Japanese Dining Etiquette
Planning your next trip to Japan? Here’s some basic dining etiquette/social norms to take note of.
1. What is the role of Oshibori and the correct way of usage?
Oshibori are unscented wet hand towels that may be hot or cold, depending on the season. You may have seen them at Japanese restaurants or on your flight to Japan.
Oshibori are used to clean your hands before a meal. Do not use it to wipe sweat from your face or food on your chopsticks as this is considered inappropriate behaviour.
After using the Oshibori, fold it neatly and place it on your right or left side. Alternatively, place it on the tray that it came with. It should always be kept clean and can be reused if needed.
2. The Don’ts of Chopsticks Etiquette
The main utensil in Japan are the chopsticks (お箸), which have been used all the way back from the 8th century.
Many of the don’ts are due to Buddhist funeral rites or said to bring bad luck.
1. Do not stick your chopsticks into food, especially into your bowl of rice (立て箸)
· When the chopsticks are not in use, lay them on the chopsticks rest. Alternatively, place it horizontally on a bowl or plate.
2. Do not pass food to another person’s chopsticks with your own (箸渡し)
· If you must transfer food to another person, put it directly on his/her plate or bowl.
3. Do not spear your food (刺し箸)
· Do not use one chopstick to stab food and bring it to your mouth. This is disrespectful, rude and downright bad table manners. Try to use both chopsticks at all times.
· Some people like to stab the food with a chopstick to check it is cooked properly. This can also appear rude, as you don’t trust your host to properly prepare your food.
4. Do not use your chopsticks to pick up food from a communal plate
· If communal chopsticks are provided, use that instead or flip your chopsticks to use the opposite ends.
· However, if you are in a relaxed setting with family or close friends, it may be acceptable to use your chopsticks.
5. Do not lick or chew on your chopsticks (ねぶり箸)
· Wipe off the food remnants with a tissue/napkin instead.
Slurp away your udon, soba, ramen when you’re in Japan! Though it is not mandatory, it is encouraged in Japanese culture as it helps to cool the noodles and improves the flavour. Indulge with gusto and you may get some nods of approval from the locals!