Student blog post #5 Learning about Japanese sake and Japanese shoe etiquette 

We have all arrived safely in Kyoto this afternoon. We’ll have more about our travel experience in the blog but in the meantime we have a blog post from Will Sutton and one from Mario Ornelas. 

The Search for Sake

My name is Will.  I’m over 21 and did my senior capstone project on the Vermont beer industry, so I thought it was only natural to continue my study of alcohol in Japan. I started out with sake, which is made from fermented rice and has been around for 2,500 years. I went into two different restaurants and asked the waiters if they had sake which they said they did but in reality they didn’t. I felt bad and even tipped them 100 yen. We have learned that the Japanese have a tradition to try to never say “no” to anything and this was a perfect example of that. Finally at the third restaurant the waitress said “yes” and pointed to a section of the menu that was in Japanese but was motioning that you had to order a lot. I decided to order anyway and it turned out that she was trying to tell me that the sake came with food so I got an appetizer dish that consisted of a plum, seaweed and snails. The sake was served in a tall skinny wine glass and the plum was very good. After I asked for the check she seemed disappointed so I used google translate to tell her that I was a vegetarian and she and the cooks seemed to get a kick out of this and then apologized. I then proceeded to have the best conversation I have had as I told her about where I was from, what I was doing in Japan and where we would be going next. It was great to have such a fascinating experience that all stemmed from my desire to try more sake.

Will’s appetizer

Glass of sake

Sake bottle 

The next blog post comes from Mario Ornelas who has learned a lot about shoe ettiquette in Japan. 

In Japan proper etiquette is of the upmost importance and is strictly adhered to. Recently I went out to dinner in Tokyo with three friends from the study abroad program. After entering a restaurant the four of us were escorted to our table. Upon approaching the table I noticed that I had to step over about a six inch raised border from the floor and into a lower pit that had straw mats and a table. As I was stepping over the border and into the pit, I was reprimanded by the host in Japanese. Obviously I did not understand him, but he was pointing at my feet. Before coming to Japan I had become aware of shoe etiquette in homes, traditional inns and hotels, tea ceremonies, but never in restaurants. Back at the restaurant I was embarrassed and quickly got back out of the pit and took off my deck shoes and was now barefooted. As I took off my deck shoes I noticed slippers on the floor. I had read about slippers before and knew that they were put on when taking off shoes and entering a home. So, I figured these slippers were for restaurants, so I put them on and once again was reprimanded and instructed that they were for walking from the table to the toilet.
The next day another shoe etiquette faux pas took place. This time I was doing laundry at the Olympic Village’s laundromat and went next door to use the men’s bathroom that is located in the men’s Japanese style public bath area. I was in the dressing room that you have to go through to get to the toilet as well as the public bath. Once again I was reprimanded. This time I failed to take off my shoes before entering the dressing room. The attendant pointed at the floor and wall between the dressing area and the step up onto the pubic bath and toilet area where there was clear signage that communicated that shoes are to be taken off. I immediately took off my shoes. The Japanese are so proper when it comes to cleanliness and like to keep the dust and dirt of the streets in the streets. It is a culture shock for me as an American. All the same, I am proud to say that I am learning and appreciate the differences.

Alex(left) and Mario(right) in Japanese restaurant. Photo by Chris Leong. 


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