Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Sashimi: raw meat served alone, usually seafood and always
served very fresh
Sushi: any food served with vinegar rice; the most common
food served with the rice is seafood
Tempura: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried
Teriyaki: meats cooked after being marinated in a soy sauce marinade
Dining in Japan may occur on the floor so get your legs and
back ready for a meal on the ground. While this isn't as common in many restaurants,
you may encounter this setting there as well. In restaurants, you will most likely
be greeted with a wet cloth, which should be used to wash your hands; do not touch
your face or neck with this cloth. Once your cleansing has been finished, it's
time to eat.
You may be served with individual plates or with shared plates, from which you take
your own food. If you're served with communal plates, be sure to pick your food
from those plates with the "opposite" ends of your chopsticks, in other
words, the side you don't eat from. No matter the serving style, don't begin
eating until you're either invited to or until you hear the word itadakimasu.
Depending on what's being served, it may or may not be accompanied by rice and/or
soup, both of which are very common. If these are served, bring the bowl up to your
mouth when eating these and if drinking soup, be sure to make a "slurping"
noise to cool the soup. Generally, you shouldn't use your hands to eat anything
and if eating sushi, be sure to dip it into any sauces with the rice side
up, so the rice doesn't fall into the sauce.
If you' host invites you to consume alcohol, be sure to drink in moderation
as drunkenness, particularly in a business setting is deemed highly inappropriate.
You should also never fill your own glass; be sure to fill your neighbor's glass
and your neighbor will surely fill yours as well. If you want no more to drink,
be sure to leave your glass nearly full.
As you complete your meal, finish every last grain of rice and all the food on your
plate. To symbolize that you are finished, place your chopsticks back on the chopstick
rest. If at a restaurant, the inviter generally pays for all guests, but it is appreciated
to offer to help pay.
If looking to grab a quick bite to eat from a street vendor or at a fast food restaurant,
be aware that eating or drinking in public is considered very rude so take a couple
minutes to dine where you purchase your food.
There is no tipping in Japan and offering a tip is actual
an insult. This however doesn't make service poor; the Japanese provide incredible
Celebrations & Events
Japan has a large number of celebrations that are associated
with foods. For example, during the Gion Festival, hamo (eel) and chimaki
(sweet rice cakes) are commonly served. Other dishes, including osechi
(boxed foods with various foods in each box), botamochi (rice dumplings),
and sekihan (red rice) are common at nearly all celebrations.
The Japanese's favorite non-alcoholic beverage is tea,
although it seems every import in the world can be found in Japan.
The Japanese drink all sorts of alcohol from beers to wines
and hard liquors, but the local drink, sake (rice wine, generally with
a high alcohol content) is still one of the most popular. Another local drink is
Shochu, which is typically distilled from barley, but can be produced from
any number of starches.
Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Japan,
but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people
may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be
different from what your system is used to.