Japanese Tableware Traditions
The Art and Etiquette of Japanese Dining
Japanese tableware traditions are centered on the food and are not just influenced by the type of meal to be consumed, but are also steeped in traditions based around the religions of Shinto and Zen Buddhism. From these influences, we can see the minimalist elegance that we associate with the Japanese culture.
Japanese people have been using chopsticks since the tenth century, and their tableware is therefore geared more towards serving food in smaller portions in order to complement their diet.
Firstly, Japanese chopsticks and chopsticks rests form the essential part to any Japanese table arrangement. Known as ‘hashi’ and ‘hasioki’, they form the most recognisable part of the Japanese tableware setting. There is a set way of holding chopsticks. You must hold them at the end and not in the middle, as this is considered common. When you have finished, lay them down with the tips pointing to the left. You also should not spear food with them or pass food between chopsticks to each other, as this is part of the funeral rite done with bones in Japan.
Each food type has its own style of tableware. Sushi is served on a small plate, with dishes for soy sauce and wasabi. It is considered to be bad manners to waste soy sauce, so take only what you will use. Small Japanese bowls are used for soup and rice, and these are brought directly to the mouth as opposed to using utensils such as forks to move the food from plate on table to mouth. Big pots are used for communal meals, and these sometimes have a heat source underneath to keep the food warm as it is served in small bowls that are refilled as required.
The Japanese are famous for their elaborate tea ceremonies. They use powdered green tea and beautiful Japanese tea sets, including caddies made of wood, paper, metal or ceramics, as well as teapots and small cups with no handles. The ceremonies involve washing the tea set in a ritual, and sharing a cup between all guests. The first recorded tea ceremony was in the 9th century, stemming from an ancient tradition focused on wabi, the inner spiritual life, and sabi, the outer or material part of life, coming together in a moment of quiet reflection.
In Japan, manners are very important. Before you eat, you should say tadakimasu, which means ‘I gratefully receive’, and gochisosama (deshita), or ‘thank you for the meal’, when you have finished.
Why not impress your friends with your new-found knowledge of Japanese table etiquette 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.