Some Western culinary influences in Japan, including Portugal (tempura) and the Americas (teppanyaki), have been so integrated into Japanese cooking, it is difficult to differentiate them from more traditional Japanese cuisine like sushi and kaiseki. Standard Japanese meals usually include rice, soup, pickles and an entree, like fish or vegetables.
In cozy and friendly Japanese-style bars, customers often pour drinks for each other from bottles of beer as a gesture of companionship. If you are a fellow beer drinker, reciprocate with your own bottle. A whiskey drinker may invite you to drink from his bottle and fix a drink for you. In this case, you need not reciprocate unless you have your own bottle. (Many of these bars have a "bottle-keep" system for regular patrons who buy a bottle from time to time as it is less expensive than paying for single drinks over the long run.)
If with a group, do not begin to drink until everyone is served. Glasses are raised in the traditional salute as everyone shouts "Kampai!" (Cheers!)
If you drink sake, and someone offers a drink from his carafe, drink what remains in your cup before holding it out. In this case, too, reciprocate. But don't let it get out of hand. Pouring sake for each other at high speed can get you drunk much faster than you might imagine.
Excessive drinking is frowned on. But it happens. Rely on the bartender if someone close to you gets too boisterous.
Japanese students have three years of English-language studies in middle (junior-high) school. Many go on to become good or even fluent English conversationalists. You are likely to come across them in bars that cater to business people who work at general trading houses or other companies with international business dealings. Even small talk in broken English, with the aid of body language, can make the evening all the more enjoyable. Don't hesitate to jump in.
from Kate's Global Kitchen:
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This page modified January 2007
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