Every nerd and their mom wants to go to Japan. Go ahead ask any of them. I dare ya. Whether it’s their obsession with anime or love for the culture there is something for everyone there. Us nerds are called “Otakus” which is more or less the literal translation of “nerd.” However, I wouldn’t go around calling people that because well do we do that in America? In Part 1 oF Japan Know Hows we will be discussing the proper etiquette for food and restaurants as they are very different from America.
Food and Eating
Like most obnoxious Americans we like to walk and talk and eat all at the same time. Well guess what? Walking and eating is considered very rude in Japan though for a different reason than you might think. The reason being is that when you have a meal the Japanese think it’s something that you should sit down and truly enjoy, giving all of your attention to that. So it’s not so much out of spite as it is to completely enjoy your food. Unless it’s ice cream. With ice cream it’s totally acceptable to walk and eat in Japan. Of course it is. DUH. Since we’re taking about food…
Restaurant Know How
One of the most ingenious things in the Japanese culture is this little button devices that have at every table in a restaurant. What do these little buzzers do? They let your waiter know when you are ready for food or need their service. None of that awkward shenanigans we have in America where we try and get our waiters attention but can’t seem to or they are busy doing something else. It literally makes the whole experience different
The wage of a waiter or waitress is Japan is much better than that of America. Their not paid like $2 dollars an hour like they are in the US. Instead that have a decent wage for the service they provide. So if you leave a tip they’ll feel disrespected and chase after you to return you your money.
Before and After you Eat
When you go to a restaurant (especially a Japanese one) before and after you eat your meal there is a phrase you speak in Japanese to convey your appreciation of the meal. Before you eat your food you speak the word いただきます “Itadakimasu” or written out in my easy to pronounce (for me) english is (Ee-tah-dah-key-moss-oo). Also the “oo”sound is almost dropped off the end they don’t really pronounce it. This word more or less translates to “Thank you for this food.” When you are finished with your food you state the word ごちそうさまでした “Gochisosama deshita” which in easy english is (Go-chi-so-sama- desh-shi-ta) you can figure this one out pretty easily. This roughly translates to “Thank you for the delicious food.” This is especially polite if you tell the cooks and employees as you leave the establishment. This not only is a nice gesture but also lets them know you are finished.
Other manners include not sticking your chopsticks into your food in anyway, leaving them inside your dish, or drumming with them on the table. (I’ve definitely made that last mistake more than once) When chopsticks are sticking straight up our of your dish (like the picture) it’s disrespectful because when people die in Japan incense is lit and when chopsticks are like that in food it looks similar. Thus is distasteful. See what I did there? So where should I put my chopsticks? There will either be a chopstick rest or you can lay them on the top of your bowl, either one is fine.
Also when sharing a meal with multiple people such as Shabu Shabu or Japanese BBQ. You NEVER use the chopsticks you eat with to pull from the middle of the food everyone is sharing. There is a separate set of bigger chopsticks that everyone uses to pull food to their own plates.
Showing your Satisfaction
Lastly, when you are really enjoying your food in Japan it’s socially acceptable and encouraged to slurp your food loudly. It shows that you are really enjoying the food you are eating. This also includes putting the bowl to your face and shoveling in as much food as fast as you can. They love that.
In some restaurants such as Yoshinoya or Matsuya you will enter the shop and will see a big table with stools around it. Near the entrance is a machine and that’s how you place your order. All you have to do is look at your selections (there are pictures don’t worry) input your cash and click the button. You will then be handed a ticket and following that you will take a seat at the table and put your ticket on it. The chef/waiter will come by and pick it up and give you water/tea and potentially miso.
Hopefully this guide will help if you ver chance on going to Japan. Thanks for reading! Arigatou Gozaimasu!