How to Visit Someone's House in Japan: The Manners (2 of 2)
This is a continuation of my previous hub on Japanese house visit manners found here. Just a quick disclaimer, the translations you'll see here might come off as a little funny, but that's only because there's no way to get a pure translation from certain Japanese phrases to English. This is especially true in formal Japanese, but go ahead and have a laugh as you read my feeble attempts to make them sound not ridiculous.
Step 4 Once you've been guided to the room
Nowadays, you're more likely to be guided to a table and a chair, as every Japanese house I've visited in the past 3 years has done away with the Zabuton (floor cushion) system. Of course lots of houses still have zabutons (mine included), but chances are you won't have to worry about sitting seiza (with your calves folded under you). If you aren't told where to sit, choose the seat that's closest to the door. After sitting, you'll want to say your thanks for having been invited by saying " Honjitsu wa Omaneki itadaki arigatou gozaimasu" (Thank you for inviting me today). At this point, you can move on to what some consider the most difficult part of visiting a house: gift giving.
Step 5 Giving the gift
Seeing as how this is a tedious process, I'm going to break it down into its various components and list them.
1. Take out your gift from whatever you used to carry it and place it on the table.
2. Have the gift with its front facing you on the table, and then spin it clockwise towards your hosts, ending with the front facing them.
3. Push it towards them while saying either "Tsumaranai mono desu ga, douzo" (This isn't anything special, but please...) OR, if you want to be even more polite "Kokoro bakari no mono desuga, douzo omeshiagari kudasai" (This is nothing special, but please enjoy this).
4. That's it!
Step 6 Getting fed (the best part)
Chances are if you've been invited to someone's house, they have the intention of feeding you. If it isn't a delicious meal, then it will at least be great tea and tasty treats. There are rules, however, that guide the best part of the visiting process, and certain phrases that will help you along the way.
1. When the food first comes out and you're prompted to eat, you must say "Arigatou gozaimasu, itadakimasu" (Thank you, I will eat it). Itadakimasu is a funny word, and it's considered standard protocol to say it at the beginning of every meal, and a darn near necessity if that meal is prepared by someone else for your sake.
2. Now here's the tricky part. If you eat the entirety of your portion, you may come off as being underfed, but if you leave too much, it may seem as if you didn't enjoy your meal. However, if you have to choose a path to take, I'd recommend finishing your portion, and then when asked if you want more, say "Mou jyuubun itadakimashita. Oishikatta desu" (I've had quite enough. It was very tasty). Finish that off with a "gochisousama deshita" (Kind of means "I've feasted!") and you're home free.
Step 7 Going home
The general rule of thumb for leaving is to make sure you keep track of the time, and start to consider packing up around the 1 hour mark. If you're being fed, however, the hour mark is no longer valid, and just use your best judgment on when to leave after the meal is over. You'd probably be safe leaving about 1 hour after the meal.
After you've decided what time you need to take your leave, there are certain rules and phrases you must abide by and say before you head out. Here's the order of operations:
1. Take a look at the clock during a lull in the conversation and say "Soro soro oitomasasete itadakimasu", meaning, "It's about time I should be heading out". This is a very polite phrase though, and if you're visiting a closer friends house you can simply say "Soredewa, sorosoro shiturei shimasu" (Well then, It's about time I went home). Start getting your stuff together and head to the genkan.
2. After getting on your shoes, you'll be guided outside the genkan (the genkan saki) and here is where you'll say your goodbyes. First, you'll thank your hosts by saying "Honjitsu wa gochisou ni narimashita, arigatou gozaimashita", meaning, "today I was feasted, thank you". Even if you only had one biscuit and a single cup of coffee, it's polite to say "gochisou ni narimashita". Now, as you bow (explanation here), say "Kongo mo douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu" (I hope we can continue to have a good acquaintance from here on out). After this, you're free to walk away, and consider yourself a champion at visiting houses politely and enjoyably. Expect many re-invites when using this guide, and consider looking at some of my other hubs as a thanks for your new source of delicious food.