Photo: Pakutaso
food

Should you place miso soup on the right or the left?

23 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

When you travel around Japan, you’ll find there isn’t always one correct way of doing things. The differences between etiquette varies from region to region, and nowhere is that difference quite as stark as it is between the western city of Osaka and the eastern city of Tokyo.

The contrast between east and west, or Kanto and Kansai as these regions are known in Japan, is evident in things like onigiri rice balls, sushi, and even fast food, but now people are reeling over the revelation that it affects where your miso soup is placed too.

▼ When you order a set meal in the Kanto region in and around Tokyo, the miso soup is generally placed in front, and at the right.

Miso-Soup-Japan-how-to-eat-Japanese-food-etiquette-set-meal-right-left-Tokyo-Osaka-debate-difference-photos-.jpg

▼ A set meal in Osaka and its surrounding regions, however, will have the miso soup at the back, and to the left.

Miso-Soup-Japan-how-to-eat-Japanese-food-etiquette-set-meal-right-left-Tokyo-Osaka-debate-difference-photos-2.jpg

The differences in miso placement came to light during the TV program "Mizuno Maki no Mahou no Resutoran" (“Maki Mizuno’s Magic Restaurant“), which aired on March 2. According to the program, a recent survey of people in downtown areas showed that over 90 percent of respondents in Osaka place their miso soup at the back left, while over half of the respondents in Tokyo place theirs at the front right.

▼ The different positions shown during the segment, with Osaka on the left and Tokyo on the right.

Screen-Shot-2022-03-10-at-9.13.09.png

During the show, Fukushima-born actor Tomio Umezawa, who was a proponent of the Kanto style of miso placement, said he’d never seen or heard of miso soup being positioned behind the rice, saying: “It has to be placed on the right. That’s the rule.”

Fuminori Ujihara, from Osaka-based comedy duo Rozan, was quick to defend the style of his region, challenging Umezawa’s point-of-view with: “When I eat the main dish, my right hand gets hot. What about the steam from the miso soup?”

▼ Ujihara makes his point about the right hand issue during the show.

Screen-Shot-2022-03-10-at-9.14.06.png

Ujihara went on to say, in his humorous comedy style, “Do people in Tokyo eat cold miso soup? People in Tokyo are definitely spilling their miso soup.”

This point about the constant movements of the hand over the soup causing it to become cold and possibly spill, certainly struck a chord with a lot of people as the debate regarding where the miso soup should be placed soon spilled over from the TV show and out to social media.

Surprisingly, a large number of people who’d lived all their lives in Japan and frequently travelled between Tokyo and Osaka had never noticed the difference until now.

“The placement of miso is at the front in Kanto? Why have I never known this!”

“We always place the miso at the front right — I never thought there was another place for it!”

“I never noticed there was miso soup placement etiquette!”

“Now that I think about it, it’s more efficient to reach for the bowl with your left hand, without using chopsticks.”

“When it’s in the front, it always gets in the way and I worry about knocking it over.”

“If you consider rice and miso as staple dishes, then they should be at the front as they’re eaten first. Do you eat the main dish first in Kansai then?”

While there’s no definite answer as to why miso is placed on the right or left, the theory that it could be connected to the order in which dishes should be consumed does appear to hold some weight, especially as the sankaku tabe eating order method is considered to be the conscientious, polite way of eating.

So next time you order a set meal in Japan, take a look at where the miso bowl is placed and see how it affects your eating style. If you want to stay in everyone’s good books, you’ll want to keep it in the spot where it was placed when presented to you, but after a while you’ll probably find a preference for one style over the other, just as the TV guests did.

Whatever you do, though, don’t turn your bowl over after eating. That niche practice is one most chefs won’t appreciate.

Source: Sponichi Annex via Yahoo! News via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Miso soup could help protect against cancer, research suggests

-- This London ramen restaurant’s super-strange ramen shocks our Japanese taste-tester

-- Kansai and Kanto prove again that they are each distinct regions when it comes to food

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

23 Comments
Login to comment

If you're using chopstick by right hand, then miso soup on the left is easier to slurp by your left hand picking up the bowl.

Makes your meal time really the real meal time.

10 ( +16 / -6 )

Should you place miso soup on the right or the left?

seriously? articles like this are just plain silly

6 ( +23 / -17 )

I notice in the Kanto set version, the rice is basically in the center, but in the Osaka set one, the rice no longer occupies that spot.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Put it where you want.

Best advice! Last thing we need are more rules and restrictions in this already stifling society.

Nobody I've known or met has ever brought up this subject.

Me neither. I'm pretty sure most japanese I know would laugh and say what you said at first.

Who cares? Or perhaps the correct placing of the miso soup is about to be nominated for UNESCO World Heritage listing? That oh-so-unique Japanese culture.

Dude- DON'T give them ideas. You know someone MIGHT actually try to do that. It would not surprise me in the least.

0 ( +15 / -15 )

When travelling around I've also noticed dish settings change a little from place to place.

But for me, after being served, I will always change the setting to suit me.

I've been known on a number of occasions to turn the whole tray around. My wife used to say something, but long ago gave up.

The above photo of the Kanto setting with soup & rice up front and fish in the rear is an example of when I'd turn a tray around.

The rice is definitely 2ndary for me, with the soup somewhere between.

Pickles, Salad, Fish 1st - with little slurps of soup and some rice at the end if I feel like it.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

And if I want to bite into a whole apple as opposed to cutting the apple into slices first, then I'll do that.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

@Aly RustomToday

"Last thing we need are more rules and restrictions in this already stifling society."

And what about the West with all its rules about which cutlery to use with which dish?

3 ( +11 / -8 )

And what about the West with all its rules about which cutlery to use with which dish?

That may only be for the rich and fancy restaurants.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

And what about the West with all its rules about which cutlery to use with which dish?

Kitty, I would say the same thing to them as I say to the above article. Just plain silly.

That may only be for the rich and fancy restaurants.

Exactly. First World eccentricities

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

yes, we all have that freedom, but a restaurant will never serve a whole apple.

Who goes to a restaurant to eat an apple?

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Not only do I put the various dishes in whatever position I feel like at the time (it changes depending on the meal and my mood), I often stick my chopsticks in the rice and let them rest there, sticking straight up. Not in a restaurant with others around, of course, as I don't want to give anybody a heart attack, as it's apparently the absolute worst thing you can do at the table in Japan. But, I will do it at home or in a private dining space such as a ryokan or hotel room.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

They don't matter to me. I always rearrange things on the tray to suit the way I'm used to.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Should you place miso soup on the right or the left?

Just put it within reach and it will be appreciated and consumed.

Is the person eating is left or right handed? Should it matter?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Who cares? That much rice in one serving is worse for your health than where the soup is placed.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I’m right handed and always move the miso soup to the back left. I hate it in the front right

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Should you place miso soup on the right or the left?

seriously? articles like this are just plain silly

Not at all. This is how custom/etiquette spreads. These are social rules, not legal rules. I find stuff like this particularly interesting to understand customs and the way things differ. Sure, neither way really matters, and yet, it's socially intelligent to understand customs like this and respect them. The people who don't care, won't care, but those who do care, particularly care. So there's nothing lost in doing it, and much to be gained by doing it.

I approve of stories like this.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Not at all. This is how custom/etiquette spreads. These are social rules, not legal rules. I find stuff like this particularly interesting to understand customs and the way things differ. Sure, neither way really matters, and yet, it's socially intelligent to understand customs like this and respect them. The people who don't care, won't care, but those who do care, particularly care. So there's nothing lost in doing it, and much to be gained by doing it. 

Well I’ll have to disagree with you on that. I see this as more constraints and more pressure for us to conform to societal rules. I personally feel we have more than enough of those.

I approve of stories like this.

Like I said we’ll have to agree to disagree

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites