7 Things You Should Know About Japanese Food Culture


Japanese food culture is so unique that it often confuses travelers. A noodle soup restaurant has its own etiquette, and a sushi restaurant has another. Each dining experience is different in this country, making the food culture just as enjoyable as the flavors. Visiting Tokyo? Make sure you take a cooking class to get a real understanding and appreciation of the art of cooking.  Here are some of the most important things you should know about the food culture.

Traditional Restaurants Are Run By The Chef and His Apprentice

Traditionally, chefs in training are not allowed to handle the fish or meat for years. The primary chef creates all the food while the apprentice does other tasks like clean, preparation, and serving tables. A truly traditional restaurant won’t have a serving staff as this is the responsibility of the apprentice.

Miso Soup Should Be Treated Like a Drink

Miso soup is a popular dish served at Japanese restaurants. It has a cloudy broth, small pieces of tofu, and seaweed. While it’s normal for most people to eat soup with a spoon, this variety should be sipped right from the bowl. Tofu and seaweed left at the bottom of the bowl should be eaten with chopsticks once the broth is gone.

miso soup

The Dishes Have Significance

In Japan, the dishes are nearly as important as the food they contain. The cooks are careful to choose the right colors and patterns for the meal they’re preparing. Plates and bowls are often seasonal, hand-painted, and have a significant history. The servers and chef often expect people to ask about the dishes before eating.

Sushi Rice Shouldn’t Be Dipped in Soy Sauce

The sticky texture of sushi rice is like that for a reason. By dipping a roll of sushi in soy sauce, the rice becomes too soft, losing its important texture. Also, there shouldn’t be any pieces of rice left over in the soy sauce dish. If you want some sauce, make sure to dip the fish part of the roll, not the rice.


Leaving a Messy Plate is Rude

After a meal, you shouldn’t crumple up your napkins and leave them on the empty plate. For many Japanese people, this is considered rude and shows a lack of respect for the staff. Instead, diners are expected to neatly fold the napkins and leave them next to their plate, or throw them out if there is a bin available.

They Really Care About Table Manners

When eating in Japan, make sure to mind your table manners. Don’t stick your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice, or even lay them across your bowl of noodles. Instead, use the chopsticks holder which is usually available on the table. If it isn’t, it’s suggested to fold a napkin into an upright triangle and set your chopsticks on that. 


Tipping Is Not Recommended

When dining out in Japan, never tip the staff. This is often considered rude. In most Japanese restaurants, the staff are highly paid and trained. A tip can make the expert sushi chefs feel degraded.

Japanese food culture is a labyrinth of traditions and etiquette. While it may seem daunting at first, learning the local customs when it comes to food is all part of the fun! If you’d like to discuss planning your visit, please get in touch today – we look forward to helping you.