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Sushi Restaurants Have Their Own Unique Etiquette! Know Before You Go

So you arrive in Japan and what’s the first thing on your mind? Sushi.But before you jump in,take a look at the Sushi Rules.


So you've arrived in the home of sushi, but to optimize your dining experience there are a few things you should know first about the special etiquette expected in sushi restaurants.

There are two types of sushi restaurants

So you've arrived in the home of sushi, but to optimize your dining experience there are a few things you should know first about the special etiquette expected in sushi restaurants.

The first thing to know is that there are basically two styles of restaurant. One is “kaiten sushi,” where the dishes are transported around the restaurant on a revolving conveyor belt. Here you can enjoy reasonably-priced sushi in a relaxed environment.

“回転寿司” by 綾小路葵 at https://flic.kr/p/ztKeMZ

The other style is where a sushi chef stands on the other side of a counter and hand-prepares each sushi to order. Compared to kaiten sushi, traditional restaurants tend to be a little on the pricey side!

“寿司屋 sushi” by Yuichi Kosio at https://flic.kr/p/5KPzcZ

Things you shouldn't do in a sushi restaurant

Whether the sushi comes on a conveyor belt or by hand, there are some common “don’ts” when dining at a sushi restaurant. Here are the fundamentals we would like you to remember.

(1) Don't overpower them with perfume!

Being able to savor the aroma of fresh fish, particularly the white flesh varieties (hirame (flounder), shimaaji (striped jack), and isaki (grunt), etc.) that leave a subtle scent in the nasal passages, is one of sushi's many charms. And what could be a more terrible way to ruin this experience than by sitting next to a fellow diner wearing a fragrance that fills the room! For the same reason, be careful about the odors from smoking.

(2) Don't separate the topping from the rice

Since sushi is served as a set, separating the fish from its rice bed is a major culinary faux pas. In addition, sushi is intended to eaten with only a small amount of soy sauce, so be careful not to go overboard when dipping!

Conveyor belt or counter, each have their own etiquette

Finally, let's look at the different do's and don'ts at kaiten sushi and traditional sushi restaurants. As an aside, when feasting on sushi it's OK to eat by chopstick or hand! Whatever fits your mood.

Kaiten sushi

(1) No returns
If you take it, you eat it. Returning a plate, even if you picked it up just for a closer look, is very much frowned upon. Returning it because you couldn't finish doesn't work either!

(2) Don’t walk around
The restaurant is a colorful place with a lot to see and explore. But please don't let that curiosity lead you out of your chair. That goes for children especially!

Traditional restaurant

(1) Eat it while it's fresh.
Don't leave your specially-prepared sushi to dry out – it will lose all of its fresh flavor and won’t taste as good.

(2) Don't overstay your welcome
Try to avoid taking a seat for too long (2 hours or less is considered safe) or getting overly chatty with the chef. Give the other diners a chance to enjoy themselves!

Above is what we consider to be dining etiquette, but that doesn't make a sushi excursion something to be scared of! Showing a little courtesy to those around you is all you really need, and the rest will take care of itself.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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Writer: Yoshiaki Hirota

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