Sushi Restaurant Basics

Are you a newcomer to the sushi dining experience? Here we offer some basic information about how to find a sushi restaurant, what you will encounter inside, how to order, and more.

Finding a Sushi Restaurant

Look for a sign or curtain (noren) that says "sushi" in Japanese. Or look for the "SUSHI RESTAURANT" sticker. There are at least three different ways to write sushi in Japanese —"すし", "寿司" and "鮨"—so keep your eyes open.


Types of Seating

If you sit at the sushi bar, you will be able to watch the sushi chefs prepare the food, and you can view the varieties of fish and other ingredients lined up in the glass cases in front of you. If you prefer a more private and relaxing experience, you can sit on tatami mats at a Japanese-style table. Your host will guide you according to your wishes and the number in your party. You may want to state your preference in advance when making a reservation.


After wiping your hands with your oshibori, you are ready to order. Sushi usually comes with a dab of wasabi (spicy Japanese horseradish), so if you'd prefer it without the wasabi, be sure to say so when ordering. If there's anything else you specifically don't want to eat, feel free to say so. The usual way to proceed is to order a small portion, finish it, and then order some more.

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    This is a wet towel that may be hot or cold which is used for wiping your hands and face. You may wish to use it repeatedly if you are eating your sushi with your fingers.

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    Shoyu sashi (Soy-sauce jar)

    Pour some soy sauce from the jar into your little soy-sauce dish, and then dip the sushi into the dish before eating it. Pour out only a small amount, and then add more when you run out.

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    Shoyu zara (Soy-sauce dish)

    This small dish, about 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter, is used for holding your soy sauce. Pour in a small amount of sauce form the soy-sauce jar, and then dip pieces as desired before eating. Note that not all sushi pieces require soy sauce; a few types come with their own special sauce, others may use salt, and still others should be eaten with no additional flavorings.

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    Agari or Ocha (Tea)

    This powdered green tea, which is served hot, has a subtle aroma that does not overwhelm the delicate taste of the sushi. It refreshes the tongue and brings out residual flavors.

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    Hashi (Chopsticks)

    Some shops provide disposable chopsticks known as waribashi which come fused together and are broken apart before being used. Feel free to eat sushi with your hands, however; it's a true finger food.

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    These are small wooden trays on which sushi pieces are served. Not all shops use these; some set the sushi on leaves or on plates.

From a Menu

Many restaurants will provide a menu, posters, or other type of display so that you can easily see what's available and how much it costs. Menus will often include fixed courses or combinations, with names indicating their content or ranking (such as 特上 [tokujō, or extra special], 上 [jō, special], and 並 [nami, regular]).

By the Piece

Proceed at your own pace, and satisfy your curiosity. Prices are often posted on the wall, but feel free to ask if you are uncertain. A frequent approach is to order a fixed combination and then order additional pieces one by one.

Chef's Choice

If you want to get a balanced assortment of the day's best offerings, you can leave the selection up to the sushi chef. If you're concerned about pricing or if there are some types of fish you really don't want included, feel free to speak up before ordering.


It is a Japanese custom to say itadakimasu ("I am about to receive") just before you start eating. Sushi tastes best when it's freshly made very, so eat it quickly when it comes—don't let it sit out too long. And when you have finished your meal, it is customary to say gochisōsama ("that was a good meal").

Using Chopsticks

Turn the sushi piece on its side and grasp it gently but firmly so that the fish doesn't fall off the rice. Dip the fish side into the soy sauce, and then lift it to your mouth and eat it.

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    Hold the lower chopstick stationary, and move the upper chopstick to grasp and release your food.

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    Turn the piece and its side, and gently lift with the chopsticks.

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    Dip the fish side into the soy sauce, and then eat it.

Using Your Hands

It is perfectly acceptable to eat sushi with your fingers. If you are not good with chopsticks, or if you simply prefer to not use them, feel free to eat with your hands.

  • Nigiri ("molded" sushi)

    As with chopsticks, turn the piece on its side, dip the fish side into the soy sauce, and eat it.

  • Gunkanmaki ("Battleship roll")

    When eating a gunkanmaki (battleship roll), hold it upright so that the topping doesn't fall off, dip the bottom side into the soy sauce, and eat it.

Paying the Check

When you have finished your meal, drink some tea to refresh your mouth. Then tell the sushi chef or a waiter that you would like the check (Okaikei wo onegai shimasu.) They will bring it to you, and then you can take it to the register to pay.

Visit us, Thank you very much.


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