General food-related manners

  • Before eating say "itadakimasu" and after eating saying "gochisousama"
  • Leaving food on your plate after you've finished is considered rude
  • Slurping noodles like udon and ramen is acceptable but optional
  • It's considered rude to walk while eating or drinking although some of the younger generation may ignore this
  • Burping is considered rude
  • Never blow your nose at the table or in public in general
  • Never criticize a dish

Using Chopsticks

  • Never stick your chopsticks vertically into your food--especially rice as this is only done at funerals
  • Don't pass food directly from chopsticks to chopsticks as this is only done at funerals to pass the bones after cremation
  • Do not gesture with your chopsticks or point with them
  • Don't hold your chopsticks close to the tips
  • Don't pick at the splinters from the wooden disposable chopsticks you receive at restaurants

Drinking Alcohol

  • The legal drinking age in Japan is 20
  • Customarily, you should refill the glasses of those around you rather than your own glass
  • Wait until everyone has been served before drinking
  • The traditional Japanese toast is "kanpai"
  • Generally, you should avoid public drunkenness

Eating at restaurants

  • Restaurants with tatami mats may ask you to remove your shoes
  • Many restaurants offer customers moist rolled towelettes called oshibori to wipe the hands before a meal. It is generally used to wipe the hands. Men occasionally use them to wipe their faces or necks but in general this is not very polite, especially for women.
  • Don't leave a tip as there is no tipping in Japan