Japanese tableware is a great foundation for recreating a traditional Japanese meal at home. Japanese culture places a huge emphasis on mealtimes and dinner settings and more often than not, how the food is arranged on the table is just as important as how the food is cooked and prepared.
With varying shapes, colours, styles and designs often filling a traditional Japanese dinner table, a range of Japanese tableware is often used to enhance the overall eating experience, complementing the colours of the food with a visual feast to whet the appetite of the dinner guests.
Traditional Japanese Foods and Accompanying Japanese Tableware
Japanese chopsticks are one of the most popular and widely recognised eating utensils in Japanese cuisine and are often an integral part of any traditional Japanese meal. Japanese chopsticks can be used to eat a wide variety of foods however it takes lots of practice to perfect the art of eating with chopsticks. The lower chopstick remains stationary, resting at the base of thumb, between the ring finger and middle finger. The second chopstick is held like a pencil and using the tip of the thumb, index finger and middle finger, it provides the movement for eating, pulling the food into the grasps of the chopsticks. For more information on how to use chopsticks, read our informative guide which also explores Japanese chopstick etiquette at different occasions.
There are a wide range of Japanese chopsticks available including decorative wooden chopsticks, lacquer chopsticks and even training chopsticks which are specially designed to help children conquer the art of chopstick use. In Japan, it is believed that using chopsticks to eat food helps with dexterity and encourages the eater to chew and digest food more slowly which in turn helps the eater to feel full quicker. There are key differences between Japanese chopsticks and Chinese chopsticks including the finer point of Japanese chopsticks which make them much easier to use when handling food.
Japanese chopstick rests or ‘hasioki’ as they are otherwise known as, are a functional and complementary piece of Japanese tableware to use with Japanese chopsticks. They are designed to keep chopsticks from touching the table and keep any food residue on the chopstick itself. It’s also a great way to keep chopsticks in one place and prevents them from rolling off the table during dinner. When using the chopstick rest, the chopsticks should be placed parallel to the table with the points facing towards the left.
A favourite in Japanese cuisine is sushi. A popular misconception of the dish is that all sushi is made from raw fish however sushi consists of cooked vinegared rice topped with a number of different ingredients including raw and prepared fish, vegetables and even tropical fruit. Sushi blends a diverse range of flavours and is often served with accompaniments such as pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce to give the dish an added depth of flavour.
As sushi became a staple of many Japanese meals at home and in restaurants, sushi sets became a prominent range of Japanese tableware. Traditionally, a sushi set comprises of two sets of chopsticks, a larger sushi plate for the sushi itself and two smaller sushi plates which are often used for accompaniments. Combining functionality and style, the plates which are handcrafted in Japan, are made from the finest quality earthenware and porcelain.
Sake is traditional Japanese rice wine and is produced during the fermentation of rice, followed by a method which is similar to brewing beer and consists of a discrete two-step process of converting starch into sugar and converting sugar into alcohol. The national beverage of Japan, sake is often used to accompany Japanese meals at special occasions and can be gently warmed or served cold in a sake set.
Sake sets usually consist of a carafe to hold the wine and smaller cups to serve. The more traditional sake sets are made from ceramic however more recently, they can be made from glass and plastic too. They are often very decorative pieces, designed with symbols and characters from the Japanese language and painted in muted colours.
The Finishing Touches for Authentic Japanese Dining
Although Japanese tableware is integral to recreating an authentic Japanese dinner setting there are some other elements to consider to really add the finishing touch. Japanese diners are often accustomed to sitting at a very low table and sitting on a cushion on the floor to dine therefore recreating this dinner setting with a coffee table is a great way to recreate a traditional Japanese meal.
In traditional Japanese culture, the most important dinner guest is seated farthest way from the entrance to the room and the host is seated closest so remember to plan your seating arrangements before your dinner guests arrive.
Finally, to really add authenticity to a traditional Japanese meal, place a hot towel next to the food which is served. A hot (or cold) towel or plastic-wrapped wet napkin is commonly used to clean hands before eating so you are ready to eat and enjoy your Japanese feast.
Dress the dinner table with a range of beautiful Japanese tableware available online. With a unique collection of serving and decorative pieces in simple, authentic designs you will be spoilt for choice with what to choose to recreate a traditional Japanese meal.