Tokyo Table Trip

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Sushi restaurants are run in an unusual way, with the chefs preparing the customers' food in front of them.
The quality of the sushi made may be higher or lower depending on the chef's mood, and it's a rather difficult food.

If you want to enjoy some super-delicious sushi as a customer in a Japanese sushi restaurant, the first step is becoming a "good customer" who won't make the sushi chef uncomfortable.
If the chef thinks to themselves, "Ah, this customer knows the smart way to eat," they'll be sure to give you even greater sushi.
Here we'll be introducing "6 manners to mind while eating in a sushi restaurant" that overseas customers do not typically know.
If you're nervous about going to a Japanese sushi restaurant and wish to be prepared, be sure to take a look before your visit!

#1: No Perfume

The seasonal fish that are procured by sushi restaurants are first and foremost to be enjoyed by their aroma.
It is important to refrain from wearing perfumes when you visit so as to not overpower the delicate aromas of the fish.
Strong scents like perfume at the counter will numb the olfactory senses of the other customers as well, so please be very mindful of this.

#2: Let the Chef Know Items You Dislike Right Away

ukyo_okさん(@ukyo_ok)がシェアした投稿 -

Sushi chefs begin their preparations of the day's menu right after welcoming in the customers.
If there are any ingredients that you dislike, be sure to tell the chef right away after you are greeted.
(However, most chefs will ask you "Is there anything you don't like?" nowadays, so this isn't as large of a concern.)

#3: Eat As Soon As the Item Is Served

ukyo_okさん(@ukyo_ok)がシェアした投稿 -

"Eat sushi as soon as it's served" is one of the main rules in sushi restaurants.
It's even ideal to be so enthusiastic that your hand reaching out meets the hand of the chef serving the sushi, as that just-served timing is the best moment to enjoy the flavors of the sushi.
If a customer keeps up a good pace eating, the chef will be able to get into a good rhythm and put out the best sushi they can, killing two birds with one stone.
We have heard of many sushi chefs who think poorly of customers who get too caught up in conversations and do not enjoy their sushi at its peak of flavor.
Eat sushi within 3 seconds of it being served! Be sure to follow this rule.

#4: Eat Sushi In One Bite

Sushi is a dish where the flavors of the fish and rice become a singular perfection in your mouth.
It's proper etiquette to eat pieces of sushi in a single bite.
If you're worried about being able to eat the sushi in one bite, be sure to ask the chef beforehand to make yours a bit smaller.
(Incidentally, the most impolite thing you could do would be to remove the fish from a piece of sushi, dip it into soy sauce, and eat it like that.)

#5: Do Not Place Your Phone or Camera On the Counter

Chefさん(@hiro.sato.sushi)がシェアした投稿 -

This is a manner to mind that even some Japanese people who visit sushi restaurants aren't aware of.
The counter at a sushi restaurant is a sacred place where only sushi and other foods belong.
Even if you've brought a large camera along with you, you must either 1) put it in your coat pocket, 2) leave it in your chair between your legs, or 3) bring a clean napkin and rest it there so that it doesn't harm the counter.
Be very careful not to damage the valuable counters with large SLR cameras, watches, or rings.

#6: Do Not Bother Neighboring Customers

The counter at a sushi restaurant is a communal public space. Each customer is there to enjoy their sushi in their own mood.
There exist sayings like "a meeting by chance is preordained," but typically you should follow etiquette that says 1) do not force someone into conversation, 2) do not raise your voice too loudly, 3) keep your elbows in your own personal space, and 4) do not bring up uncomfortable topics like race, religion, politics, or lovers' quarrels.

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Hi Saito-san,

This is a very interesting article. In addition to these points, could you address some of these questions?

(1) Generally, should we enter the sushi restaurant ourselves, or wait until staff comes out and welcome us in? The reason being, at many places we are told to wait outside until the exact time of reservation.

(2) What is the politest way to ask the chef what an item is? Can we just point to it and say something like, "tai?"

(3) Is it acceptable to present sushi chef that we really like with small gift, especially if we are repeat visitor? Would they feel awkward about this?

Thank you - we are still learning these manners!

over 2 years ago

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Leo Saito

chief editor, TokyoTableTrip

1) I think that it is better to wait outside until the time of your reservation, because your table is not likely to be ready before the time of your reservation.

2) It is not impolite, so please do so without worrying.

3) I do not think that is a problem at all. There are some sushi chefs who do not pay much attention to foreign customers, so it may be a good strategy to present your sushi chef with a small gift and make him feel that he has to accommodate you properly.

over 2 years ago

Leo Saito

chief editor, TokyoTableTrip

I have written an article about manners and etiquette, which people may think they know but actually don't, to be observed when dining at a sushi restaurant in Tokyo.

over 2 years ago

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