Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Japanese Manners, pt 2

So, I went to my son's junior high school last weekend, and had to do the whole slipper (or)deal which I talked about in my previous post: put on way-too-small plastic slippers at the door, switch to wooden clogs in the bathrooms while trying not to miss and plant my foot in the...

Here are some more manners for you to ponder -


Never, ever leave your chopsticks stuck in your food - rice, actually, but it's better to just avoid doing it with any food. Look at any Hollywood movie where Americans are eating Chinese out of the little boxes. The main character will shove their chopsticks point down into their box as they stand up to a) get important evidence, b) yell at the their love, c) answer that plot-defining phone call. But in Japan, leaving your chopsticks stuck into rice is a death omen! At a Japanese funeral, chopsticks are very often placed into a bowl of rice as an offering at the altar. So, basically, you just told your host to FOAD.

Passing food one person to another, chopsticks to chopsticks is another huge no-no. At the cremation ceremony, remaining pieces of bone are picked up using long, steel chopsticks and are often passed between several relatives before being put into the urn.

If you are eating with several common dishes in the center of the table, serve yourself by turning your chopsticks around and using the clean backs to take from the common plates, then turn them back around to eat. It's easy to remember: the pointy end goes in your mouth, the wide ends into serving plates. This keeps your cooties out of other people's food.


When eating a meal at someone's home, you should wait until the father begins eating, or until they ask you to eat, then say "Itadakimasu!" (I begin!) and dig in (some of my fellow gaijin said, "Eat the dog we must!" as a memory aid..). In a restaurant, go ahead and begin eating when your food arrives. Foods are brought as soon as they are ready, not held under warming lights in the kitchen until everything's ready as in American restaurants, so you should eat while it's hot. Then, when you have finished, you should say "Gochisoh-sama!" (Great vittles, ma'am! - also known as "My, that was a truly satisfying repast" in a Hugh Grant voice). And never wait for the lady of the house when eating - she usually will serve during the meal, and eat her own after everyone else has finished.

Oh, and learning how to use chopsticks before you come, if you don't know how already, will earn you so many "My, you use chopsticks so well!" comments that you'll be amazed. Or irritated. What-evah!

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