Some useful notes when eating Japanese food (especially if you have a Japanese guest):
- The rice or the soup is eaten by picking the relevant bowl up with the left hand and using chopsticks with the right. Bowls of soup, noodle soup or ochazuke may be lifted to the mouth but not white rice. Soy sauce is not usually poured over food at the table; a dipping dish is usually provided. In particular, soy sauce should never be poured onto rice or soup. Noodles are slurped.
- Chopsticks are never left sticking vertically into rice, as this is how they are ritually offered to the dead. Using chopsticks to spear food, to point, or to pass food into someone else's chopsticks is also frowned upon.
- When taking food from a communal dish, unless they are family or very close friends, turn the chopsticks around to grab the food; it is considered cleaner. If sharing with someone else, move it directly from one plate to another; passing food from one pair to another is a funeral rite.
- It is customary to eat rice to the last grain. Being a fussy eater is frowned upon, and it is not customary to ask for special requests or substitutions at restaurants. It is considered ungrateful to make these requests especially in circumstances where you are being hosted, as in a business dinner environment. Good manners dictate that you respect the selections of the host.
- Even in informal situations, drinking alcohol starts with a toast when everyone is ready. It is not customary to pour oneself a drink; but rather, people are expected to keep each other's drinks topped up.