Most people are not used to sitting on the floor in front of others, however, in Japan sitting upright on the floor is the norm in many situations. Proper manners are very important to the Japanese, and it is considered extremely rude when certain etiquette isn’t followed. If you plan to visit a Japanese households, remember some basic rules of proper behaviour to avoid offending your hosts.
Japanese traditionally eat sitting on cushions placed on a tatami floor where the entire family sits around a low table. Sitting on a tatami floor is also common during tea ceremonies and other traditional occasions.
In formal situations, both male and female members are kneeling known as “seiza”. In casual situations men sit cross-legged and women sit with both legs to one side.
The most important person present at the meal sits on the “kamiza” or the seat of honour which is placed farthest from the entrance of the room where the meal is served. The host sits next to or closest to the entrance. If you aren’t sure about where you should be sitting, wait for instructions from your host.
If there is a “tokonama” in the room, the guest is seated in front of it. “Tokonoma” (“toko” means floor, “ma” means space), or just “toko”, is a built-in recessed space in a traditional Japanese room. Objects like calligraphic scrolls, pictorial scrolls and flower arrangements are most often displayed in the “Tokonoma”.
1. It’s customary in Japan to say “itadakimasu” before eating, which means “I gratefully receive.” When you are finished with a meal, you should say “gochisosama deshita,” which means, “Thank you for the meal.”
2. Remember to wait for the honoured guest, or eldest at the table, to begin eating before you do.
3. Don’t be surprised if your hosts or other guests slurp their noodles loudly. Slurping loudly is considered a complement to the chef.
4. Finish all of the food in front of you down to the last grain of rice. It’s considered impolite to leave food behind!
Keep these tips handy for the next time you visit a Japanese home and you’ll surely keep your hosts happy.
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