaurants. Eating out is a great way to socialize and try new things, but there are some etiquette rules that should be followed.

1. Chopstick Etiquette

This is probably one of the most talked about rules on all the Japanese blogging sites. Many people have heard of these rules. It's talked about so much because it's that important. There are many things you don't want to do with your chopsticks. All of these are considered rude in Japan.
Don't Stick Your Chopsticks Straight Up in Rice- This is considered very rude. Sticking chopsticks straight up resembles burning incense at a grave or memorial of someone who has passed away. You don't want to mimic this at a dinner table. Instead either place your chopsticks at the edge of your bowl or plate or you can place them on the table (sometimes there will even be chopstick holders on the table for you to use).
Don't Pass Food With Your Chopsticks- This is also considered rude in Japan. You don't want to pass food to someone with chopsticks since that is also recognized as a gesture from a funeral. At Japanese funerals it is a traditional gesture to pass remains with chopsticks. Doing this at a dinner table can be very offensive. Instead either use the other side of the chopsticks to pick up food from a shared dish or bring the shared plate closer to your plate to receive the food.
Don't Play With Chopsticks- That's just childish.
Don't Shave Your Chopsticks- Not sure about other countries, but in America it is a common occurrence to see people at Japanese restaurants rubbing their wooden chopsticks together to get all the loose strands of wood off before they eat. In Japan, this can be considered rude as the restaurant staff could take offense to this in thinking you find their supplies cheap. You should be fine without shaving your chopsticks down.
My chopsticks are placed on the chopstick holder.
2. Getting a Waiter/Waitress's Attention

There are all kinds of restaurants in Japan, with a different set of standards. It is common for a waiter or waitress to only come to your table two or three times. They come give you the menu, to take your order, and bring out your food. Rarely do they come to check on you to see how you are doing (which I love because I hate how in restaurants in America waiters and waitresses have to see how you are doing, especially when you just took a bite of your food and they want to know how the food is). If you need your waitress or waiter for some reason you can always get their attention by saying "sumimasen" which mean excuse me in Japanese. This will get their attention and they'll come over to help. This is not considered rude so don't hesitate to say this out loud.

3. Don't Try to Alter an Item

I'm a very picky person when it comes to food. There are a ton of things I don't like to eat. When I went to Japan all of that changed, or at least it had to change. When you go out to eat in Japan and you see something on the menu that you're interested in but it has something in it that you don't like you're just going to have to deal with it. Not only is it probably rude to the cook, but waiters and waitress literally can't alter any food. Don't want onions in your pasta? Too bad. Want extra sauce? Not going to happen. The workers will not understand why you want to alter your food, not because of the language barrier (if there is one) but of the fact that they were never taught to change the orders and add to an order. It is not a common happening in Japan, so it just can't be done.
I couldn't read the menu so I ordered randomly. I'm eating some kind of salmon rice dish.
I don't like salmon but I ate it anyway.
4. How to Pay for Your Meal

It is not common to pay for your meal at the table after eating. You will find it is more common to pay for your food at the register before or after you eat. I've mostly seen restaurants that make you pay for your meal after you are done eating but I've also come across places that make you pay before. When you are done eating you can walk up to the register and hand them your receipt. They'll give you your total and project it onto the register screen. You should place your money on the tray at the register counter. Don't give the cashier your money from hand to hand. You will see the cashier hesitate if you do this. Put the money you owe on the tray and she'll return your change back on the tray and hand you your receipt with two hands. Take the receipt with both hands as a sign of courtesy.

I hope this helps you with your ventures at a restaurant in Japan. I sadly learned all of these on my own when I went to Japan for the first time. It was so embarrassing! I hope I can help all of you avoid these embarrassing situations too.

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