Japanese Etiquette

For visitors seeking to enjoy Japan on a deeper level.

Table Manners

Gratitude for meals

Itadakimasu.
Gochisō-samadesu.

These are the words that Japanese people will say before and after a meal in an expression of gratitude. Itadakimasu, literally translated to “I will receive it,” can be said with hands in prayer to thank the person who has prepared the food or to simply say “Let’s eat!” However, if you are eating alone at a restaurant, don’t feel obliged to say itadakimasu (no one does!).

On the other hand, gochisō-samadesu, which is a similar phrase expressing thanks after a meal to the person who has prepared it, is typically used when leaving a restaurant in thanking the chef or restaurant staff.

How to use chopsticks

Place your chopsticks on the table horizontally in front of you, with the tips sitting on top of the hashioki (chopsticks rest) and pointing to the left hand side. Hold the chopsticks with your right hand and then move them over to your left hand.

The upper chopstick should be held similarly as you would do a pencil. Then, have the second chopstick rest snuggly between your fingers making sure they are touching three points: the base of your thumb, the base of your index finger, and near the tip of your ring finger. While holding this position, only three fingers should be doing any movement—the thumb, index, and middle fingers (keep the ring finger still!). In this way, only the top chopstick should be moving up and down while the lower chopstick stays in place.

Bad manner with chopsticks

・Stabbing your food with chopsticks.
・Moving dishes with chopsticks.
・Waving your chopsticks in the air while deciding what to eat next.
・Passing food from your chopsticks to another person’s.
・Licking your chopsticks.
・Sticking your chopsticks into your rice bowl.

Slurping

Slurping is thought to be a rude habit in many countries, but fear not in Japan! Making noise while you are eating noodles or soup shows that you are really enjoying your meal.

Hold your rice bowl

It is a normal habit for Japanese people to pick up their rice bowl or miso soup bowl and bring it close to their mouths while eating.

Drinking

When you have company at the table, don’t start drinking alone! Make sure to wait until everyone's drinks are served and start drinking together after doing cheers (called kanpai in Japanese).

It is also good table manners to pour drinks for others, especially if you are with someone who is older than you or in a higher position than you.

Tipping

Leave your tipping tendencies at the door when you come to Japan. As well-meaning and appreciative as you might be, it can even be considered rude and insulting in some situations to leave a tip. Don't worry, the customer is king by default in Japan, and you can expect to receive impeccable customer service without tipping!

If you do decide to leave a tip on the table at a restaurant, chances are that the waiter will probably think you forgot your money and chase you down to return it!