“For Here or To Go?”

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This is one of the most common phrases I hear at small restaurants and fast food joints in the United States.  However in Japan, unless you’re going to マクドナルド (McDonald’s) or ケンタッキーフライドチキン (KFC), the likelihood of hearing this phrase is slim to none.  Whenever you go to a restaurant or even a small fast food place, it is assumed that you will be dining in and are treated as such.  A waiter will walk to your seat (or table if you’re with someone else) and serve you a glass of water.  Unlike American restaurants, in which the waiter comes back at a certain time to see if you’re ready to order, Japanese restaurants are quite the opposite.  The waiters literally wait until you are ready to order.  I learned this the hard way when I first started going out to various restaurants near TUJ for lunch.  I came at a busy time to Coco Curry, a small curry house near Tamachi Station.  The waiter was waiting on everyone in the restaurant, as well as helping the cooks in her spare time.  After waiting for about ten minutes I assumed that she would come to ask for my order eventually, once she had some spare time.  Then I saw one guy who had just sat down yell to the kitchen, “すみません!” (Excuse me!).  The waiter rushed over and proceeded to take his order.  That’s when I realized that I had to let them know I was ready, or else I’d never get my food.

In other significantly larger restaurants, such as Saizeriya (a Japanese-style Italian restaurant) you ring an electronic bell and the waiter will come to take your order.  From that point on, if you want to order more food/dessert you have to ring the bell again.  The check is brought out with your main course.  I find this process to be much more efficient than American restaurants.  Waiters can wait on more than one table; if you’re in a rush you won’t have to worry about waiting for the check to come to your table.    Also another thing I noticed is that no matter where you go, from the fancy high end restaurants to the low key, small ramen houses, you will always be treated and honored as a guest.  In addition, the concept of “tipping” is not really a part of Japanese culture.  Good, efficient service is a given quality of Japanese dining.  In America, I feel that we sometimes are surprised when we get better than average service at a restaurant.

A nan (sweet bread) and chicken curry dish from Jinnah, a cheap Indian restaurant near TUJ. In the back is my friends egg curry dish. All of this only took about 7-10 minutes to make, fast!

Back in the States, I often had to resort to fast food for lunch on my busiest class days.  There just was not enough time to sit down and enjoy a meal.  In my opinion, in Japan you do not have to go to a fast food joint to get “fast food.”  I noticed that restaurants here make food surprisingly fast.  Also, dining alone in a restaurant does not carry the somewhat negative aura that it does in America.  In fact, most places are set up with counters and tables specifically for those dining alone.  Well that’s all I have for now.  As you can see by my last post, I am using food a lot to immerse myself into the culture!  Until next time, じゃまた

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