If you are planning on going to Japan, you will no doubt enjoy the amazing foods Japanese restaurants have to offer. Here are some ways to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for you and the locals.
Learn to use chopsticksMost restaurants don’t even have silverware available, so you must use chopsticks. In order to be able to use chopsticks effectively you must build up the muscles in your hands. It really only takes about a week, so enjoy practicing before you come to Japan.
If you are having trouble, here are some recommendations.
Move your hands towards the end of the chopsticks. People have a tendency to choke up on the chopsticks if they are having a difficult time, this makes it much more difficult. Accuracy comes after strength development, the first few days of chopstick use will likely be messy, and make your hand tired, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
Don’t use children’s chopsticks. Short chopsticks are very difficult to use, if you have adult sized hands it is very difficult to use child sized chopsticks. Don’t use chopstick braces either, I’m not sure why anyone would make them, they teach you how to use chopsticks completely wrong.
At the beginning of each meal you will receive a wet hand towel, this should be used for cleaning of your hands at the beginning of the meal. Do not wipe your face with it, (though you may see Japanese people doing it) it is rude.
Oi, Over Here!
You will have to flag down your waiter, they do not make rounds like in the states. A polite "excuse me" (Sumimasen) will suffice if your Japanese is lacking. In some places you will not get service without flagging down a waiter. Don’t get up to order, that would be awkward. Often there are call buttons on the table, these are very convenient.
Food Vending Machines
Out side of many fast food restaurants there are often machines that look like vending machines. You should insert your money, select the food you are interested in, enter the restaurant, and give the tickets to your waiter. Usually the machine will have pictures, but if it doesn’t, try asking the staff Nani ga ski desu ka-What do you like? If you’re adventurous this is a great way to try new delicious foods.
It is not common to pay at your table. You can either pre-pay (Either at a vending machine, or if the restaurant has a set meal), or you pay at a register on your way out. If you received a receipt at your table, bring that to the register and pay, otherwise either ask for the check, or just go to the register and they will figure it out.
Most Important Tip… Don’t Tip.
Don’t tip! Don’t tip! Don’t tip!
Not only is it a waste of your money, it is actually quite rude. There is no service I can think of in Japan where you should tip. Japanese have amazing service, and you will likely receive the best service of your life. It is a treat to walk into a mall as it is opening, you will be welcomed by an orchestra of voices. Japanese take pride in the work they do, and when it comes to customer service, they really should be proud.
Here are some warnings of things you may be bothered by in Japanese Restaurants.
Slurping is acceptable (though no longer required) Ramen restaurants can be difficult to more sensitive travelers
Smoking is permitted in restaurants
Modifications will likely not be made, even for dietary restrictions
There are many places where you will have to sit on the floor.
Japanese people eat really fast. At fast food restaurants business men look like they are shoveling the food into their mouths
There are usually no napkins in restaurants, so be careful.
These are the most obvious mistakes you can make, but easily prepared for. Japanese are kind and understanding, and likely will not inform you if you have made a mistake. Japanese food is delicious and well worth the arduous task of learning to use chopsticks.