Manners in Japan: Stick to your territory

In our last trip to Tokyo, we went to our favorite sushi place in Shinjuku for a super late lunch. The ground floor where we’re usually seated was full, so Reza and I were led to the basement floor for the first time. Unlike the upper floors, the basement floor was almost empty.

We took the seats right in front of the counter and ordered our food.

At sushi restaurants in Tokyo, there’s usually a compartment beneath the tables for customer to store their bags. I usually stash my bag there… but this time, my bag was filled with so many things, it couldn’t fit into the small compartment.

Well, I have to put the bag somewhere right???

So I placed my bag on the seat beside me and placed whatever museum guides that I was also carrying on the table. Nobody was seated near us, so I thought it’s fine since I was not really bothering anyone.


This is where I was wrong.

Reza was giving me hints that I should remove the bag and brochures from the seat beside me… but I ignored him because I thought it was just him being uptight lol.

Once we’ve left, he started explaining to me that when eating in Japan, there are several unwritten rules of the society that you have to adhere to. One of them is that inside restaurants like this, you’re supposed to occupy only your seat and only your table, even when the restaurant is empty — there’s no such thing as using an empty or unutilized chair/table to put your things!

The Japanese, for example, would rely on the compartments provided to store their bags, but if there is not enough space, they’d put everything they carry on their laps instead of placing it on an empty seat beside them. They’re generally self-conscious when it comes to space and will only occupy spaces that are rightfully theirs.

He told me that the chefs noticed what I was doing (occupying a seat that wasn’t mine by placing my things on top of it) and discreetly disapproved. Since I was completely oblivious to the situation, I failed to notice -_-‘

Sigh so malu. Oh well, lesson learned!

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1 Comment

  • Avatar
    September 30, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    Oh good tips, thanks! But Reza is so nice. Em would just tell me that I can’t do that, no hints. Haha.

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