In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. Within Japanese culture, there is an art to bowing, however, most Japanese won't expect foreigners to known proper bowing rules. You can simply nod your head as a sign of respect and honor for their traditions.
Shaking hands is uncommon among Japanese. They'll make an exception for foreigners, but you might want to skip trying to shake hands and give a respectful nod instead.
Before you eat, make sure to say itadakimasu which means, "I gratefully receive." After eating, you'll want to say gochisosama deshita which means, "thank you for the meal." This is a way to show respect for your meal and the chef.
One thing you might be surprised to learn is that slurping is okay! When eating noodles it is totally okay to slurp. In fact, slurping is a sign that you are enjoying your meal. But don't take it too far and burp—burping is considered rude.
Also, just like in the United States, it is considered good
manners to empty your dish completely.
When you are not using your chopsticks, or have finished eating, lay them down in the chopsticks holder, or tuck them back into the chopstick envelope.
You'll want to avoid sticking chopsticks into your rice or passing food directly from your set of chopsticks to another's chopsticks, as these practices are part of traditional funeral traditions in Japanese culture.
Other obvious things you'll want to avoid: spearing food, pointing or waving chopsticks, and moving objects around the table with them.
Trying to observe some of these simple chopstick rules can make your Japanese hosts feel more comfortable as you demonstrate respect for their traditions.
You may not know that it is considered rude to have the soles of your feet pointing toward others. When you sit, make sure you keep your feet pointing somewhere else.
Consider learning to sit in seiza position, as well. Seiza is a kneeling
position where you sit on your feet.
Being invited into someone's home is an honor in Japan. During travel to Japan, Student Ambassadors are fortunate enough to be invited to dinner and stay the night in a Japanese home during our exclusive home stays. Here are a few cultural practices to consider:
There is so much more to learn about Japanese etiquette, but these simple rules can help you be a step ahead of most foreign visitors to the land of the rising sun. Abiding by these cultural norms can also help put your Japanese hosts at ease, leading to a richer cultural exchange!