These days, Japanese food is pretty widely consumed in the west, even if sometimes the original taste gets slightly lost in translation. In general, though, even non-Japanophiles can be found enjoying a range of Japanese food, whether at home or out for dinner with friends. Sushi is no longer shocking, and  “comfort foods” such as okonomiyaki, ramen, and yakiniku can all be enjoyed overseas. But did you know that apparently we’re still making five major mistakes when it comes to Japanese cuisine? Read on to find out if you’re a major offender who doesn’t know their ikura from their elbow!

The list of “Five common misconceptions foreigners have about Japanese food” comes courtesy of Madame Riri, who lays down in no uncertain terms exactly what we’re all (apparently) doing wrong.

Mistake 1: Thinking sushi is diet food.

We can see where this one is coming from. Generally, we in the west don’t make a habit of eating as much super-healthy seafood as we should, and there are certainly less healthy dishes we could be consuming (such as anything involving fast food.) Sushi can also be (relatively) low-calorie, depending on the toppings involved. But think of the heavy carb-load of all that white rice! Not to mention the fact that sushi is incredibly delicious, so it’s actually really easy to eat more than you should. Madame Riri blames this misconception on the fact that Japanese food has such a “healthy” image abroad, but as she points out, there’s a difference between eating healthily and dieting, and no Japanese person on a diet would deliberately expose themselves to the delicious lure of sushi. Moderation is key here!

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Mistake 2: Thinking soy sauce is “sauce”

You know, this misconception probably comes from the fact that Japanese “shoyu” is actually called soy sauce in the west. However, as Riri points out, soy sauce is not for splashing willy-nilly onto white rice and fish, as many westerners opt to do. It’s actually meant to be used sparingly. Apparently, soy sauce=salt, and as health-conscious Japanese know, salt is best consumed in moderation. Now hold on a minute there! Japanese cuisine is notoriously salty, and isn’t that why incidences of stomach cancer are quite common in Japan?

Mistake 3: Putting soy sauce on white rice

Almost every Japanese meal comes with a bowl of plain white rice, which is meant to be enjoyed in its natural state. Madame Riri takes offense at the supposed gaijin compunction to pour soy sauce on rice, desecrating this pure symbol of Japanese cuisine! This is blamed on our obsession with over-flavoring and seasoning absolutely everything we put into our mouths, as a result of our foreign devil tongues being unable to appreciate the subtle nuances of fluffy, nutty Japanese rice. Or maybe we just like soy sauce. At any rate, this really isn’t something you should do in public in Japan, so if you simply must have saucy rice, at least try to be discreet about it.

Mistake 4: Mixing wasabi with soy sauce

“Now come on!” I hear you cry. “Plenty of Japanese people do this, too!” Hmm, nope. It’s still a no-go, and for a variety of reasons. First, it makes the soy sauce murky. (Horrors!) Madame Riri also claims that mixing soy sauce with wasabi makes it all “taste the same”. (Erm. Isn’t that the point of mixing something, to create a new flavor?) Apparently, we foreigners are not to be blamed too much for this faux pas, as it’s something we’ve clearly picked up from deviant Japanese who habitually perform illicit mixing of substances which ought not to be mixed (namely, soy sauce and wasabi.) Hmm, sorry Riri, but we’re not shouldering the blame for this one.

Mistake 5: Thinking everyone in Japan eats whale all the time

This probably stems from the widespread media coverage given to the issues of whaling in Japan. However, it’s certainly true that Japanese people don’t really chow down on whale nearly as much as we might think. Sure, you may come across it at the odd restaurant or sushi shop, but it’s not like it’s a staple of the Japanese diet. Most people tend not to really eat it in their daily lives.

▼ It also doesn’t look that appetising…

©Evie Lund/RocketNews24

What do you think of these “misconceptions”? Are they fair? Have you committed any of the atrocities mentioned on the list? Or do we westerners get a bad rap when it comes to our appreciation of Japanese cuisine?

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons (Colton Cotton)