I’ve always been fascinated by Japanese culture and cuisine. I once read a book about Japan’s oldest restaurant, which was founded in 1683, and it gave me goosebumps.
The author described the restaurant as an amazing place where you can enjoy the finest dishes with great service — all of this at incredibly cheap prices. The restaurant is located in izakaya karachi Kyoto, Japan, and is called Nijo Jinya.
The restaurant has several dining halls, each one dedicated to different types of food or styles of cooking. There are also different rooms for banquets that have special themes like “Tuscan-style banquet,” “Medieval banquet,” and more.
So when my husband and I decided to visit Japan to spend a few days there, we didn’t hesitate to book a trip to Nijo Jinya!
Here are some dining and etiquette tips for Japanese restaurants so that you won’t feel awkward or embarrassed while eating out.
What to expect at a Japanese restaurant
When we arrived at Nijo Jinya, we were greeted at the front desk. The staff members took us straight to our room, where they had already set up everything. They even offered us drinks to help us relax before dinner started.
At first, I thought their hospitality was a bit excessive because most places in America would just let you take your own drink. But since they knew we were from Asia, they wanted to make sure we felt comfortable in their restaurant.
We ordered two dishes each, as well as a bottle of sake for my husband. We then went downstairs to eat. At the table, there were menus so we could decide what we wanted to order but we decided to just go with the flow and see what was available.
Everything tasted delicious! However, my favorite dish was the grilled eel. It was served with a sweet sauce and vegetables on top, and it was very tender and juicy. The other items were also good, though not as flavorful as the eel.
While eating, we were given little cups of miso soup that came with every meal. The miso soup was salty, creamy, and super delicious. It was one of those dishes that made you want to keep drinking it forever!
How to behave at a Japanese restaurant
Since Nijo Jinya is so popular, many people who have never dined here before tend to be overly excited during their first visit. So, I’m going to share a few things you should avoid doing if you want to act like a normal person in a Japanese restaurant.
No matter how much you love sushi, don’t start talking about it too loudly. If anyone else wants to hear about it, tell them quietly over a glass of wine.
Don’t point your chopsticks at someone unless you’re trying to show off. In Japanese culture, it’s considered bad manners to point your chopsticks at anyone. When you do this, you’re implying that you think they are inferior to you. Plus, pointing your chopsticks at others can also be seen as intimidating. You’ll find that you’re actually making the other person feel uncomfortable.
If you’re eating with a group of people, try not to use your chopsticks so aggressively. Don’t stab the food with your chopsticks; instead, gently pick at it with them. This way, everyone will get their fair share of the food.
Speaking of groups, in Japan, people generally don’t sit together at restaurants. Instead, they usually sit separately, with strangers sitting opposite each other. This is why you’ll see couples and families seated at separate tables. It’s best to follow the custom here.
You probably noticed that the waiters at Nijo Jinya wear a white uniform. This is very common practice in Japan when it comes to restaurants. Many Japanese restaurants require their employees to dress up professionally. Therefore, wearing a white uniform makes it easier for guests to recognize the employees. As such, it’s better to go somewhere else if you prefer a casual atmosphere.
Finally, there is no need to talk with your mouth full. Japanese people prefer to chew their food slowly before swallowing it down. This way, they can savor the flavors longer and experience the true taste of the food. It’s best to chew your food until it’s mostly gone, then swallow it.
Tips for ordering at a Japanese restaurant
If you’re from Japan, you might already know this, but when ordering at a Japanese restaurant, you should order by numbers. Here’s how:
Say, for example, you order a bowl of ramen. In America, you would say, “I’d like a bowl of ramen.” However, in Japan, you would say something like, “A bowl of osechi miyake (rice noodles) please.”
This is because when you order ramen, you’re actually ordering a specific type of ramen. Each type of ramen has its own number. For instance, there are five types of ramen:
1. Chashu ramen (beef shank ramen)
2. Tofu ramen
3. Pork tonkatsu ramen (deep fried pork cutlet ramen)
4. Chicken katsu ramen (chicken cutlet ramen)
5. Tuna ramen
Each type of ramen has its own number. For instance, beef shank ramen is #1, chicken cutlet ramen is #4, and tuna ramen is #5.
Now, if you want to order a bowl of osechi miyake rice noodles, you would say, “I’d like a bowl of osechi miyake (rice noodles).”
Again, remember that it’s polite to ask for clarification if you don’t understand anything. For instance, if you’re not sure whether your food contains meat, ask the server to clarify. Or if you’re unsure whether your food is vegetarian, ask. Also, you can ask the server to explain any terms that you don’t understand.