Eating Sushi the Right Way


There is proper etiquette when comes to sushi eating. Many of us who are non-Japanese are not aware of such existence.

If you know any foreigners who lived in Japan after a long period of time, they will tell you that Japanese culture is such that in everything, they have their way of doing things. This way of thinking even applied in the manner of eating and since “Sushi” is their food, they will sure know how best to eat this dish in order to garner maximum enjoyment. wish to share these information and hope you will benefit from it.


There is “Meal Order” to be observed too:

1. Sashimi first

2. Fresh fish and molluscs (nigiri or maki)

3. Exotic stuff because it tends to have a stronger flavor

4. Spicy anything like hand rolls (temaki) should be last

5. Exception: Fugu (poisonous blowfish) should probably be your only course if you eat it – explanation in the section living dangerously

6. Edamame, and oshinko (Image) may be ordered and enjoyed at any time during the course of your meal

7. Cooked stuff like unagi (grilled fresh water eel), and/or California rolls*, tempura, etc. go at the end because these things tend to coat the tongue and numb the taste of other things. If you must have it, wait until the end.

8. Miso soup (shiro miso, nameko miso, etc.) is enjoyed at the end of the meal; you drink it off the cup, and feel free to slurp it if it’s too hot. Feel free to ignore the spoon if one is provided (in fact, it’s better etiquette to pretend like that spoon isn’t there).

*People who know how to eat sushi don’t order California rolls. They’re for wimps who can’t handle raw fish. Rule of thumb: if it has mayonnaise or tomatoes, or if it’s cooked and lacks an exotic name like ankimo, it’s probably not real sushi.

There are mechanics of sushi eating. Below are the details:

– The waitress will bring you an oshibori (hot towel) as soon as you seat down. Wipe your hands with it before touching the food; some restaurants leave the towel throughout the meal for you to wipe your hands; others take it away before your sashimi arrives. Either way you’ll get a napkin for your lap.

– Your wooden chopsticks will come joined at one end; separate them and feel them lengthwise. Rub them together only if you feel splinters. Never rub high quality, smooth chopsticks; you will insult the restaurant if you do.

– You may eat sushi with your hands or with chopsticks, whatever is more comfortable (See? That’s why you want to keep the oshibori).

– Use chopsticks to grab morsels from a shared plate, holding the end that you put in your mouth with your fingers so that only the opposite end touches the food. You may use your fingers after depositing the sushi piece on your plate; turn your chopsticks around to grab it if you’re using them.

– Some sushi bars have a small canal with thin springs of running water between you and the itamae or chef; use these to rinse your fingers.

– Never ask for a spoon to eat your soup; simply grab the bowl with one hand and dig the bits of tofu, seaweed, or mushrooms with your chopsticks as you bring it to your lips. It’s perfectly polite to slurp, specially if the soup is hot. Ignore the patrons glaring at you from the other side of the bar; chances are they haven’t read this HOWTO nor been to Japan.

– Never dip the sushi rice in soy sauce; turn your piece so that only the fish or whatever you have on it touches the sauce.

– Never dip in soy sauce something that already has a sauce or decoration on it, like unagi (fresh water eel served with some Teriyaki sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds). If it looks elaborate or has some sauce on it, ask the itamae or chef whether you should dip it.

– Always dip your sashimi or nigiri if they don’t appear to have anything on them.

– Your plate will have some gari, or pickled ginger, on it. Eat a little bit of it in between sushi pieces to clear your palate. Eating gobs of it, is bad form.

– Ask for some oshinko (various pickled roots like radish) if you don’t like pickled ginger.


Lastly, as an additional guide; there are 3 approaches to order at the sushi bar:

In reality, when a customer sits down at a sushi bar in Japan, he or she generally utters one of three words to begin: “okimari,” “okonomi,” or “omakase” (the latter is pronounced oh·mah·ka·say). The ordering will proceed differently depending on which of these three approaches the customer chooses. (Not all sushi chefs in the U.S. will be familiar with these terms, since many are not Japanese.)

1. The first option, “okimari” literally means “it’s been decided.” The customer uses this word to indicate that he has chosen to eat the shop’s standard “set meal,” a sushi sampler at a fixed price. The chef chooses the contents, and serves the sushi to the customer all at once.

2. The second option, “okonomi”, literally means “as I like it.” The customer uses this word to indicate that he knows what he wants. He asks the chef for different kinds of fish, one by one, as he eats. The order in which the customer requests different types of fish is not crucial, but most sushi connoisseurs begin with leaner, lighter-tasting fish and progress towards fish with stronger flavors and higher fat content. At most sushi bars, when the customer asks for an order of a given sushi topping, the chef makes two nigiri. Japanese customers seldom eat more than two nigiri topped with any given fish, before moving on to a different topping. For most Japanese, the point of sushi is to enjoy the variety. Okonomi customers who order only high-end items such as fatty tuna, sea urchin, and rare clams can, of course, expect their bill at the end of the evening to be higher than average.

3. The third option, “omakase” literally means “I leave it up to you.” This is an invitation to the chef to impress the customer with his finest ingredients, served in the order the chef believes will best highlight the flavors of the toppings. The chef may include other small dishes to augment the sushi. Generally, when a customer orders omakase, this indicates that he is not overly concerned about the price of the meal and is prepared to accept a certain level of expense.


With these information at hand, the ball is at your court now whether to practice them.

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