TRADITIONAL FORMAL LIVING ROOM FURNITURE SETS
if you've read up on japanese table mannersyou'll realize that most people generally say the same things. the problem is that someof these "rules" are not always followed in japan, and in some cases japanesepeople have never even heard of them! so today i'm going to go over acouple of these outdated rules, as well as a lot of other things. now i'll never be able to cover everysituation, so what i'm going to talk about is what's common in normal, everydaysituations with your friends co-workers, or host family. i'll start with meal preparation.
if you have your purse with you youshould never set it on the table. the floor is considered very dirty injapan, even though they don't wear their shoes inside. since your purse sits on the floor, it'sinappropriate to set it on the table. it's okay to place on a chairor the floor, though. if you're homestaying, the family mayask you to help prepare the meal or set the table. as is common in most places most peopledon't care about proper place-setting. just make sure to place each familymember's chopsticks at their usual seat.
also, it's not unusual for japanesepeople eat their meal without drinking anything, either, so don't be surprisedif they don't want anything to drink. in that case they're probably waitinguntil after the meal for tea. in japan, if it's not practical foreveryone's meals to be served at the same time, they may ask you to startingeating first so that your food doesn't get cold. this happens frequently in restaurants,where food is typically brought out as it's made and not altogether. before you begin eating, at home or at arestaurant,
you should say "itadakimasu". some people put their hands together ina praying motion but this isn't always necessary. at the end of the meal you should say"gochisousama deshita". if someone took you out to the restaurant, you should say "gochisousama deshita"either once everyone has finished eating, or once themeal has been paid for. while eating your chopsticks should goin your right hand, and small bowls or plates, like rice,soups, side dishes, etc,
should be held in your left hand with your thumb on the edge of the bowl,and your four fingers underneath. bring the bowl up to your mouth while youeat so the food does not drop onto the table. it's considered bad manners to bendyour head down to your plate. that way of eating is saidto resemble a dog. many meals will have a shared dishthat everyone eats from. traditional rules say that you shoulduse the back end of your chopsticks to take food from this dish sinceit's the most sanitary, but in reality most people don'tactually do this.
whether you should do this or not willreally depend on people you're with. in fact, if the main meal is nabe,which is a pot dish, some families may dump their bowls backinto the nabe pot at the end of the meal and then use the remaining sauce fora meal the next day. but don't worry! if your host family doesthis they shouldn't ask you to eat it, and if they do they will probably beunderstanding if you decline. as for eating sushi! there are many types of sushi, but thetwo most familiar to westerners are sushi rolls and nigiri.
nigiri is rice, called shari,and a topping, called neta. when eating nigiri, traditional rulessay to dip only the neta in soy sauce. however, these days no one really careshow you dip it in soy sauce. shari first? that's fine! in fact, at some modern restaurants, theywill ask you to conserve soy sauce by pouring it directlyonto the sushi. this is the case at my favoritekaiten-zushi, or conveyor belt sushi restaurant, sushiro. traditional rules say you should eatsushi in one bite.
however, if your mouth simply is not bigenough to eat the whole thing at once, it's fine. you can either cut in half of yourchopsticks, or just bite half of it off. it's more rude to shove too muchfood in your mouth, so don't force yourself to eat thewhole thing at once! if you don't think you can bite it offwithout making a mess and if you're not good at cuttingthings with your chopsticks, you can try my method,which is using both hands. whenever you use both your hands withchopsticks it's considered a bit childish.
but if you're not in a formal setting, or since you're a foreignerit's usually not a big deal. poking through your food with chopsticksis also considered really childish, so do your best to try to pick them upeven if it's really slippery. burping in japan is consideredextremely rude. if you have a runny nose you shouldleave the room to blow it. men will often snort or sniff to avoidhaving to blow their nose. it's pretty gross, especially when you'retrying to eat, but they'll do it anyway so don't be surprised.
so, what do you do if you don't likethe food your family made for you? well unfortunately you're in a really toughspot, because it's very rude to not eat the food someone made for you. if someone is inviting you over for ameal, they'll probably work out the main dish withyou beforehand so they don't accidentally make something you hate. however, what if you're homestaying and yourfamily's making normal meals every day? well, to be honest you shouldreally do your best to eat it. if you have a food you absolutely cannoteat, it would probably be best to find a
good time to mention it to them beforethey accidentally make it. if you absolutely cannot confront themwith a food that really kills you then you can also consider telling themthat you're allergic. it's not ideal but it is donefrom time to time. other tricks coming from someonewho is a picky eater: do your best to eat as much as you canand then say you're too full to finish. it's not that rude to not finish a meal,if it's just an occasional occurrence. if you're with a friend you can also tryto work out having them finish your food for you. for example, if i can't finishmy meal, my husband will eat it for me.
i also always givehim my mushrooms. or, if you absolutely haveto refuse you can say "sumimasen, chotto (foodname) wa nigate de" which roughly translates to, "i'm sorry. about this food,i can't really..." oh, and don't worry! no japanese personis going to expect you to eat natto! no matter what you shouldn't give your hostfamily a whole list of foods you don't like because this will give them a reallynegative image of you. being picky about anything here is bad,
and it's especially rude to inconvienceothers with your food preferences. eventually they'll come to view you assomeone who always complains about things, which is one of the worst things youcan do about your image in japan! but, as always, it's okay to makemistakes because we all do! and if you're not sure what rules applywith the people you're with, just ask! if there are any other table manners you'recurious about, or if you have any comments or questions, leave them inthe comment section below!