Explore Japan on foot
Discover the rich culture of Japan
During your tour with Rediscover Tours you may be staying at a Japanese house and/or a ‘ryokan’ (Japanese inn). When entering a house or ryokan, you may be asked to take off your shoes in the genkan (entrance). Either leave them on the floor facing out or put them in the shoe box or shoe shelf. After you take care of your shoes, change into a pair of house slippers. It is customary to wear these slippers throughout the building. The only time you should take them off is when you enter a tatami mat room, bathroom or restroom. On tatami mats please wear your socks or your bare feet. In the restroom, change into the restroom slippers which you will find when you open the restroom door. Please do not forget to change back into your house slippers when you leave the restroom.
Many Japanese homes and ryokans have tatami mat rooms. In the tatami mat room there is usually a low table used for dining. In some homes and ryokans low-lying chairs are provided for guests to sit around the table. However, if no chairs are available then zabuton or cushions are provided. When sitting on a zabuton, the formal way of sitting is called seiza, a kneeling style of sitting which can be very difficult for Westerners (your legs may turn numb very quickly!). An alternative for men is to sit cross-legged and many women sit on their knees with both legs lying to one side. The sitting rules are not strict however and you can sit any way you feel is most comfortable.
It is popular for everyone to share food from common dishes when dining together. Dining is an important part of socialization in Japan and sharing food is a way to break down the barriers and bring people closer together. Use the opposite end of your chopsticks to transfer food from the shared dishes to your plate. Alternatively, serving spoons or chopsticks may be provided.
Here are some basic table manners to remember: