How to Set a Japanese Table

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Traditional Japanese table settings have varied over the centuries, due in part to the types of dining tables used in different periods. Hazoken were small, box-shaped tables used early in history. Each person had her own hazoken or trays were placed on the floor. Later, larger low profile tables were used to seat several people at one table low to the ground. These tables are known as chabudai. Later still, these low tables were replaced by Western-style tables and chairs. Traditional table settings are based on a "soup plus three" configuration, which is called Ichiju Sansai and consists of five plates and bowls.

1 Place a tray

Place a tray on the table in front of your guest.

2 Place a rice bowl

Place a rice bowl on the tray in front of the guest to her left.

3 Place a soup

Place a soup bowl in front of the guest to her right, next to the rice bowl.

4 Place a flat dish

Place a flat dish at the back right of the tray, which would typically hold a simmered food.

5 Place another flat dish

Place another flat dish at the back left, which would typically hold a grilled food.

6 Place one

Place one more flat dish at the back center, which would typically hold boiled greens.

7 Place a set

Place a set of chopsticks at the very front of the tray. Set the points toward the left and rest them on a chopstick holder.