It’s easy to act like a buffoon when dining out at Japanese restaurants. Japanese food has become incredibly popular but Japanese dining etiquette has not become as trendy as it’s dishes. These are a few rules that will keep your Sushi Chef happy.
1. Starters: Say “itadaki-masu” when beginning your meal. It’s customary and signals the beginning of a beautiful meal.
2. Clean your hands: You will understand when reading #3.
3. Eat with your hands: Believe it or not, Nigirizushi (sushi rice with a piece of fish on top) is not to be eaten with chopsticks but with your hands. Do not allow your sushi rice to become dowsed in soy sauce. Lightly dip the fish in the soy and enjoy.
4. Soups: To eat your soup, lift the bowl with one (1) hand and sip from the bowl. While you hold the bowl, pick up the solid ingredients with your chopsticks. Also, it’s actually ok to slurp your soup (but if you do that in front of me I will walk out immediately…for me it’s like nails on a chalkboard…so thread lightly depending on your company). Lastly, do not finish all your soup at once, it is considered good manners to eat soup throughout the meal.
You should not let the tip of your chopsticks touch any surface (do not set your sticks on your bowl, the table, etc…). Most restaurants will provide you with a chopstick rest (Hashioki). If a restaurant does not, make one with your chopstick wrapper (just tie a knot or bend it in half long ways).
6. Share: You should never go for a piece of sushi that someone else at your table is going for. This is a big faux-pas.
7. Don’t Share: You are not to feed someone else with your chopsticks…also, do not pas a piece of food from your chopsticks to theirs, that’s just icky.
8. Easy does it: Japanese food is delicate and should be treated as such. Under no circumstances are you to shove food into your mouth. It looks ugly and quite frankly, I don’t like it either.
9. Be decisive: When going in for your sushi, already have the piece you want decided. It is considered very bad manners to play eenie…meenie over your food with your sticks.
10. Hokey Pokey: Poking food with your chopsticks is in bad taste. Practice with your chopsticks before heading out to get your Yakitori.
11. Wasabi: It’s ok to mix wasabi with your soy sauce if eating sashimi (sliced fish alone). If you are eating other types of sushi, stick to just soy sauce.
12. Western similarities: This is stuff you should already know: wait until everyone has their food, eat with your mouth closed, do NOT burp and keep potty humor off the table.
13. Alcohol: Never serve yourself without making sure everyone at the table has a full glass. And make sure to stay sober.
14. Shared Dishes: With the opposite side of your chopsticks, take the food from shared dishes and place it on your plate.
15. Thank your Chef: Say “Gochisou-sama”. It means “thank you for the meal. This is not only for politeness, but it will surely make sure that you are remembered as a polite and knowledgeable diner who deserves the best pieces of tai and ebi possible.
While there are many more nuances to Japanese table etiquette, and seldom offers of sushi coupons, these should get you on your way. And remember, if in doubt…don’t do it.