The Rules of Sushi

August 28th, 2012By Category: Food & Dining

Like most things in Japanese life there are precise codes and formalities involved with eating the national dish of sushi. Its preparation, presentation and consumption are subject to a surprising number of rules.

Here are some of the most important sushi etiquette.


To mix or not to mix? The correct technique is to place a small amount of wasabi on each piece of sushi with your chopstick before eating. These days it is quite common for people outside of Japan to mix their wasabi in soy sauce as a dipping sauce for the sushi. I tend to do this myself and although not technically correct, it is acceptable.


What is the correct way to dip sushi into soy sauce? The rice part of the sushi should not touch the soy sauce as it has already been flavoured and will tend to fall apart easily in the sauce. Only the fish, seafood or other part of the sushi should touch the sauce.

How many bites?

Sushi is meant to be eaten in one bite. It is considered rude to bite it in two. If the sushi is too big, ask the chef to cut it in half. They will not be offended and are happy to oblige.

Fingers or Chopsticks?

Sushi was traditionally eaten only by hand. These days most people eat sushi with chopsticks. How can I tell which to use? If you visit a restaurant where you are given a specific hand towel to wipe your fingers then the restaurant is recommending that you eat using your hands.

Where to Start?

Yes, believe it or not there is a correct order in which to eat sushi. Start first with the most delicately flavoured fish and gradually proceed to stronger flavours or fattier fish such as tuna or eel, and finish with the sweet egg sushi.

Why is there ginger?

The beautiful pink ginger is meant to be eaten between mouthfuls of sushi to refresh the palate, so it’s ready for a new flavour and to aid in digestion.

The 3 Golden Rules

Don’t forget these 3 keys rules: don’t stick your chopsticks upright in the rice; don’t cut a piece of sushi in half with your chopsticks; and don’t mix wasabi in your soy sauce.

These are formal rules of etiquette and while correct as long as you enjoy your sushi that is fine with me.

Author of this article

John Asano

John Asano is a blogger, web developer and freelance writer living in Gifu, Japan. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, he writes about the must see sights and attractions in Japan at Japan Travel Advice, as well as about Japanese culture and events on his blog Japan Australia.

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