Always saying “Itadakimasu” and “Gochisou-sama” are things tourists should do to start and end a Japanese meal.
Cuisine in the country of cherry blossoms has many special dishes, which need to be eaten in a specific way. Please pocket a few rules on the Japanese table.
Japanese always say “itadakimasu” before eating. You should do the same when having meals with locals or in Japanese restaurants. Literally, this phrase can be understood as “humbly welcoming” or “fortunate to enjoy this meal”. You can understand this is simply a delicious greeting.
Many people will be surprised to find Japanese people eating miso soup (miso shiru) with chopsticks. The way to hold a soup bowl is like eating white rice. Because there is no spoon, Japanese people often drink soup from a bowl. They can use one or both hands to lift the soup, then use chopsticks to pick up the bits and pieces inside.
A typical Japanese meal often includes several different side dishes (jikabashi). These items are divided into small portions and displayed on separate plates for each person. People will use their chopsticks to pick themselves. If the piece of food is too large, eaters can use chopsticks to roll to fit the mouth.
The correct way to serve sashimi is fresh seafood placed in a separate dish, along with a small empty dish of soy sauce. Eaters will dip sashimi into wasabi and soy sauce. They do not need to remove the soy sauce dish from the table or pour it directly on sashimi.
In Japan, customers are always served a warm towel before meals to be able to wipe their hands clean. Traditionally, sushi nigiri is eaten by hand. People will take a piece, dip in soy sauce and eat whole pieces. This dish is usually served on a separate dish, accompanied by a small bowl of wasabi dipping sauce.
Tempura or deep-fried seafood vegetables are often served with salt or a sauce called “tsuyu”. There is also a plate of finely grated radish and ginger. The Japanese will add radish and ginger to the sauce before dipping tempura. If there’s salt, they just dip tempura or sprinkle them on fried food. If you order a tempura dish with a variety of ingredients, you should eat it from the front to the back as the chef will arrange the dishes from light to darker flavors.
Noodles in Japan are considered normal. In Japanese culture, the way of eating each type of noodles is different. Hot noodles are usually served in broth and eaten directly with chopsticks. One can use a large spoon to scoop out the noodles while not lifting the bowl with the hand.
Cold noodles can be served on thin platters or bamboo trays, served with a cup or bottle of dipping sauce. People will dip noodles in a bowl of sauce, eat one piece at a time. They can add radish, wasabi or sliced green onions to the dipping sauce to add flavor.
There are cold noodles served in a shallow bowl with lots of side dishes and a bottle of tsuyu. People will mix the broth into noodles and eat it with chopsticks.
At Japanese meals, there is always a tray with chopsticks. If you stop eating between meals, put them back in position on the tray. If you don’t have a tray, you should place two chopsticks next to your plate or bowl.
Finishing the meal
After placing the chopsticks in the right position, you should say “Gochisou-sama” to announce that you are full and enjoy the meal. This sentence should be said directly to the hosts, chefs or simply to yourself.