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Japanese Dining Etiquette

By Thomas Souness.

Much like parents and children, every hotel thinks their restaurant is the best. We are absolutely no exception with our Japanese restaurant, Yamagen. Now, if you’ve never had an authentic Japanese dining experience, you may feel a little out of your depth at first. So without further ado, here are some handy hints that might help you along your way.


Ah chopsticks… With the boom in popularity of sushi train style restaurants over the past decade, many of us have had plenty of practice with these elegantly minimalist eating utensils. However, even the most seasoned sushi samplers may not be aware that the art of the chopstick comes with a side of rules. For example, did you know that leaving your chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice is considered offensive, as it resembles the sticks of incense traditionally burned at funerals? You also may not know that it can be considered a threat to use your chopsticks to point at others. Our personal favourite, to avoid a horror similar to that evoked by the dreaded double dip, is that you should never use the pointed end of your chopsticks to pass food to friends or family. Always spin your sticks around, and use the back end to handle food intended for sharing.


A Japanese dining experience wouldn’t be complete without ordering some sake to sip. Sake, for those who may not know, is a Japanese alcohol distilled from rice. Pop culture would have us believe that warm sake is the only way to go. However, the practise of heating sake can often be attributed to masking the flavour of a poor quality drop. Don’t be afraid to order good quality sake, chilled. The cool liquid will go down a treat in the hot Aussie climate. That being said, if you’re a diehard fan of warm sake, personal preference is the major player in this game. When it comes to the rules of sake, always pour for others first, use two hands to pour, and never toast with “chin chin”, it means something entirely different in Japan. Instead, the correct phrase to use is “kampai”.


Finally if teppanyaki is your dining experience of choice, be mindful of the etiquette of eating in such a unique seating arrangement. Teppanyaki traditionally sees diners seated shoulder-to-shoulder around a hibachi grill, almost certainly bringing you precariously close to the vocal clutches of a chatty stranger. Now on one hand, you may walk out of the venue with a whole new set of friends. However, on the other hand if you’re said chatty stranger, be aware that your friendly advances may be awkwardly intruding on a first date, a romantic night out, or any other situation where a couple may prefer to spend that evening in the warm embrace of their own personal space. So please be advised to approach a grill-side chat with caution and respect. To ensure a pleasant experience for all, the typical rules of teppanyaki etiquette involve talking quietly amongst yourselves, never reaching over another person, and not questioning fellow diners about their meal choices.

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