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Is it OK to put other food on top of your white rice when eating in Japan?

31 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Japan is a country that highly values tasty food and proper etiquette, and so of course table manners are important to this nation of polite foodies. Some things everyone agrees on, like not passing food from one set of chopsticks to another or using the utensils to point at things.

But then there are less cut-and-dry questions. Recently, a user posted a question to women’s interest internet portal Girls Channel, setting off a debate when she asked “Is it OK to put other food on top of the rice in your rice bowl before you take a bite?”

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Most Japanese meals are served with plain white rice in its own bowl (called an ochawan) and the non-rice items (called okazu) on separate dishes. While it’s OK to pick up the rice bowl in your hand, the other plates should stay on the table, as you use your chopsticks to pluck up the piece you’re about to eat.

While the woman puts her okazu directly into her mouth after picking it up, her husband usually sets his down on top of the rice in his bowl for a moment first, or, in her words, “bounces it on the rice” before eating it, sometimes simultaneously with some of the rice. “I don’t like doing this…even though the sauce drippings from meat sometimes make the rice look tasty,” she says.

Since the question of “bouncing” your food is one of those things that’s slipped through the cracks of Japan’s ordinarily well-defined rules of social conduct, the idea has both advocates and critics. Those who are against the practice left comments such as:

“Your rice isn’t a plate for the rest of your food. Eating that way is sloppy.”

“It makes the rice dirty.”

“I can’t stand it when people do that. It’s unforgivable.”

“If you want to taste the rice and okazu together, put the okazu in your mouth, then take a bite of rice. It’s really not that hard.”

“If you want to do that, just eat a donburi [pre-made rice bowl with toppings].”

“I don’t really care when a guy does it, but if a girl does it I can’t say I like it very much.”

On the other hand, the pro-bouncing crowd said:

“I end up doing this. I know it looks messy, but I just can’t help myself.”

“Putting a piece of yakiniku on your rice bowl, then eating it together with rice in the same bite, is just the BEST. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it.”

“Getting the rice all messy with sauces makes it taste better.”

“I hear people complain about this a lot, but what’s the big deal? I don’t do it, but I don’t care if other people do.”

“I’ve seen an actor bounce his okazu on his rice in a TV commercial.”

“I wouldn’t do it in a fancy restaurant, but in a casual place? Sure.”

As alluded to in the last comment, even though there’s no absolute rule against “bouncing” other foods on your white rice, it’s generally not seen as a particularly elegant eating style. In that sense, it’s sort of like using the moist towel restaurants in Japan give you when you sit down to wipe your face or neck: sort of slovenly, but a tempting minor faux pas that even some Japanese people can’t resist.

So while “bouncing” your food is something you’ll generally want to avoid if you’re trying to make a good impression on potential business partners, your significant other’s parents, and other people you’re trying to project an aura of suave sophistication towards, if you’re out at a casual place with your pals, a bounce or two isn’t going to wreck the atmosphere of the meal.

That said, it’s important to make sure you limit yourself to bouncing, as blatantly dunking or stabbing the morsel into your rice to spread the sauce around is going to make you look like a glutton at best, and a slob at worst. Also, directly pouring sauce onto your white rice, especially soy sauce, remains outside the bounds of acceptable table manners in Japan.

Sources: Girls Channel, Nico Nico News/Shirabee via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- This all-rice meal is the dream dinner for carb loading

-- Eat all of your rice! Culture connections with Japan’s favorite food

-- Japanese condiment company Kikkoman encourages Brits to desecrate white rice with tasty sauce

© SoraNews24

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
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@Strangetland

I, for one, usually get your jokes. And when you make your jokes, you often get thumbs down because your forget that

A) sarcasm is not easy to understand in written form

and

B) this is an international community, and some people just don't get sarcasm

Sorry to go off topic there...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don know what you're talking about.

———————————-

OK, let me be more explicit: I lived in Japan for more than 15 years, and shared countless meals with my Japanese family, friends and coworkers. The Japanese people put stuff on rice and eat it from the rice bowl all the time. Be it furikake, butter or soysauce+seaweed, natto or even a bit of miso. Or it could be another dish (meat or vegetables). Thousands of variations, really

You completely missed my joke.

As did a number of other people based on the thumbs down I got for it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Aside from whether it’s “ok” to put other food on the rice, it appears a great many readers either didn’t go beyond the headline, or completely misunderstood that the article is not talking about donburi or beef bowls types of dishes, nor furikake or other toppings.......

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Is it OK to put other food on top of your white rice when eating in Japan?"

Is this an actual question? Why would anyone think it's not OK to put other food on top of your rice?

Maria's answer is perfect:

"Why yes. Yes, it is."

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I don't care, it tastes much better if you do.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I mix my cabbage in. Pour a little of the miso soup in to help add some moisture. 

Old inaka style. A bit gauche in civilised society but charmingly rustic.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

“I don’t really care when a guy does it, but if a girl does it I can’t say I like it very much.”

What country and what decade is this person from?

As for the others, if you live looking at your polished, pearly white rice so much, keep your eyes aimed at your own bowl and let people enjoy their own food!

Do they find it offensive when they turn around and look in the bigger bowl and see all the processed food became brown and uniform?!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I don know what you're talking about.

OK, let me be more explicit: I lived in Japan for more than 15 years, and shared countless meals with my Japanese family, friends and coworkers. The Japanese people put stuff on rice and eat it from the rice bowl all the time. Be it furikake, butter or soysauce+seaweed, natto or even a bit of miso. Or it could be another dish (meat or vegetables). Thousands of variations, really...

If this would not be allowed in some Zen temple, that's another matter. Normal Japanese people do it all the time So, you don't know much about Japan yourself, probably never lived in the country, or if you did, probably have VERY little interaction with normal Japanese people yourself...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

As a Japanese....

Who really gives a heck what other people do as long as it’s not distasteful or rude.

Do what you want please. And to those outraged...go in peace.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I stab my food with my cutlery too, in the comfort of my own home, where I don't have to get dressed to eat; but in public I wouldn't want to upset anyone superstitious, or recently bereaved.

I'm not a complete monster, you know.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

One of my old Korean colleagues used to just stick his two chopsticks in his bowl of rice. But then again, he's a Christian!!!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Except for the one about not sticking your choppies into food upright, eat what you want, how you like, and enjoy your food, and your life.

When I'm alone, my hashi rest comfortably sticking straight up in the rice.

I'm a rebel, when nobody's looking.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Is it OK to put other food on top of your white rice when eating in Japan?

Yes because its MY white rice

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Yes, the Japanese themselves do it all the time...

I don know what you're talking about.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Yes, the Japanese themselves do it all the time...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

its my food, I paid for it and will eat it the way is most pleasing to me... if you dont like it.. dont look at me eating. ,did one of these "writers" actually wrote a page about it ? that is even more funny

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It's a different issue, but despite 25 years in Japan, I am still disgusted by people who put a huge mound of rice in a chawan, lift it to their mouth and shovel in big mouthfuls as fast as possible. Lots of anime and dorama show children characters doing this as if it is the sign of a healthy appetite. The same applies to speed eating, but I think it is a horrible way to eat food.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Oh god, can we just do what we want, instead of always trying to conform to what everyone else expects us to do?

Besides, don't we have DOMBURI in Japan? Or shall we just forget that exists?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I don't get that, there are recognised dishes served in restaurants with things like meat on top of rice.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yes, of course it matters. Next you’ll be crossing in the middle of the street, ignoring stop signs, and from there, a life of crime and disharmony is inevitable. Don’t take that first wrong step.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Who cares? Let people eat how they want. At the end of the day...does it REALLY matter? No, it doesn't.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

This kind of regimented "DON'T DO IT LIKE THAT, DO IT LIKE THIS!" nonsense is what can stop people enjoying their time in Japan. When you spend so much time worrying about putting a foot wrong, how can you enjoy yourself?

Except for the one about not sticking your choppies into food upright, eat what you want, how you like, and enjoy your food, and your life.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

That is actually the proper etiquette in eating a meal in Japan.

You pick up anything with your chopsticks that is more than one bite, then you place it in you rice bowl(Ochawan) and not return it to the original plate.

That way you are not showing bite marks on things you are chewing.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Tough luck 'cause I am doing it.

I mix my cabbage in. Pour a little of the miso soup in to help add some moisture. Of course the tsukemono is going in. Mix that all up. THEN I put the meat or agemono on top.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Um, one word. Donburi.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wasn't expecting to read that it was okay for a man to eat it one way, but not for a woman. Is that a generational thing?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Of course it is. White rice is the most boring food on the planet and putting other things on it make it taste better. Hence; curry and rice.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

My favorite is ikanago

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Yes it is. The end. Take your pick, shoyu, furikake, yukari, chicken, beef, eggs, any Donburi or Doria, etc etc.........

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Is it OK to put other food on top of your white rice when eating in Japan?

Why yes. Yes, it is.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

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