Japanese dining etiquette governs the expectations of social behavior in the country and is considered very important. Meals in Japan traditionally begin with the phrase itadakimasu (いただきます) (literally, "I humbly receive"). The phrase is similar to "bon appétit", or saying grace to give thanks before a meal. It is said to express gratitude for all who played a role in preparing, cultivating, ranching or hunting the food. This also acknowledges that living organisms have given their life to human beings as Dāna.Upon finishing a meal, the Japanese also use the polite phrase Gochisōsama-deshita (ごちそうさまでした) (lit. You were a Feast (preparer)). Sama is the honorific word which gives respect to the person, therefore, this phrase gives respect for making the meal. It is considered polite to clear one's plate, down to the very last grain of rice; children are especially encouraged to do so – see also mottainai as Buddhist philosophy. It is also considered impolite to pick out certain ingredients and leave the rest.
It is acceptable to lift soup and rice bowls to the mouth so that one does not spill food. Miso soup is drunk directly from the (small) bowl, rather than with a spoon, though larger soups may come with a spoon.
Rice is generally eaten plain or sometimes with nori (dried-pressed seaweed) – shredded or in strips – or furikake (type of seasoning). One may also add more substantial food such as a raw egg (yielding tamago kake gohan – "egg on rice"), nattō (fermented soy beans) – these are often added and stirred in to rice at breakfast – or tsukemono (preserved vegetables). There are also, less commonly, dishes featuring rice with ingredients mixed in, either during the cooking (takikomi gohan, "cooked in rice") or after the rice has been cooked (maze gohan, 混ぜご飯, "mixed rice").
Pouring soy sauce onto plain white rice is not a Japanese custom, nor is it common to pour soy sauce directly over sashimi or sushi. Instead, soy sauce is poured into a small dish that is provided, and the food dipped into the sauce.
Sushi etiquette dictates that when eating nigiri-zushi, one should dip the sushi topping-side down into the soy sauce to prevent the rice from soaking up too much sauce; leaving stray grains of rice floating in the sauce is considered uncouth, but can be hard to avoid for those who have difficulty with chopsticks. In sushi-only restaurants, it is acceptable to use fingers instead of chopsticks to eat the nigiri-zushi.
Chopsticks taper toward the bottom; the thicker top part, which will be snapped apart, may have small splinters. One should avoid using the thick end to pick up food. After using one's chop sticks to eat, the back side may be used to take servings from the tray to avoid 'contaminating' what is left on the tray. Also, one should never rub one's chopsticks together--this is considered unsophisticated (akin to playing with utensils, in a western restaurant), especially when one is seated at a sushi bar.
In Japanese restaurants, customers are given a rolled hand towel called oshibori.