Having manners while you dine out is important in every country, but in Japan there are certain rules you should follow if you don’t want to make a scene. They aren’t laws, but they are the common practices that everyone does, so follow along and you won’t stand out too much like a tourist (or be considered rude, which is even worse).
Chopstick manners – There is a certain level of manners you will need to have while eating with chopsticks. First, do not stick your chopsticks into your rice, this is something that is often done during traditional funerals, so no one wants to see that. Second, if you want to share food, do not pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks, instead just share the dish and use your own chopsticks to grab the food. It is the proper way to share and dine.
Drinking – Drinking is either done before or after a meal but this is not a hard set rule as you will see plenty of people drinking during their meal. The biggest thing to do while drinking is first, always pour a drink for your company before yourself, it is a sign of respect. Second, and the most important, is not to get drunk. Just don’t do it, the Japanese rarely will get drunk while they are eating their meals (but they could after hitting a few bars).
Ask away – If you are having a hard time figuring out what you want to eat, ask “omakase” which roughly translates to “your choice” or “chef’s selection” which can lead to some great dishes if you want the chef to make the call for you. Also make sure to ask “eigo no menyu ga arimasu ka?” if you need an English menu or if they even have one for you.
Seeing is believing – A lot of restaurants have “sampuru” which are the famous plastic dishes that represent what the restaurants have inside. The plastic models are an art form in Japan and are nearly life like, which is amazing. They will help give you an idea of what the restaurant has or at least a sample of it so if it looks good enough, head on inside and get to eating!
Don’t tip – I have said this before and will do it again, never tip when you are dining out in Japan. Tips are included in the overall costs of the meal so there is no need to throw in extra money. It only makes things weird because the Japanese worker is not expecting it so don’t make things strange for them and keep your pocket money and just pay the bill and leave.