Is It Rude Not To Finish Your Food In Japan?

is it rude not to finish your food in japan

Japan is extremely well-known for its famous food and dishes. From Sushi, Ramen, Kaiseki, Shabu-shabu and so much more; Japan has one of the most well-renowned culinary reputations in the world! With an estimated number of over 140,000 restaurants in Tokyo alone, there is no doubt that the food will play a big part in anyone’s experience in the country! However, there are some things to know when eating at restaurants in a new country. For example, what do you do when you just simply cannot eat anymore?

This leads to the question, is it rude to not finish your food in Japan? Leaving food on your plate can be found rude in restaurants; especially buffets. This is because you are in control of how much is on your plate, wasting this food can be seen as disrespectful. Restaurants that provide larger dishes without the request of the customer to do so are usually more lenient on people leaving food left-over.

Despite the fact that leaving food on your plate can be seen as rude in most restaurants in Japan, there are some exceptions. In this article, I have provided everything you need to know to ensure that your dining experience does not conclude in you coming across as rude to the staff! is a participant in the Hotellooks affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Is It Rude To Not Finish Your Food In Tokyo?

Restaurants that provide set course meals, can become offended if you do not finish your food. This is because it can be seen as a waste, which the Japanese hate! However, sometimes leaving food is more than acceptable, you just need to know when…

When eating at a restaurant that provides set-course meals, there are certain things to take into account when leaving food on your plate. If you have eaten everything but have left rice on your plate, this can be seen as offensive. This is due to the staff thinking you are being picky with what you eat, and they may even think that their rice was not prepared to standard.

When eating at a restaurant that provides a buffet or all-you-can-eat services, leaving food on a plate can be frowned upon pretty much all of the time. This is because you are in control of how much food goes on your plate. Unlike restaurants providing set-course meals, there is no set portion size, so leaving food is simply only a consequence of someone misjudging their appetite! Therefore, leaving food at a buffet restaurant is simply seen as rude and a complete waste of food.

So, there are the common judgments and etiquette of leaving food on your plate at both kinds of restaurants within Japan. However, there is a common occurring belief that runs within Japan and the city of Tokyo, that affects these judgements more than what you may think

This is called Mottainai.

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What Is Mottainai & How Does It Affect Dining Etiquette In Japan? 

Mottainai in English can somewhat be translated to “What A Waste! This saying and belief is the feeling of regret that comes to someone once something is wasted for almost no reason at all.

This belief runs heavy within Japan and Tokyo especially. At high-end restaurants in Tokyo, you may have wondered why the portion sizes are so small, right? Well, the reason is Mottainai.

The effect that Mottainai had on dining etiquette within Japan should be fairly apparent by now. To put it simply, the Japanese have very strong beliefs that food or resources should not be wasted by any means necessary. This means that certain actions and precautions are taken every single day to ensure that each and every person is doing their part to help preserve these precious things. 

It is so normal in Japan, that people do not realise they are even doing it, it is just natural for them. 

What To Do If You Are Full & Have Leftover Food On Your Plate

For those of you readers who are from the UK or USA, this question may come across as slightly strange. After all, when we are full at a restaurant we just ask for the bill, pay what is owed and then simply leave. It is not quite the same in Japan.

If you are full after eating a meal in Tokyo, there are a few things you want to consider before asking for the bill, to avoid coming across as rude or disrespectful. Let’s take a look at each of these in slightly more detail.

Eat Your Rice!

Rice in Japan is extremely popular. It is used in thousands of different unique and traditional dishes, which people love. What may seem simple and actually quite boring to us foreigners, is extremely important for the taste palette to the people of Tokyo and Japan as a whole.

From famous dishes such as Sushi, Kamameshi, Omurice, Donburi and so much more; there is so much need and demand for rice in the country. The plainness of the rice actually compliments so many of the traditional dishes, due to the saltiness that is usually found within the other components of the meals.

Don’t Overload Your Plate At A Buffet

Over-filling your plate at a buffet or all-you-can-eat restaurant is pretty normal in the UK or USA. In fact, it’s the fun of going to a buffet, to put as much on your plate to see if you can eat it all! 

Well, you might want to rethink doing this when in Japan. If you can’t eat all of that food that you have just dumped on your plate, you are definitely going to come across as someone who definitely doesn’t respect Mottainai and possibly is even rude. I’m sure you don’t want that, so for your and the staffs benefit, don’t go crazy with the portions. Pace yourself plate by plate and eat only what you feel you need!

If You Really Cannot Eat Anymore, Apologise & Reassure

For those of you who are currently sitting in a restaurant with a full tummy and the previous tips are no longer applicable to you, don’t worry. You are a tourist at the end of the day, and the staff know this. Tokyo itself receives around 14 million tourists each and every year. The Japanese people know by now that not all of their beliefs and rules will be successfully translated all of the time. 

All you have to do if you are full is simply apologise and reassure them. By this, I simply mean apologise for not being able to finish your food and tell them how nice their food was and that you really enjoyed it. You can do this very casually when asking for the bill or telling the staff that you are all finished with your meal. It’s as easy as that really! Of course, if you didn’t actually enjoy your meal and want to complain, this is a whole different matter and situation. 

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