Tag Archives: culture

5 essential Japanese table manners

Dinner at a sushi restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo,

Do you you really want to disappoint this guy? (photo by Joe deSousa)


The self-proclaimed aficionado parked at the sushi bar adds more wasabi to his little soya sauce bowl turning the mixture into sickly green mud. He then drops a piece of sushi in the mixture. I see the delicate construction brake apart as the rice soaks up more and more of the sauce. The sushi chef, neck veins twitching, his expression frozen in an impossible display of self-control, as he watches his guest with a smile. Sushi and other imported Japanese foods have gained much popularity in recent years. Discovering new food horizons is more than just sampling the exotic, it is also respecting the culture around which it developed. The best strategy to do so is to quietly observe Japanese people around the table learning from your own mistakes. For the less fortunate, here are a few useful pointers in order to not offend a Japanese host.

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How to avoid food culture shock in Japan

Grilled chicken breast cartilage (photo by 挪威 企鵝)

Grilled chicken breast cartilage (photo by 挪威 企鵝)

Out the window, sparsely populated luscious green mountains and valleys streamed by giving the impression we had left Japan.

“Do you like meat,” asked Yasu my Japanese friend who was driving.

“I love meat. There isn’t much I can’t eat,” I boasted remembering my breakfast of smelly natto fermented soybeans.

We soon arrived at a small shop in the countryside. The shop, a Japanese owned Chinese restaurant, was a local institution serving the Kubokawa pork that was so famous in the region. We seated ourselves at a Japanese table so close to the ground I could barely fold my legs under it.

“Give us two full set menus and some of the raw as well,” ordered Yasu.

The waitress balanced a flat iron griddle on top of a portable gas burner. Although my mouth had been salivating at the idea of eating grilled pork chops, I froze when I saw the food coming out of the kitchen. The dark brown liver was sliced sashimi style and served over a salty citrus sauce. The honeycomb intestine was also served raw with a spicy sesame oil. On the grill, sizzled a sectioned heart, curly intestine and unidentifiable fat coated organ meat. Food culture shock is real. Here is what to expect when eating out in Japan.

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5 unique Japanese ways to eat eggs

A simple treat (photo by Robyn Lee.

A simple treat (photo by Robyn Lee).

Japan loves eggs and has developed unique ways of eating them. Eggs are so pervasive in most people fridge that we pay them little notice. They have become part of the background, an almost boring necessity. In the digital age, there is no limit to what people might come up with like scrambling eggs in their shell . in Japan, due to Buddhist beliefs that proscribed the killing of animals, both meat and eggs became a staple relatively late in Japan. This singular historic and cultural context has informed the way eggs are prepared in Japan. The place that eggs occupy in Japanese cuisine is quite different than in Western cooking. Rather than being a binder that add richness to a confection, it is most often used as a main ingredient.  Japanese breeds of hen and a diet rich in carotene also result in a very different egg with a thick shell and an intense orange yolk.

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