Kaiseki cuisine is a traditional Japanese style cuisine that is usually served in high class restaurants or traditional ryokans. To fully enjoy this experience and avoid being in an embarrassing situation, it is important to be aware of Japanese table manners. Japanese meals usually consists of many small dishes which foreigners may not really be used to; that’s why knowing some basic table manners could be very helpful.
First, after sitting down, you’ll receive oshibori, a small towel that is usually warm in winter and cold in summer, used to clean your hands. It is not good manners to use it on the face or to clean the table. After everyone receives their meal and says “Itadakimasu”, a kind of way to say thanks for the received meal, you can begin enjoying your food by bringing the small dishes close to your mouth to eat. This point is truly important because the food should come close to your mouth instead of putting your face near the table as dogs or animals do!
Main dishes and big dishes should not be lifted from the table; rather, you pick off a piece as you use the rice bowl to accompany that piece to your mouth. Moreover, you can also use the rice bowl to catch any food that may fall out of your mouth instead of using your hand which is considered not really polite. While eating, every single bite should be enjoyed with no rush; eating slowly is good manner so avoid looking at the next bite you want to take while you’re still chewing.
Pay close attention to how you are using the chopsticks – do not use it to point or indicate something and do not put them vertically into the rice bowl. Chopsticks are not skewers so don’t stab at the food and do not pass food directly from your chopsticks to another guest’s chopsticks.
Last, in the case of dishes being shared, remember to use the top side of the chopsticks to pick food from that dish.
Now that you have learned these easy Japanese table manners, you can enjoy a traditional Japanese course at Ginza Yamaji and learn more about it with the help of our English speaking guide.