- Never place chopsticks stuck vertically into a bowl of food, as this is the traditional presentation form for an offering to one’s ancestors.
- One should wait for the host or hostess to tell you to eat three times before eating.
- Accepted practice in helping oneself to a communal dish such as a salad, is to reverse the chopsticks. However this is regarded in an all male, or casual situation, as too formal and additionally, a female habit.
- Women should cup their other hand beneath their serving when using chopsticks to convey food from dish/bowl to mouth. Men should not do this.
- In communal dining or drinking, the youngest person present should pour alcohol for the other members of the party, serving the most senior person first. The server should not pour their own drink, rather they should place the bottle of sake, beer, wine or spirits, back on the table or bar, and wait to be served by a senior. The receiver of the drink should hold up their glass/cup whilst the drink is being poured.
- One should always clean one’s hands (but not face) before dining with the hot steamed towel provided.
- Japanese soup is eaten holding the bowl to one’s mouth, never with a spoon. The exceptions to this are o-zoni, the traditional soup served on New Year’s Day; soups with noodles are served in larger bowls, such as ramen, are acceptable to eat using chopsticks, although the soup itself is still consumed from bowl to mouth.
- If something might drip onto the table while being transferred in the chopsticks, use the bowl of rice in your other hand to catch the liquid. It is important to not allow this liquid to remain, and so the discolored portion of the rice must be eaten. Rice (in a bowl) should remain white if it was served as such.
- It is usually polite to finish all sections of a meal served at around the same time. It is suggested that one should take a bite from one container, and then take a bite of rice. One should then take a bite from another container, have another bite of rice, and so forth.
- It is perfectly acceptable, and rather encouraged to make a slurping noise when eating hot noodles such as udon, ramen or soba. This is standard behavior in Japan, and Japanese maintain that inhaling air when eating hot noodles improves the flavor. One should not, however make any noise when eating soup.
- When taking a break from eating during a meal, one should place one’s chopsticks on the chopstick rest (hashi-oki) provided. A hashi-oki is usually a ceramic rectangle about four centimeters long, or in some restaurants, a halved wine cork is provided.
- It is acceptable to cradle one’s rice bowl in one hand when eating.
- One should not gesture using chopsticks.
- Never pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another. This technique is used only in Japanese Buddhist funerary rites when transferring cremated bones into an urn.
- When pouring wine or beer, the hand holding the bottle should pour forward, not backward (over the back of the hand) which is considered an insult.
- In traditional restaurants, one needs to sit in seiza, on less formal occasions sitting is also done in tailors style (Indian style) or with two legs together on one side (females-only)
- There is no tipping in Japanese restaurants.
MANNERS and ETIQUETTE: