Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sushi Tips – How to Eat Sushi (or Expected Etiquette)

This article has been moved to the How to Eat Sushi - sushi etiquette page on The Sushi FAQ. Please follow the aforementioned link to an expanded version of this article.

In short, though, the proper etiquette of sushi is simply to be polite and not eat like an animal (even though yes, we are actually animals). Simple table manners are enough to be following proper sushi etiquette, as many have pointed out. The purpose of this article, however, is to offer the reader a comprehensive guide to "traditional" sushi etiquette, much of which may be outdated in these modern times, or culturally not necessary in Western countries. Keep in mind that while sushi actually originated in China as merely a method of storing fish for later consumption, the art and excitement of what we now call sushi came from centuries of cultural evolution in Japan. What may seem odd to Westerners may not seem odd at all to someone from Japan as our customs are different. Also, what may have made sense 200 years ago, may not have the same meaning today.

Please feel free to read the article on but do keep in mind that this is not meant to be "how you better eat sushi the next time you go out to a restaurant." It is merely an interesting article that some may find of interest that explains some of the traditions and rules of etiquette that have been part of the ritual of sushi over the centuries in a world far remove from ours, and even removed from modern Japan.

For those of you interested in making sushi at home, I would recommend checking out for all the sushi grade fish you could ever want.


Thomas Hawk said...

I like it.

I'm bummed though. I really like ginger on my sushi and I love extra wasabi in my soy sauce.

war3rd said...

Then do it! :)
Ultimately I think that it is most important to enjoy your meal above all else. I just made this post as a reference or item of interest more than saying "you have to do it this way." Plus, westerners have a tendancy to do things their own way anyway, so as long as you are not in a traditional sushi-ya in Tokyo, be yourself...

The sushi guy

Hufse said...

Learned a lot here. thanks for a good post.

Steve B said...

Great Post, definitely digging this. Also your is great. My g/f just got me a sushi set for valentines day and I have been looking for some new rolls.


tc said...

Also, don't ask somebody a question just after they stuffed a giant futomaki piece in their mouth. You won't get an answer right away. If you do get an immediate answer, it will come with a shower of saliva-wet rice.

Doug McCaughan said...

Nice job! Early in my sushi experience a itamae taught me to eat with my hands and explained that chop sticks for sushi was American thing. Sashimi the exception as you pointed out.

Later I was on a business meal with some Koreans and they were stunned that I wasn't using chopsticks and insisted that sushi should be eatten with chop sticks. They could also do some amazing drumming and tricks with their sticks!

Nick said...

Doug - I find it difficult to imagine Koreans drumming with their chopsticks. Perhaps they were young and poorly behaved Korean-American yootes?

war3ed, I was pleased to see that I was following most of your guidance already. My dilemma was always with tipping. Your solution of splitting the tip seems to make sense. However I spend about $50 on a big meal at my local sushi restaurant and tip out $10. I might feel a bit cheap dropping a $5 in the jar and $5 on the bill. The waitress might not see me tip the itamae and the itamae might not see my bill! Am I putting too much pressure on myself?

war3rd said...

My opinion? I think so. I think that they expect that at a decent sushi-ya, so you may be over thinking it. I always tip the itamae, and I assume that the waitstaff knows sees the tip jar for the itamae, and therefore assumes you have done so. If there is no tip jar and they don't make it easy (since you shouldn't hand him money directly) you can always ask how to tip the itamae for his efforts. I think it shows respect, and if the staff doesn't, then they probably have other issues :)
Tipping is always a difficult balance, even at western restaurants (at least I tip based on service and attitude), so this just gives us one more thing to think about I guess...

The sushi guy

Melissa CookingDiva said...

Thank you for sharing these info.!

slightlyblue said...

Hi, I'm a Japanese, and also for me, these were interesting.

Well, I have to say that, I've never seen a tip jar, nor somebody tipping the itamae or the waitress, in Japan.

And after the meal I think the most pleased words for the itamaes are "oishikatta desu" which means "it was delicious".
Please try to use it, if you liked it.

Enjoy sushi.

war3rd said...

Domo arigato, Slightlyblue. I appreciate your comments. I am always interested in other people's insight and have modified my entry to reflect your suggestion. I write mostly for westerners and am happy that you found this interesting. Feel free to clarify anything else that I may be mistaken about or if you feel there may be something I have missed. I would really like to make this a more comprehensive list for reference purposes.
Thanks again!

The sushi guy

Angel said...

Hey Warren,

Fantastic site you've got there!!!

The sushi tips are really helpful and seriously an eye opener to me. Me and a few of my other fishing friends (including my fiance) are all-out sashimi fanatics. We will sashimi the fish we caught right on the spot if given the chance. and yea! Fresh caught fish, served sashimi style is heavenly...

Looking forward to your next posting!!


chickpea said...

Thanks for the great post. I wonder what your opinion is on my dilemma .. what about take-out orders (in the US)? When I go to my local sushi restaurant, I almost always just ask for take-out. While I am waiting, a waitress often serves me tea (without my asking). Do I tip her? How much? Do I tip the itamae?

war3rd said...

Personally, I don't. But since I'm a regular at a few places they know me and I tip well generally, so it balances out. I actually don't tip anywhere for takeout (and I live in the States), though as I don't see it as necessary. And a cup of tea is not really an expense for them, so I wouldn't worry about it. Just be friendly and appreciative when you return.

the sushi guy.

Dressner said...

Many people who prepare and serve takeout orders do work for tips, myself included.

I work at Outback Steakhouse and I make $2.13 an hour, by far most of my income is from tips. Those that don't know to tip are frustrating, but I can understand why they wouldn't think to do it.

If in doubt please ask your server if they work for tips. And tipping based on service still applies, if they threw your food at you and didn't show any courtesy then tip accordingly.

Red A said...

Taiwanese customarily put the wasabi in the soy sauce and eat the ginger with the sushi.

It works for me.

cowboy bebop said...

One thing I find in "Western" Sushi bars which I have never run into in Japan, is the practice of wearing perfume or heavy doses of aftershave at the bar.
The whole experience is ruined, and the Subtelty of the flavors can be destroyed.