Drink Miso Soup straight out of the bowl
Often served as the very first dish in a Japanese dinner, miso soup is a delicious drink made with dissolved fermented soybean paste and extra ingredients such as seaweed and tiny pieces of tofu.
While it may be tempting to use a spoon to consume miso soup, it is better to drink it straight out of the bowl. Use your chopsticks to fish out and eat the solid pieces.
Wasabi may not actually be Wasabi
Real wasabi comes from a plant called wasabia japonica. It is not a cheap condiment so most restaurants rely on their own cost effective mixtures that avoid using the plant. Look for ingredients such as mustard and food dye to take the place of authentic wasabi recipes.
Do not dip Sushi Rice in Soy Sauce
When dipping your sushi in soy sauce, it is important to be gentle and not let the soy sauce overpower the flavors of the sushi.
You should also avoid dipping sushi rice into the soy sauce as the rice should retain its perfect sticky texture. Instead, use other bits of the sushi to dip. An important thing to remember here is to not have pieces of rice left soaked in your little soy sauce bowl. There should really only be soy sauce in there, and ideally it should be nearly empty when you have finished your meal.
Infrequent use of garlic, chili, peppers, and oil
Many foods are seared, boiled or eaten raw and minimally seasoned. Umami (a rich flavor profile characteristic of Japanese food) is enhanced by using just a few ingredients including miso, soy sauce, mushrooms, seaweed, bonito flakes, and bonito broth. When foods are fried (like tempura) the batter is thin and absorbs very little oil.
Sashimi is not just Fish
Some people may think of this dish as just seafood, but sashimi can actually refer to beef cuts as well as fish. Keep in mind that any beef will still be served uncooked, if that is not your thing.
It is rude to leave a messy plate
Another etiquette rule that surprised you is that you are not supposed to leave your plates covered with a pile of crumpled up napkins and garbage.
Simplicity is Key
Japanese courses often consist of only a few items that are mostly fresh and full of flavors. Choosing high quality ingredients is therefore a crucial part of the cooking process.
Japanese chefs are able to employ simple cooking techniques to highlight the natural colors and flavors of the ingredients they are using. It is amazing how they can serve the most delicious meals using simple core ingredients such as rice, fish, seaweed and noodles.