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japanese cuisine

We’ve Been Eating Sushi Wrong! Here’s How to Eat Sushi, Correctly

Unless you have visited Japan and seen how the Japanese people eat their sushi there is a very high chance that you are eating sushi incorrectly. We share some top tips are not ticking out like a sore thumb when you visit a sushi restaurant.

How to eat the sushi condiments

Soy Sauce and Wasabi

Who mixes the wasabi in the pot of soy sauce? I know I do. This is a very western thing to do and should not be done in a fine dining restaurant in Japan or even a casual restaurant. Both of these items are to be enjoyed separately. Japanese cuisine is all about clean flavours, so they don’t need to be mixed.


Along with soy sauce and wasabi, ginger is also served with your sushi. The purpose of the ginger is to cleanse the palate. Nothing more and nothing less. If you are eating the ginger with the sushi or mixed with the soy sauce this is viewed as disrespectful in Japanese culture.

Instead, you should be taking a small piece to eat after each course, in order to prepare your mouth to enjoy the next round of flavours.

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How to eat Nigiri and Sashimi

Ok, down to the nitty gritty, the actual pieces of sushi.

First up, is Nigiri, this is the sushi whereby a slice of fish sits on top of a bed of rice.

  • Firmly pick up the sushi, on its sides, with your chopsticks.
  • Only dip the fish into the soy sauce.
  • Put the sushi straight into your mouth from the soy sauce dish. Don’t give it a shake to remove excess sauce.
  • Remember to only place the fish onto your tongue, not the rice or half and half. The fish to the best part and should be treated with respect. Think of the rice as a support act, not the headliner.

Follow these steps to correctly eat Sashimi, which is a block of fish.

  • Firstly, place a small blob of wasabi straight on to the fish.
  • Then, using your chopsticks roll the sashimi on its side and pick it up.
  • Dip the non-wasabi side of the fish into the soy sauce. Remember not to shake excess sauce off.
  • Finally, chew and swallow!


How to use Chopsticks

Japanese culture doesn’t use a knife and fork to eat their meals. Instead they use what we call chopsticks. In Japan they are known as ‘hashi’ (箸).

If you’re not sure how to hold them, check out this informative video from For Us Foodies and practice with this gorgeous luxury set of chopsticks.

Alternatively, don’t even use them. The traditional forms of sushi are simply, fish and rice, for example nigiri and sashimi, and not infusion food, which includes fancy toppings or sauces. Therefore, eating with your hands is not a problem, in fact this is how many Japanese people eat.

We love chopsticks because they are bio-degradable and therefore good for the planet. If you are looking for eco travel advice. Check out our growing ECO series, which started with ‘How to be an ECO Traveller.’ 

japanese cuisine

5 Big No No’s when using Chopsticks

Like all cultures there are the correct and wrong ways to eat and use the native utensils. When you use chopsticks incorrectly, your actions can be interpreted rather negatively, ranging from plain rudeness to insulting your ancestors. Here are 5 things to avoid doing when using chopsticks, so that you don’t cause offense:

  1. Never cross your chopsticks. Keep that parallel and together.
  2. Don’t use them to move the food around the plate or to inspect the food. Once you know which piece of sushi you want to eat, use the chopsticks to pick it up, dip and eat. Be decisive when using chopsticks.
  3. Never point with chopsticks, not only is this rude but it’s considered to be quite aggressive, like swearing at someone.
  4. Don’t drop your chopsticks on the floor. This is an obvious one because it unhygienic and you’ll need a new set. But it is also deemed to be something that will hurt your ancestors.
  5. When placing chopsticks onto the table, they should be laid horizontally. For example, if you are sat at a sushi bar, place the chopsticks parallel to the bar. Chopsticks will always be placed on the table correctly, when you first sit down at the table, so just follow this positioning.

Remember to avoid these actions when travelling around Asia or to try and impress your partners Asian family. If you have more ‘Big No No’s’ please share them in the comments section below.

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