Meals, Manners & More: Your Ultimate Guide to Eating in Japan!

Japan has some very particular cultural rules when it comes to eating, drinking, and dining in public places. While most of them are not by any means laws, they are widely followed nonetheless. For someone visiting the country, especially for the first time, it may be hard to grasp the nuance of differences in manners and etiquette right away! Sometimes these can be very different from one’s country of origin, and for this reason, the mindful traveler will want to know about these rules beforehand.

1. Is it ok to eat while walking in Japan?

2. Can we really drink beer on trains in Tokyo?

3. Are there non-fish meals in Japan?

4. How are foreign food restaurants in Japan?

5. Are there non-smoking restaurants in Tokyo?

6. Is it expensive to dine out in Tokyo?

7. Is grocery expensive in Tokyo?

8. What are some of the most common Japanese dishes?

9. Will I have to eat rice at every meal?

10. How is the portion size in Japan?

11. Do Japanese really have no spicy foods?

12. Do Japanese people always drink when dining out?

13. Can I use a fork instead of chopsticks?

14. What should I know about dining with Japanese people?

15. Do Japanese people really slurp noodles?

16. Will I have to sit on my knees at every meal?

17. How often do I have to take my shoes off at restaurants?

18. I’ve seen some people wiping their face with an oshibori hand towel. Is that OK?

19. Is it true that Japanese people split the bill equally?

20. Is it important where people seat at the table?

If you’re among friends, it won’t matter, but if you want to go the extra mile to show respect in a formal setting, at a business dinner, or to the elderly, or with your friend’s or partner’s family, it’s good to know a few easy to remember rules.

A table always has a “seat of honor” called kamiza. The seat is usually the one in the corner farthest from the door. Ideally in a position where two walls converge in a corner (in traditional Japanese dining, while sitting on the floor, such seat would be the most comfortable).

The kamiza is the seat of the highest-ranking person at the table, the oldest, or the most important. Conversely, younger people, or lower rank people seat farther from the kamiza and on opposite sides of the table, so to have more room to order, move around to pass food to other diners at the table, or pour drinks.

You’re all set!

Knowing these few things will certainly allow you to be more accustomed to the “Japanese way” and, you’ll see, these differences are not that hard to manage once you know them!


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