Dinner at Aki's!
Dinner at Aki’s!
While in Kyoto our good friend Aki invited us over to his house for dinner with his family. Before we headed over to his house he went over some Japanese etiquette with us. Though Japan is one of the most modern cities in the world they still hold on to traditional values and respect.
Inside Japanese homes it is expected that you will wear slippers, the host will provide them and you change into them when you enter the home. You should where the slippers throughout the home except on a tatami floors, you should only walk on tatami floors with socks or barefoot. If you need to use the bathroom there are separate slippers for use just in the bathroom.
Shaking hands is very uncommon in Japan however exceptions are made for foreigners the proper way to greet someone is to bow. In Imperial times the lower class person was to bow deeper and longer than the higher class person. If you are greeting someone on a tatami floor you should kneel down and then bow. Nowadays the expectations have been relaxed and small head nod is acceptable.
With any culture there are rules and manners to be followed when it comes to eating. Japan has a lengthy list of proper etiquette for meals. Before eating you should say “itadakimasu” which means “I gratefully receive” and after eating you it is customary to say “deshita”, translated to English means “Thank you for the meal”. In situations where you are sharing dishes with other individuals use the end of your chopsticks that you are not eating with to move the item to your plate. Chopsticks come with a lot of their own rules. Do not stick your chopsticks into rice, this is something that is only done at funerals, as well do not pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks this is also something only done at funerals. It is rude to point with chopsticks, through them in the air, or play with them. If you are not using your chopsticks lay them down in front of you with the tips pointing to the left. Make sure to practice your chopstick skills before you leave since knives and forks are only used for Western foods.
In Japan it is common to sit on the floor while eating, and believe it or not they even have rules for sitting properly! The formal way of sitting for both genders is called the seiza position, this is where you sit with your legs folded under and sit on them. The casual way for woman only to sit is to sit down with your legs to the same side, for men only the casual position is to sit cross legged. Aki told us not to sit without being told where when we dinner is served. In Japan they have etiquette for seating arrangements. The most important guest in the home sits the farthest away from the entrance this seat is known as the kamiza. Your host will sit in the shimoza position, the seat closest to the entrance.
Needless to say all the rules seemed very overwhelming to us, but we were grateful that Aki explained them to us so we didn’t offend his family or embarrass ourselves! After a busy day we were excited to experience a home cooked Japanese meal!