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Plate of Japanese sushi with chopsticks
4 January, 20232 minute read

A guide to eating out in Japan

The vast differences between Western and Eastern etiquette can often mean that unless you undertake a short PhD before travelling, it can be easy to put your foot in it. We thought it would be nice if we did the research for you (you're welcome) and distill it down to only what you need to know. Our 'Antidote to Culture shock'; should do just that. Up next, we're covering eating out in Japan and why you should bring your best socks.

Wear your best socks

In Japan, you might be expected to take your shoes off in a restaurant for hygiene reasons. Most places will provide you with dining slippers and a safe place to store your shoes until after dinner.

Spoilt for choice

Japanese people love to eat out and have dozens of different ways to dine. The nation is famous for its ‘out there’ thinking and food is no different, McDonalds in Japan even has an entirely black burger. Izakaya-style restaurants (a kind of modern Japanese gastropub) are becoming more popular in the major cities. Other favourites include the obvious sushi, ramen and udon noodle joints or Okonomiyaki-ya, which is a Japanese style pizza made out of pancake.

Try it out

It is polite to try a little bit of everything on the table. Don’t worry if you don’t know what something is - the Japanese are very courteous and won’t mind explaining.

Slurping is good

While slurping your food in the UK is considered bad table manners, in Japanese culture it's positively encouraged. So if you find yourself slurping a bowl of noodles, the louder the better. It's a sign that you're really enjoying your food, and will go down well.

Keep your rice separate

As a nation, we’re used to eating rice mixed in with a curry or sauce, but in Japan, rice is always eaten from a separate bowl. Most restaurants will top up your rice for free so if you want some more, leave a little bit at the bottom. An empty rice bowl means you’ve had enough.

Drink up

When it comes to drinks, the opposite rule applies. If you want topped up, leave an empty glass as that is an invitation to have more

Say goodbye

When you’ve finished your meal, speak the lingo and say, ‘Arigatō gozaimashita’, which basically means, ‘Thank you very much for what just happened.’

Experiencing a completely different culture is part of the fun of travelling, so you're feeling inspired by our guide to Japense dining etiquette, have a browse of our tours to Japan here.

Image of blog author Nicola James

Nicola considers herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of places around the world and these experiences usually involve searching for as many kinds of wildlife as possible. Recent highlights include penguins in Antarctica, bears and whales in Canada and Alaska and sea otters in California - but there are always more animals to search for.

Nicola | About the author

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