Having a meal in Japan can be quite a different experience. You could enjoy it more if you know these things about their traditions and manners.
In lots of restaurants and even homes, floor is made of tatami where you may be invited to sit on cushions and eat at low tables on which the food is served.
‘Itadakimasu’ and ‘gochisosama’, which mean ‘I receive gratefully’ and ‘Thank you for the food’ respectively are greetings before and after meals. In some places, you will be served different dishes on common plates.
You can, however, take the food you want onto your own plate using the other end of the chopsticks.
Sometimes, there will be serving chopsticks which you can use for the purpose.
There are some manners, which if maintained well, look good. It is always good to serve the food in your plate according to the need. Finish everything you have on your plate and do not waste any food. Burping, blowing your nose and such activity is strongly discouraged.
Do not talk about anything that can make anybody lose their appetite, for instance, toilets. After you finish your meal, try to leave the table as you found it, the plate in the same place, the food covered and the chopsticks in the holder or slip.
If you are drinking, especially alcohol, then the rule is to always serve others before yourself. Also, keep checking to see if someone’s glass is near-empty.
And if you are being served, then on prompting, make sure your glass is empty and ready for the next drink. Avoid getting drunk in formal restaurants especially which serve kaiseki ryori which is a Japanese haute cuisine.
Izakaya ones are more free as long as you do not disturb others. The ‘cheers’ in the West is ‘kampai’ in Japan and wait till it is done to start your drink.
There are specific ways of eating different dishes. For instance, in case of rice, your bowl should be in one hand and the chopsticks in the other. Raise the bowl each time you take a fill.
For sushi, use soya sauce in the accompanying dish and take only as much as you want. Sushi may contain wasabi and so do not add more than needed as it may spoil the sushi and offend the chef. Sushi pieces should be taken one at a time and unbroken.
You would find your eating really enjoyable in Japan if you keep all these things in mind.