10 Table manners you need to know if you’re travelling to Japan

japanese table manners
1. If you stick your chopsticks on your rice or food, it means you are offering food to the dead

sticking chopstick into rice

Doing this is incredibly taboo because it reminds the Japanese about funerals. It’s also suppose to bring bad luck.
2. Make sure you use both hands to hold the bottle to pour sake for your friend and if you are the one receiving the drink, then hold up your glass 

pouring sake

If you’re drinking with someone else, it’s good manners to pour servings for your partner – usually the younger person pours for the older person first. When someone’s pouring sake for you it’s polite to hold your sake cup up with one hand and to put the other hand under the cup. Have a sip before putting the cup back on the table.
3. Do not feel shy to slurp your noodles. Because there is nothing wrong doing that in Japan

slurping noodles-compressed

It is said that slurping noodles make them taste better as it brings air with the noodles which improves the flavor. If done properly, it can also help prevent “noodle whiplash” and keep your shirt and tie clean.
4. Pouring alcoholic drink to your own glass while dining with your friend(s) is not something you should do

pour alcohol drink japan

To pour your own drink is morbidly frowned upon, as it risks upsetting the spirit of community and friendship among the group. The goal is to go enough rounds of drink pouring to ensure every person in the group has poured everyone else a drink.
5. Finish all the food served to you

finish japanese food-compressed

It’s just bad manners if you don’t finish your food…PLUS you are wasting good food.
6. When scooping the rice into your mouth with chopsticks, make sure you hold your rice bowl
It’s just polite. If you want to be extra polite I would recommend holding the rice bowl such that your thumb is on the upper rim and index finger + other fingers are all supporting the bowl from below, rather than picking up the bowl like a cup. Though more often than not, people care less these days. (Exception: Don’t pick up rice bowls in Korean dining.)
7. If you invite someone for dinner…You get the bill. If you are close friend with them, then its okay to split the bill

splitting the bill-compressed

8. Do not use chopsticks to take a communal dish

japanase sushi

Don’t let the title fool you — you’re welcome to take from shared dishes, but use the supplied utensils to do so. Some people turn their chopsticks around so the thick side (the side that hasn’t been touching your lips) is used to take from a shared plate. I find that when dining with friends and family, this rule is much more relaxed or nonexistent. Although this practice is well-known, it is not considered to be proper manners. This is because the other end is held by hands, which are not clean. Rather, it is expected to use extra chopsticks(取り箸) to transfer food from a communal plate. When in doubt, watch to see what others do.
9. Speaking with your mouth full is impolite and make sure you cover your mouth and chew if there is too much food in your mouth

chew with your mouth closed

10. “Itadakimasu” and “Gochisou-sama”. Learn how to say it


  • The meaning of “Itadakimasu” – Let’s eat (It is a phrase said before you begin your meal
  • The meaning of “Gochison-sama” – Thank you for the delicious meal (It is a phrase said after you finish your meal)

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