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Everything You Need to Know About Japanese Tableware

A Guide to Japanese Tableware

Have you ever sat down at a traditional Japanese meal and not known what each bowl is for and where your cutlery was? The Japanese have a large array of tableware and if you haven’t done your research it can be hard to know what goes where and why you have a million dishes for one meal.  Here’s a guide to understanding Japanese Tableware so that you can enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine in all of its glory.

japanese tableware

Japanese Bowls

One key aspect of Japanese Tableware is the use of bowls: large, small, decorated with lids – the Japanese use them all when eating so knowing which bowl is to be used for what will prevent you from placing miso soup in a noodle bowl.


For the majority of Japanese meals, you’ll find that a Chawan will be used. A Chawan is a small bowl which is used primarily for soft, sticky Japanese rice. Rice is a staple food within the Japanese diet and is eaten with a range of dishes. The Chawan bowls are small enough to be held with one hand. When eating, the Chawan will be held in the hand so that you can mix your main with your sticky rice.

white-lucky-cat rice bowl japanese tableware
White Lucky Cat Japanese Rice Bowl


Miso soup is served in a slightly deeper bowl and comes accompanied by the Shiru-wan which holds the soup. A Shiru-wan is a large bowl which comes with a lid. Miso soup is served out of the Shiru-wan and can also be left within it to keep it warm ( or just in case you want to have seconds!). When eating miso soup, the Shiru-wan is often placed in the middle of the table. A Shiru-wan is a classic piece of Japanese Tableware and is often made from Japanese Laquer.

black_lacquer_miso_soup_bowl japanese tableware
Black Lacquer Japanese Miso Soup Bowl


Similar to the Chawan bowls is the Danburi-bachi bowls which are used for noodles and ramen. These bowls are often slightly larger than the typical Japanese bowl. Danburi-bachi are most commonly used during the winter months for warmer dishes but can also be used within the summer.

seikaihna-japanese-ramen-noodle-bowl japanese tableware
Seikaiha Japanese Ramen Noodle Bowl

Japanese Cutlery

In the western world our typical cutlery layout includes a knife, a fork and a spoon. However in Japan they only use one piece of cutlery and that is chopsticks.


Chopsticks are an essential part of the Japanese Tableware setting. If you are planning a trip to Japan then we advise that you practice the art of eating with chopsticks because it can be trickier than it looks. There is a set way of holding chopsticks which is holding them at the end as opposed to in the middle. Holding chopsticks in the middle is consider to be common and passing food to another person using chopsticks is also frowned upon as this is part of a funeral tradition.

chopsticks japanese tableware
Blue Cherry Blossom Japanese Chopsticks


Placing your chopsticks on your plate when during your meal or when you’ve finished your meal is considered to be bad manners. Instead of placing your chopsticks on your plate use the hashi-oki which you’ll find next to your plate. Hashi-oki, also known as chopstick rests often come in a range of beautiful designs and are as essential to Japanese Tableware as chopsticks.

ginsai-wave-japanese-chopstick-rest japanese tableware
Ginsai Wave Japanese Chopstick Rest

Japanese Plates

Depending on your meal, you may be surrounded by one plate or a range of different plates. The Japanese tend to serve different parts of their meal on different plates as opposed to piling them onto one plate. The most notable plate which is used often within Japanese Tableware is the Yakimono-zara


The Yakimon-zara is a flat plate which is usually rectangular in shape. This plate can vary in size depending on how many people you are feeding. A Yakimono-zara is most commonly used to place grilled foods on such as beef, chicken on meat kebabs. The host then serves the meat off the plate to the guests and is left in the middle of the table once everyone has been served so that people can help themselves if they’d like a little more.

turquoise-crackleglaze-oblong-plate japanese tableware
Turquoise Crackleglaze Oblong Plate

Japanese Tea Ceremonies

The Japanese are famous for their elaborate tea ceremonies. They drink powdered green tea after their meals which is said to soothe and cleanse the palette. As tea is drank after most meals, many households own their own elaborate tea sets including tea caddies which can be made from wood, paper, metal or ceramics as well as teapots and small tea cups.


Yunomi-jawan, also known as tea cups are a key part of the Japanese tea ceremonies. What makes these tea cups different to those in the western world is that they have no handles. Japanese teacups vary in size depending on the occasion and come decorated in intricate Japanese designs.

kenkou-good-health-japanese-tea-cup japanese tableware
Kenkou Good Health Japanese Tea Cup

Why not impress your friends with your new-found knowledge of Japanese tableware by hosting your own Japanese style dinner party? We have all the Japanese tableware you could possibly need from chopsticks to authentic Japanese tea sets, all available at great prices. Please visit our website to view the full range and order online.

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