Japanese Table Manners
May 2, 2008, 10:33 pm
Filed under: + iNJAPAN

Tables and sitting

Japanese table

Itadakimasu and Gochisosama

In Japan, you say “itadakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”) before starting to eat, and “gochisosama (deshita)” (“Thank you for the meal”) after finishing the meal.

Individual versus shared dishes

It is not uncommon in private households and in certain restaurants (e.g. izakaya) to share several dishes of food at the table rather than serving each person with his/her individual dish. In such a case, you are supposed to move some food from the shared plates onto your own plate by yourself, using the opposite end of your chopsticks (if you have used them already) or with special chopsticks that may be provided for that purpose.

Some Table Rules

* Blowing your nose in public, and especially at the table, is considered bad manner.
* It is considered good manner to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
* Talking about toilet related and similarly disappetizing topics during or before a meal is not appreciated by most people.
* It is considered bad manner to burp.
* After finishing eating, try to place all your dishes in the same way as they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lid of dishes which came with a lid and replacing your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or into their paper slip, if applicable.

Drinking rules

When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is a Japanese custom to serve each other, rather than pouring the beverage into one’s own glass. You are supposed to periodically check your friends’ cups, and serve them more once their cups are getting empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you more alcohol, you should quickly empty your glass and hold it towards that person.

While it is considered bad manner to become obviously drunk in some formal restaurants, for example in restaurants that serve kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine), the same is not true for other types of restaurants such as izakaya, as long as you do not bother other guests.

Do not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a drinking salute, which usually is “kampai”. Avoid using “chin chin” when drinking a toast, since in Japanese this expression refers to the male genitals.


How to eat…

… Rice:

Take the rice bowl into one hand and the chopsticks into the other and lift it towards your mouth while eating. Do not pour soy sauce over white, cooked rice.


… Sushi:

Pour some soy sauce into a the small plate provided. It is considered bad manner to waste soya sauce, so try not to pour more sauce into your plate than you are actually going to be using.

You do not need to add wasabi into your soy sauce, because the sushi pieces usually already contain wasabi, and some sushi pieces are supposed to be eaten without wasabi. If you choose to add wasabi, nonetheless, use only a small amount, in order not to offend the sushi chef. If you do not like wasabi, you can request that none is added into your sushi.

In general, you are supposed to eat a sushi piece in one bite. Attempts to separate a piece into two, most often end in the destruction of the beautifully prepared sushi. Hands or chopsticks can be used to eat sushi.

In case of nigiri-zushi, dip the piece into the soy sauce upside-down with the fish part ahead. A few kinds of nigiri-zushi, for example, marinated pieces, should not be dipped into soy sauce.

In case of gunkan-zushi, pour a small amount of soy sauce over it, rather than dipping it into the sauce.


… Sashimi:

Give some soy sauce into a small plate provided. Put some wasabi on the sashimi piece, but do not use too much wasabi as this would overpower the taste of the raw fish and possibly offend the chef. Use the sauce for dipping the sashimi pieces. Some types of sashimi are enjoyed with ground ginger rather than wasabi.


… Miso Soup:

Drink the soup out of the bowl as if it were a cup, and fish out the solid food pieces with your chopsticks.


… Noodles:

Lead the noodles with your chopsticks step by step into your mouth, while sucking them in with a controlled slurping sound. Try to copy the slurping sound of people around you.

In case of noodle soups, keep the distance between the bowl and your mouth small in order to avoid splashing. If a ceramic spoon is provided, use it to drink the soup, otherwise, lift the bowl to your mouth in order to drink the soup.


… Kare Raisu:
(and other dishes in which the rice is mixed with a sauce)

Kare Raisu (Japanese style curry rice) and other rice dishes, in which the rice is mixed with a sauce (for example, some donburi dishes) and may become a little bit difficult to eat with chopsticks, are often eaten with large spoons rather than chopsticks.

… Big pieces of food:
(e.g. prawn tempura, tofu)

Separate the piece with your chopsticks (this takes some exercise), or just bite off a piece and put the rest back onto your plate.


Japanese Fashion
May 2, 2008, 9:22 pm
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , , ,

In Japan, the fashion is divided by area.
The people that enjoy similar styles of fashion hang out in the same area, and those areas sell those types of clothes.
The three main areas are Shibuya, Harajuku, and Aoyama.

Shibuya Map

Shibuya is full of department stores, fashion stores, and specialty shops including the flagship Tokyu Hands, an absolutely complete lifestyle and DIY store. For this reason, it the streets of Shibuya are the ultimate trendsetters. Numerous fashion trends and items have originated in Shibuya. In the 1980s, Shibujaki (Shibuya casual fashion, such as jeans with white shirts) was born. After that, the loose socks worn by high school girls and the deep-tanned look of gangurogyaru became representative of Shibuya fashion. Shibuya is especially famous for the trends associated with Gyaru (gals), Ganguro, and Kogal.

Below is an extreme example of the Kogal fashion. Basically it consists of extreme tans, white pearl eyeshadow, bleached hair, miniskirt schoolgirl uniforms, and long leg warmers.


Ganguro is similar, with extreme tans, bleached hair, and pearl makeup, but they also feature white lipstick, colorful outfits like tie-dyed sarongs, and lots of bracelets, rings and necklaces. They are sometimes called the Californian girl look.


If you follow the Koen-dori street, a stylish street lined with major stores and restaurants, you enter Harajuku, an area that boasts some of Tokyo’s most attractive landmarks, including Yoyogi Olympic Stadium, Meiji Shrine, and the zelkova-lined Omotesando avenue.
Harajuku fashion is famous for being fashion you can only see in Japan – it is a mixture of various sub-cultures including Gothic Lolita (Gosurori), Ganguro, Gyaru and Kogal. They may also participate in the Cosplay culture by dressing like characters from an anime, movie, or manga, or even dress like their favorite rock stars.
Gwen Stefani of the U.S. fell in love with this fashion style and created her own clothing line called Harajuku Lovers, featuring the Harajuku girls.

This is a video made with pictures of Harajuku fashion with Gwen Stefani’s song Harajuku Girls as the background music.

Here’s a video that compares Shibuya and Harajuku fashion.

Aoyama is very different from the popular teenage culture of Harajuku and Shibuya. Instead it is the very image of elegance and fashion. Along Aoyama-dori are many luxury restaurants and high quality retailers. The area around Kotto-dori is a microcosm of the fashion world, showcasing the work of major international designers.

May 1, 2008, 6:59 am
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , , , ,

As you may have noticed, Japanese people have a hard time pronouncing English.
And it’s because they have an entirely different sound system from English. In English, there are separate characters for vowels and consonants, and you add them together to make one syllable.
It is also possible to end a syllable with a consonant. For instance,
m + a = ‘ma’
d + a + d = ‘dad’
Usually, one letter can not be a word, unless it is a vowel. Like, ‘m’ can not stand by itself.

However, in Japan, one character is already one syllable in a consonant + vowel form.
Below is the letter system of Japan, called the ‘hiragana.’
Hiragana Chart
As you can see, you do not have to add two characters together to make one syllable – one character is already one syllable.
The thing is though, because you can not add sounds together, every syllable has to end in a vowel sound. You cannot end with a consonant, except for the [ng] sound.
There is one more exception that I won’t get into right now.)
The reason why English is hard for a Japanese person is because it has those crazy clusters of consonants.

So, Janglish, or Japanese English, always adds a vowel sound in between consonants of English words.
They also only have five vowel sounds, [a] [i] [u] [eh] [o], so any other vowel sound, they convert into the most similar sound out of those five vowels.

For example,

cup -> ka/pu
desk -> de/su/ku
building -> bi/ru/ding/gu

One of the most famous examples is of McDonalds.
They pronounce it ma/gu/do/na/ru/do. (magudonarudo)

This one is another McDonald’s commercial.

If you listen closely, you can hear
kurisumasu (Christmas), maku hurori (McFlurry), and sutoroberi shoto keki (strawberry shortcake).