Three Fun Facts about Eating in Japan

Japan is one of the biggest gourmet country in the world, you could find not only tons of Michelin Star Restaurants, but also lots of local Izakaya

(a type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served) , local family restaurants everywhere you go.This time I want to share some of the fun facts I found relative to eating here in Japan.

Customer is the King, the King should follow rules as well.

 Restaurants in Japan have the toppest level of customer service, but that doesn’t mean customers can do anything without order. As Japanese proverb says, 一粒のお米には七人の神様がいる(There are 7 Gods live in a grain of rice), it is a virtue to not to waste food.

Ordering the portion you could finish and leave the waiters the clean bowls and plates as much as possible is common sense in Japan.

But we can’t always estimate that accurately, no need to feel nervous in that case, except some specific Ramen chain like Ramen Jiro.

Ramen Jiro is a famous Japanese Ramen chain which has a name for super large portions. It reminds me of a professional place for some maniac Ramen Ninjas to test their stomach size. Jiro has some specific rules, if you failed in checking them before going, you might get scolded by the chef even though you are supposed to be the King

One of them is not finishing all the dishes.You could choose a small size of Ramen if you feel not confident to finish, and the chef won’t say anything. But if you ordered a large size and a lot of additional toppings but not finished, there will be a possibility you will make the staff in the restaurant angry, or at least get a cold face from them. Another big rule is the speed, Jiro is about focusing on eating Ramen and then leaving fast. If you are eating while surfing your cellphone or anything else taking too long, you will be seen as unprofessional. 

You can have a refill of Ramen secretly.

Talking about the rules in Jiro, you might have an impression that Ramen restaurants in Japan are so strict. Wait! Of course there are some interesting and warmhearted points! In Japan, when you eat in a Ramen restaurant, usually they will provide refills (替え玉 [kaedama]) if you need with or without charge. But in that case, you have to speak to the chef or waiters like “give me a refill!”. 

Considering some people might feel embarrassed to have that to be heard by other customers and thought as a person who eats too much (especially for ladies), some Ramen restaurants provide a Refill Card on the table. When you want to have a refill, just pass that silently to the chef, and enjoy the refill later. Last time I went to the Ichiran Ramen, one of the most famous Ramen chains in Japan, they had this kind of service. I was brought up in a culture where eating more is better, felt quite interested in this culture and also moved by this kind of consideration.

Tableware is a part of the meal.

The last is about eating at home. When you eat in the restaurants in Japan, you can find plenty of tableware. Different dishes have different bowls or plates, even the chopsticks have their rests (箸置き [hashioki]). For family daily dishes, no need to have so many varieties, but still basically have some distinctions. The containers for Miso soup, rice , and fish should be different. At first I thought it was only about the size, large bowl for large portion, small one following the same rule. Until one day I used a big bowl which is said to be used for noodles, to fill the rice. 

My Japanese family showed me a face like I am an alien. “I can’t believe how you could enjoy your rice with that one!” Seriously? In turn I was surprised by his surprising reaction. The other day, I saw a minimalism video and started cleaning the tableware in the kitchen. I threw the similar sized bowls and plates, and felt good about the space I made by cleaning. When my Japanese family came home and found out, he got quite crazy. It seems like in Japan, if you don’t  have dishes with the specific container, the dishes themself will lose their taste. If you will have a home stay in a Japanese family, keep this in mind!

There are definitely more fun facts about eating in Japan to be discovered.