Discovering the Ideal Time to Eat in Japanese Culture

When it comes to mealtime in Japan, timing is everything. The Japanese have long believed that the timing of meals is just as important as the contents of the meal itself. Meals are not just about nourishment, but about cultural traditions and customs that date back centuries. Understanding the ideal time to eat in Japanese culture is key to experiencing the full spectrum of flavors and dining experiences Japan has to offer.

Japanese mealtime phrases add to the unique cultural experience. For instance, did you know that before starting a meal in Japan, it is customary to say “itadakimasu”? This phrase expresses gratitude for the food and those involved in preparing it. After finishing the meal, one would say “gochisosama deshita,” which translates to “Thank you for the meal.” These Japanese phrases for mealtime are just a few examples of the cultural language associated with dining in Japan.

Traditional Meal Schedules in Japan

Japanese meal schedules are steeped in tradition and culture. Understanding the traditional meal schedules in Japan can help you appreciate the importance of mealtime in Japanese life. In Japan, the three main meals of the day are breakfast, lunch, and dinner, known as “Asa-gohan”, “Hiru-gohan”, and “Ban-gohan”, respectively.

Meal Time Typical Contents
Asa-gohan 6:30 am to 9 am Rice, miso soup, grilled fish, natto (fermented soybeans), and sometimes tamagoyaki (rolled omelette).
Hiru-gohan 12 pm to 1 pm Bento boxes (lunch boxes) are popular, with a variety of items such as rice, fish, meat, and vegetables.
Ban-gohan 6 pm to 8 pm Tofu, salad, sashimi, grilled fish, tempura, and steamed vegetables. It is customary to have soup (miso or clear broth) with every meal.

The Japanese culture holds significant importance to mealtime schedules, especially breakfast, which is considered the most important meal of the day. It is also good to note that in Japan, consuming alcohol during meals is not common as it is considered disrespectful to the food and the host.

Japanese Dining Expressions

Mealtime in Japan is not just about food; it also involves specific language and expressions that are used to convey respect and gratitude towards the food, the people who prepared it, and those who will partake in it with you. It is essential to understand some of these expressions when dining in Japan to show proper etiquette and respect.

One of the most common expressions used at the beginning of a meal is “Itadakimasu,” which can be roughly translated to “I receive this food.” This phrase expresses gratitude towards everyone involved in the preparation of the meal, including the farmers who grew the ingredients, the cooks who prepared the food, and even the animals that gave their lives to provide the meat.

Another essential phrase used at the end of a meal is “Gochisosama deshita,” which can be translated to “Thank you for the meal.” It expresses gratitude towards the host for providing the food and everyone who shared the meal with you.

When someone has finished their meal before you, it is customary to say “Gochisosama deshita” to show that you have noticed they have finished and acknowledge their efforts in sharing the meal.

Besides these two phrases, there are many other dining expressions that are commonly used in Japan. For example, “Oishii” means “delicious,” and “Kampai” means “Cheers.”

Overall, understanding Japanese dining expressions and phrases is crucial when dining in Japan. It shows your respect and appreciation for the culture, and it enhances your overall dining experience.

The Importance of Breakfast in Japanese Culture

In Japan, breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. It is believed to set the tone for the rest of the day, providing the necessary energy and nutrients for a productive day ahead.

The traditional Japanese breakfast consists of rice, miso soup, grilled fish, and various side dishes such as pickles, tamagoyaki (rolled omelette), and nori (dried seaweed). This combination of food is not only delicious but also nutritious, providing a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and micronutrients.

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One popular dish for breakfast in Japan is “natto,” fermented soybeans that are rich in protein and vitamin K2. Another common ingredient is “umeboshi,” pickled plums that are believed to aid digestion and boost the immune system.

When it comes to breakfast in Japanese culture, it is not just about the food but also the rituals and customs surrounding it. One such custom is the concept of “ichiju-sansai,” which means “one soup, three dishes.” It refers to the tradition of serving a balanced meal with a variety of flavors, textures, and colors.

To experience a traditional Japanese breakfast, you can visit a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) or a Japanese breakfast restaurant. You can also try making your own at home using Japanese ingredients and recipes.

Japanese Vocabulary for Breakfast

Japanese Vocabulary English Translation
朝ごはん (asa gohan) Breakfast
ごはん (gohan) Rice, meal
味噌汁 (miso shiru) Miso soup
焼き魚 (yaki sakana) Grilled fish
卵焼き (tamagoyaki) Rolled omelette
納豆 (natto) Fermented soybeans
梅干し (umeboshi) Pickled plums

Learning some Japanese vocabulary related to breakfast can help you understand the culture and have a more authentic experience. Incorporating traditional Japanese breakfast dishes into your diet can also provide health benefits and a delicious start to your day.

Lunchtime Customs and Traditions in Japan

During lunchtime in Japan, it’s common to see many people visiting local eateries for a quick and affordable meal. While lunchtime customs and traditions in Japan can vary depending on the region and individual preferences, there are some common practices that are worth exploring.

Japanese Vocabulary for Lunch

Japanese English Translation
Chuumon Order
O-aisatsu Greetings
Bento Lunch Box

When ordering a meal, it’s common to use the phrase “Chuumon,” which means “order” in Japanese. Before eating, it’s polite to say “Itadakimasu,” which expresses gratitude for the meal. When you finish, “Gochisosama deshita” can be used to show gratitude for the meal.

Cultural Customs around Lunchtime in Japan

One popular lunchtime option is the bento box, a pre-packed lunch that typically includes rice, meat, fish, and vegetables. Bento boxes are available at convenience stores, supermarkets, and train stations, making them a popular and convenient option.

Another unique custom is the emphasis on a quick and efficient lunch break. In Japan, it’s common for workers to take a short lunch break to eat and then return to work promptly.

Overall, lunchtime customs and traditions in Japan reflect the importance of efficiency, convenience, and sharing meals with others.

Dinner: A Symbol of Japanese Hospitality

In Japanese culture, dinner is more than just a meal – it’s a symbol of hospitality. The traditional Japanese dinner style is known as “ichiju-sansai,” which translates to “one soup, three dishes.” This typically includes a soup, a main dish, and two side dishes, all served together in smaller portion sizes than what is typical in Western cultures.

The concept of “osozai,” or dishes with a variety of ingredients, is also an important aspect of Japanese dinner culture. This highlights the value placed on sharing meals with others and encourages communal eating.

When it comes to vocabulary, the Japanese word for dinner is “ban gohan.” However, it’s important to note that this term is typically used in more formal settings. In casual conversation and everyday life, the word “晩ご飯” or “banmeshi” is more commonly used.

Overall, dinner in Japanese culture is a time for bonding and connection, and it’s considered a reflection of the host’s sincerity and generosity. Understanding the cultural significance of dinner can lead to a deeper appreciation for the meal and the customs associated with it.

Health and Mealtimes in Japan

In Japanese culture, mealtimes are not just about satisfying hunger but also about promoting good health and well-being. Cultural customs and practices around mealtimes in Japan emphasize mindful eating, smaller portion sizes, and the inclusion of a variety of vegetables and seafood in meals.

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One of the key practices in Japanese culture is to eat until you are 80% full, known as “hara hachi bu.” This concept promotes moderation and prevents overeating, which can lead to health issues such as obesity and heart disease.

Additionally, cultural customs around mealtimes in Japan encourage the consumption of a diverse range of fruits and vegetables, as well as seaweed, tofu, and fish. These foods are high in vitamins and minerals and are believed to have numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Mindful eating is also an important part of Japanese culture. Taking the time to appreciate the flavors and textures of food and eating slowly can help promote a healthy digestion system, reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Overall, the cultural customs and practices around mealtimes in Japan promote a healthy relationship with food and a focus on balance and moderation. By embracing these practices, you can not only enjoy delicious meals but also promote good health and well-being.


Understanding the ideal time to eat in Japanese culture and the language associated with mealtimes is crucial for anyone interested in Japanese cuisine and culture. The Japanese phrase for mealtime, “shokuji no jikan,” plays an essential role in proper communication and etiquette during meals.

Traditional meal schedules in Japan typically include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with each meal having its own cultural customs and vocabulary. Breakfast is considered an essential meal in Japanese culture, with a focus on healthy and nourishing foods. Lunchtime customs include the popular bento boxes and communal office lunches, while dinner is seen as a symbol of hospitality, with a traditional multi-course meal and the concept of “osozai.”

Health and mealtimes in Japan are also closely linked, with cultural customs emphasizing the importance of mindful eating, smaller portion sizes, and a variety of healthy ingredients. Overall, understanding the cultural significance of mealtimes in Japan can help you fully appreciate the rich history and traditions of Japanese cuisine.


Q: What is the ideal time to eat in Japanese culture?

A: The ideal time to eat in Japanese culture varies depending on the meal. Breakfast is typically consumed around 7-8 AM, lunch around 12 PM, and dinner between 6-8 PM.

Q: What are the Japanese words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

A: In Japanese, breakfast is called “asagohan,” lunch is called “hirugohan,” and dinner is called “bangohan.”

Q: What are some common Japanese dining expressions?

A: Some common Japanese dining expressions include “Itadakimasu,” which is said before starting a meal to express gratitude, and “Gochisosama deshita,” which is said after finishing a meal to show appreciation.

Q: Why is breakfast considered important in Japanese culture?

A: Breakfast is considered an important meal in Japanese culture as it provides energy for the day and sets the tone for a healthy lifestyle. It typically includes a balance of rice, fish, miso soup, and other side dishes.

Q: Are there any lunchtime customs or traditions in Japan?

A: Yes, there are lunchtime customs and traditions in Japan. One common practice is bringing or purchasing bento boxes, which are pre-packed meals that often include rice, fish or meat, and various side dishes. Lunch breaks are also seen as an opportunity to socialize with colleagues or friends.

Q: What is the traditional Japanese dinner style?

A: Traditional Japanese dinners often consist of multiple dishes served in small portions. This style of dining allows for a variety of flavors and promotes sharing meals with others. The concept of “osozai,” which means a variety of dishes, is important in Japanese dinner culture.

Q: How does health relate to mealtimes in Japan?

A: Health is an important aspect of mealtimes in Japan. Japanese customs encourage mindful eating, smaller portion sizes, and the inclusion of a variety of vegetables and seafood in meals. This focus on balanced nutrition contributes to a healthier lifestyle.

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