For those that have yet to travel to Japan for business, there are a couple of things you should know before booking your ticket and inviting clients out to eat. Japanese culture is centered on politeness, overall respect for people, age reverence, gracious apology for wrongdoing, and living in harmony.
Foreigners, when eating out in Japanese restaurants, need to understand the basics of the Japanese dining etiquette to avoid offending the Japanese by committing a dining blunder!
There are some essential basic rules to be mindful of when dining in a Japanese restaurant. First of all, when the food is served, join your hands in the “Namaste” gesture and say quietly, “Itadakimasu” the phrase translates as “I humbly receive.” The gesture is an expression of gratitude for the collective efforts made by many in growing and preparing the meal.
If you feel you need a bit of soy sauce for your meal, you should serve yourself by pouring a small amount into your soya dish. It is considered rude to directly pour the soy sauce on your meal. If you’re having sushi, dip the sushi in the soy dish and bring it to your mouth. Avoid pouring excessive amount of soy and hovering over your dish. When eating rice or soup, you are allowed to bring the entire bowl closer to your mouth so that you don’t spill any food. In addition, it is considered rude to burp at the table unlike in some other Asian cultures like Chinese or Korean, where it can be received as a sign of satisfaction.
As for the chopsticks, never put your chopsticks in a bowl of rice because it resembles the burning of incense sticks at a Japanese funeral. Instead, lay your chopsticks on the chopsticks holder or at the edge of your individual plate.
At the dining table, do not pour yourself a drink but rather serve others at the table. Another thoughtful person should pour your drink for you when you are finished serving.
At the end of the meal, thank the chef by saying “Gochisosama deshita!” Thank you for this great meal!