Japan’s etiquette police weigh in on an unusual trend spotted amongst diners.

There are a lot of things to learn when it comes to Japanese dining etiquette. Where do you start, for instance, when presented with multiple dishes? And what bowls are okay to be picked up?

People in Japan are usually guided on these points from a very young age, but once you move past these basic rules, there’s still a whole world of manners to discover, and some of it is so obscure it even comes as a surprise to locals.

One such rule that has people scratching their heads recently is the rare custom of turning your bowl upside down after eating at a restaurant. Known as fusedon (literally “facedown bowl”), this unusual practice is believed to have originated in Yamagata Prefecture, where yamabushi, mountain-dwelling warrior priests, were said to have started the trend.

▼ Fusedon requires a donburi (oversized rice bowl), which makes up the “don” in its name, like the ones seen at ramen restaurants.

Strangely enough, the practice appears to have since died out there, as this 2016 survey of 623 diners shows the niche custom has been recorded in Tokyo, Ibaraki, Aichi, Chiba (marked in yellow on the map below), and Kanagawa (marked in blue).

▼ 0.8-percent of respondents said they took part in the practice (yellow), while 0.3-percent had seen it being done (blue)

The survey showed that the custom was largely unknown, with 98.7-percent of respondents only hearing about it for the first time and green showing the regions where the practice was yet to be seen. In the five years that have passed since the survey, however, knowledge of the practice has slowly spread around the country through photos on social media.

▼ Fusedon isn’t solely restricted to rice bowls, as it can involve large one-dish meals like omuraisu (omelette rice) as well.

▼ Most recently, fusedon has been exerting its influence on popular culture, with figurines and game characters turning their bowls over post-meal.

So why are people turning their bowls over in the first place, and should it be something that more people ought to take part in?

According to those who’ve taken part in the practice, fusedon is meant to be a show of gratitude to the chef, as the bowl is only upturned when completely empty, indicating that every last skerrick of the meal was thoroughly enjoyed. However, people are now beginning to wonder if it’s becoming more of a social media trend, as the shock of seeing upturned bowls results in increased shares and views.

Either way, the consensus amongst chefs and diners is that fusedon has no place in the dining world, as it’s messy, unhygienic, and causes trouble for staff who have to grapple with the upturned bowls when clearing them away.

“Fusedon is no good because it’s self-satisfying only for customers and annoying to staff.”
“Turning your bowl upside down is something a child would do after eating.”
“This is a terrible idea. The bowl might be empty but the oil from it would still mark the table.”
“It’s a false virtue — the proper manners would be to compensate the restaurant afterwards for damaging their table.”
“This is the opposite of good manners.”

Interestingly, one Twitter user shared an image from the Showa Citizens’ Etiquette guide issued by the Education Council in 1938 as teaching material for secondary schools. This page clearly states that one should not turn their “chawan” (teacup/rice bowl) over after consuming tea.

So next time you’ve polished off the final grain of rice in your beef bowl or slurped up the last sip of broth from your ramen bowl, don’t follow the practice of heathens by turning your bowl over and leaving the table.

Like mixing your wasabi with your soy sauce, it’s an act that chefs don’t appreciate, so simply say “gochisosama deshita” (thank you for the meal) when leaving the table to show your appreciation and put a smile on their faces instead.

Source: Twitter/#伏せ丼J-Town Net, Kurotsubaneko No Computer Nikki 2nd Edition
Top image: Pakutaso
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