Sit the hell down, finish your food, proceed to walk. It’s a simple rule to follow but apparently in Japan the locals are struggling to get this message across to heady tourists without offending them.
In Japan the act of eating whilst walking is considered rude as it goes against the etiquette of “ikkai ichi dousa” – a Japanese phrase similar to doing “one thing at a time”. Eat and walk on the streets of Japan and you can expect a public lashing…of many frowns. The latest Japanese tourist hotspot to experience this onslaught of the walking fed is the iconic Nishiki Market in Kyoto.
For more than 400 years the market has played a vital role in being the kitchen for Kyoto with its vast offering heirloom vegetables, fresh fish and pickled vegetables. These days thanks to the tourist boom, more of the stores have begun selling fast food on skewers and it’s here that problems have begun to rise, according to the Japan Times.
Litter now lines the narrow street of the market and locals have growing concerns of pedestrians getting impaled by sharp food sticks wielded by unweary tourists (another market with the same problem states that it can ruin other peoples’ clothes). It might sound like a stretch, but considering the five block long shopping street lined with over a hundred shops sees thousands of visitors a day, it’s a genuine cause for concern.
Of course the Japanese will rarely tell you to your face that you’re an asshole. So instead the market association has asked store owners to display signs saying “No eating while walking” in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. This is more of a warning than an outright ban as they don’t want to drive tourists away.
“We can’t ban the act of eating while walking,” as this is one of the ways to enjoy sightseeing, said Norikazu Takahashi, 76, president of the store association. “We want to make the street a place where both travellers and residents can feel good,” he told the newspaper.
If you’re unsure, the general rule is that people should eat and drink their food outside the store of purchase before they proceed on their journey. They should also keep litter with them or dump it in the trash cans/bins outside of stores as there are rarely any of them lining the streets.
Want to be even more intrigued by Japanese etiquette? Watch British ex-pat Chris Broad run through the 12 passive aggressive rules of Japan and why they exist.