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10 Etiquette Rules to Follow in Japanese Restaurants

People eating inside JaBistro sushi restaurant while chefs make food

When it comes to Japanese cuisine, there’s an art to dining. Here are our 10 must-know etiquette practices for your next visit.

To have an authentic Japanese culinary experience, it’s about more than just the food. The practice of fine dining is an art in itself with a set of traditions and customs. Enhance your experience at Japanese sushi restaurants by following these 10 rules.

a long wooden table

JaBistro’s main dining room.

01 No shoes on the tatami

Some Japanese restaurants will have a separated sitting room called a zashiki. This room will have tables and chairs but also mats spread on the floor called tatami. Before entering this room and stepping on the tatami, you are expected to remove your shoes.

02 Rest chopsticks on the holder, wrapper, or side of a tray

You should never rest your chopsticks on your bowl or stick them in your rice. The act of placing them in your rice closely resembles a ceremony performed at funerals and is considered a bad omen. If you would like to rest your utensils, there is usually a chopstick rest called a hashioki. If not, you can use the wrapper your chopsticks came in or place them on the side of a tray or other similar item on the table.

a bowl of fruit sitting on top of a wooden table

JaBistro’s lobster sashimi platter.

03 Don’t mix wasabi into your soy sauce

Instead, place a small amount of wasabi onto your sashimi or sushi and then dip the fish into the soy sauce.

04 Don’t place half-eaten food back on your plate

It’s impolite to cut sushi into pieces or tearing it apart with your teeth as it should be eaten in one bite. When eating bigger pieces of food, cover your mouth with your hand.

05 Use the pickled ginger as a palate cleanser

The gari or pickled ginger that comes with sushi and sashimi is meant to be used as a palate cleanser. Nibble on a bit of gari between bites so that you can appreciate each piece of sushi and sashimi in all its glory.

06 Place chopsticks parallel to the plate at the end of your meal

When you’re finished eating, place your chopsticks parallel to your plate on the holder provided or on top of your soy sauce tray.

a bottle of wine sitting on top of a box

Soto Sake, part of our extensive sake list at JaBistro.

07 Fill guests’ glasses before your own

If you’re sharing a drink such as sake, it’s only proper etiquette to fill your guests’ glasses before your own. 

08 Slurping is a compliment

Slurping is considered a sign that you find the food delicious and a compliment to the chef.

09 Never use your hand to catch falling food

It’s considered bad manners to cup your hand under your mouth to catch crumbs or drippings when eating. Tezara is the Japanese term for this gesture which can be translated to “hand plate.”

food on a wooden cutting board

A decadent JaBistro sushi platter.

10 Don’t hover over or leave food when you’ve touched it with your chopsticks

It’s impolite to hover back and forth with your chopsticks between side dishes as you decide on what to have. This practice is called mayoibashi or “hesitating chopsticks.” As well, you should not leave food when you’ve already touched it with your chopsticks. This is called sorabashi or “empty chopsticks.”

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