Among many cuisines all over the world, the Japanese cuisine is one of the most sought-after.
According to a survey by the Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, in July 2015 the number of Japanese restaurants in all markets outside Japan was nearly 89,000. It is not surprising that almost everyone is already familiar with the hows and what of a Japanese restaurant but to those who are yet to try, here are some of the things you should know before entering a Japanese restaurant.
This is the usual greetings you will hear when you enter a Japanese restaurant. Almost all Japanese restaurants have their staff greet you before entering the store. They will greet you in unison or there may be a single staff in-charged at the main entrance. The concept of omotenashi or selfless hospitality is a cornerstone of Japanese culture. It’s a privilege for a host to welcome guests and make sure all their needs are attended to. This applies in every aspect of life, in shops, restaurants and even in helping strangers in the street, especially when you are in Japan.
When you are already seated, you may be offered a hot wet towel called oshibori. In most cases, people don’t know what to do with them and it is quite normal to look at others for some sort of guidance, especially if it’s your first time dining in a Japanese restaurant. Use it to wash your hands before meals, and you can use them to clean your mouth and fingers, too. However, you should not use the towels to clean beyond these areas because it is considered impolite. For instance, you should not use them to clean your neck or behind your ears. When you are done with it, roll it up the same way it has been given to you and set it aside.
Be prepared to sit in a table with no fork and spoon, just chopsticks. The use of chopsticks is one of the biggest part of Japanese dining etiquette. While you might have had good practice using chopsticks to pick up your food, there is a lot more to it than just avoiding dropping food all over the table and floor. Although you can always politely ask for spoon and fork if you want.
Some Japanese restaurants have zashiki or “a Japanese style room with tatami” in addition to tables and bars. Zashiki is a traditional Japanese restaurant seating arrangement featuring a low table set on tatami flooring. You are expected to take off your shoes and place them inside a locker or near your seat. Other Japanese restaurant offers horigotatsu type of Japanese table that’s low to the ground and has a recessed floor beneath it so that people can stretch out their legs.
5. Free water
House tea and water are free in Japanese restaurants. They also serve their food with wasabi, as it is considered staple condiment in Japan. It’s a spice traditionally prepared from a plant from the cabbage family. Its root is used as a spice and has a very strong flavor. The root is smashed up into paste and used as a condiment. Its hotness is more like hot mustard or horseradish than chili pepper, because it irritates the nose more than the tongue.
It is very important to know the few basic tips of each culture’s etiquette while dining. Food is central to cultures, religions and our social nature. It will not only provide nourishment and the foundation of good health, but also a way to bond with those whom we share the same passion and taste for good food!