In the land of “omotenashi” (hospitality) what do Japanese people think about stingy dinner hosts?

Growing up in the UK, my image of “dinner parties” involved lavish, several-course meals, complete with starter, soup, main course, dessert and after-dinner drinks, all made (and mixed) from scratch. Of course, I was too little (and loud) at the time to partake of such sophisticated adult dinner parties hosted by parents and family friends, but I would always be allowed to gorge on the leftovers the following day. My parents must have hosted hundreds of these dinners throughout my childhood, but I can only imagine how scandalised they would have been had someone suggested they charge their guests a fee for dinner and drinks. It was always a symbiotic system – guests might show up with a bottle of wine as courtesy, but the cost of the meal would always be recouped in one way or another by the guests reciprocating with a dinner party of their own at some point along the line.

In Japan, though, entertaining guests in the home is a rather rare occurrence (for various reasons which we’ll go on to discuss) and the concept of splitting the bill in group settings is sacrosanct. So when the topic of charging guests for dinner parties held in the home popped up on a Japanese forum, opinions were decidedly mixed.

For some much-needed context, let’s discuss eating with friends in Japan. The practice tends to take place outside of the home, in restaurants or izakayas. Many Japanese homes are small, especially in larger cities like Tokyo, so it’s often not feasible to host dinners for guest lists exceeding more than a few people. As the go-to alternative, many restaurants in Japan provide reasonable “party” packages, and it’s also possible to book out an entire restaurant for birthdays or other special events. Food will generally be shared amongst all the diners, with the bill being neatly sliced per number of guests at the end.

But when it comes to “home parties”, the rules aren’t set in stone, and this can be a source of unease and embarrassment for some. On the aforementioned forum, many commenters were against charging guests or paying to eat at a friend’s place:

“If I’m inviting people to my place and they’re kind enough to come then I’ll show them hospitality and that means feeding them without expecting to be recompensed!”

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable charging guests who already paid for gas or train fare to get to my place, as well as bringing drinks and snacks to go with the meal.”

“Why am I paying for non-restaurant quality food and what kind of miser would demand that anyway?”

“If they’re my friends then I’ll probably go to their house at some point and get treated, so why make them pay?”

However, others had different opinions based on the type of soiree being discussed and the decorum of their guests:

“If it’s a potluck, or a takoyaki party, or pizza party, more of a big group affair, then it makes sense for everyone to either bring ingredients or chip in.”

“People who come over empty-handed then eat your food and drink your beer are the worst!”

“It’s better for everyone to pay equally if the host is a student and can’t afford the ingredients to cook a meal for others. But in that case, why not just eat out?”

What are your thoughts on this issue, and how are things done in your country?

Source: Jin115