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Inviting Japanese To Dinner Is Fun

By: Mike Liem

Date Posted: 2000-07-14

So youíve become quite close with your Japanese acquaintances, and you want to invite them over to your place for dinner. Thatís great. But how do you go about hosting Japanese guests at your home?

I have Japanese friends and their family over for dinner on a somewhat regular basis, and I can assure you that such occasions are not only fun and enjoyable, but theyíre also relatively stress-free in terms of preparation and other considerations. If youíre planning to have Japanese guests over at your home for dinner, thereís no need to fret endlessly. The following compilation of doís and donítís should serve your efforts well.

Donít wear your shoes in the house while your guests are present. Even if you and your family donít take your shoes off inside the home, give your guests the impression that you do by arranging your footwear inside the doorway as is typical in a Japanese home. Taking your shoes off before entering a residence is a display of respect as well as civility. And, at any rate, your guests will take their shoes off whether or not you wish them to.

Donít serve Japanese food. Your guests will look forward to partake of a meal thatís representative of their hostsí homeland. More than anything, theyíll want something other than what they normally eat at home every day. Think about it; how would you feel if you were invited to a Japanese familyís home for dinner and they served you meatloaf?

Donít serve Japanese liquor, such as sake or awamori.

Donít set out chopsticks if youíre going to serve western food. The Japanese are very mindful of certain dining etiquette, especially in deference to the kind of food they are eating. As an example, while the Japanese use chopsticks to eat yakisoba or other types of noodles, they would never think of picking up spaghetti from their plate with chopsticks. For that they use a fork.

Do invite your Japanese guests for barbecues. In Japan, yakiniku (grilled meat) is an expensive commodity. As such, a Japanese yakiniku barbecue is usually an informal gathering reserved for close friends and family. Getting invited to a barbecue is a big deal in Japan.

Do serve plenty of meat. Red meat is not often served in the Japanese home and therefore considered a real treat. Plan for a bit more meat per person than what youíd normally apportion. I once cooked a huge beef roast for six guests, thinking I would have plenty of leftover for the next couple of daysí meals. As it turned out, not only did my guests polish off the meat, I got the impression they were wishing I had cooked a bigger roast!

Do serve potatoes either with rice or in place of the same. The potato, like red meat, is a rare treat for the Japanese. Whether you mash, french-fry, or however you fix Ďem, potatoes will be a hit at the dinner table.

Do have plenty of green tea on hand. Green tea, or ocha, is a perennial favorite of the Japanese, much in the same way soda is with Americans. You canít go wrong with serving green tea, and your guests, be they young or old, will appreciate this.

Expect your guests to arrive early, and expect them to show up at the door bearing food. Most likely, they will bring a dish or dessert, in which case the proper reciprocation is to serve this along with what youíve already prepared for the guests.

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