Seating Arrangements for the Perfect Dining Etiquette in Japan
Written by Suzan Adem
Seating arrangements are important and symbolic in Japan. Where you sit matters, especially if you're at a traditional Japanese dining event. Being invited to someone's home is an honor in Japanese culture, even if you're meeting someone's parents or just having a family dinner.
Traditional Japanese dining at home, and even in some restaurants, occurs at a low, square or rectangular table set upon a tatami mat, with diners kneeling/sitting upon cushions or directly on the mat.
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You may be sitting in a seiza position (on your heels with your legs tucked underneath you). This can be a bit uncomfortable, so you can sit cross-legged (if male), or with your legs tucked on one side (if female), but that's only if your host suggests “you get comfortable.” Don't stretch your legs directly out in front of you and keep both of your hands placed on their corresponding thighs.
Seating arrangements are also very important in Japanese culture: The guest-of-honor is seated upon the “kamiza,” the seat of honor which is typically situated farthest from the entrance. The middle of the table is the most honored position, and the second most important person is seated next. When there is a tokonoma (alcove) in the room, the guest-of-honor is seated in front of it. The host or lowest-ranking guest is seated closest to the shimoza (entrance).
The meal begins with everyone saying itidakimasu (I gratefully receive) then follow the lead of your host, only drinking and eating once they have already done so themselves.
About the author: Hello, my name is Suzan, 20 years old student in Sofia University, Bulgaria. My major is Japan, so as can you guess I’m now studying about their rich and beautiful culture and language as well. That is why I find great pleasure doing these articles as it gives me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and it’s easy doing something you love.