Why do people slurp noodles in Japan?

Why do people slurp noodles in Japan?

Jan 23, 2023 Tags 

Slurping food is just one of those things that people either find delightful or disgusting. Generally, when it comes to etiquette, it is considered bad; most people are taught not to make any kind of noise when we eat. However, things are a little bit different in Japan.

Japanese culture has a very long and eventful history. Looking from the outside, it would seem as if the Japanese people have a proper and correct way of doing just about everything; this rings true, especially when you find out that the Japanese have standard rules for eating noodles and slurping your noodles is, shockingly, not considered a breach of etiquette. This is an oddity in Japanese culture, which generally disapproves of noisy eating, especially in formal settings.


Is Slurping Noodles Rude In Japan?


Man Slurping Noodles from a bowl


Slurping is not only ‘not’ frowned upon in Japan, but it is also encouraged because it can be a sign of appreciation. Slurping your noodles shows how much you enjoy the food, and considering how hot some noodles are, this can help in cooling it a bit, and it really brings out certain flavors in the food that you wouldn’t normally notice if you’re just eating it. 


History of Noodles in Japan


Woman slurping noodles


Noodles have been a part of Japanese history for a very long time. They were introduced in Japan from China during the Southern Song dynasty. Ramen noodles, especially, are not taken lightly in Japan. It is one of the most well-known meals in Japan and is also the favorite food of Naruto, the main character in an anime of the same name. Each region has its method of preparing noodles, and there are such wide varieties to pick from in Japan. You have udon, soba, ramen, and many more.


Reasons Why Slurping Noodles in Japan is Encouraged


Man eating noodles while slurping


When we talk about slurping noodles in Japan, we don’t mean the noiseless, polite slurping. No, the messier, and noisier, the better. 

  • To Enjoy the Flavor: Slurping noodles are believed to actually make it taste better. Not that eating the noodles the usual way makes them taste bad, but slurping does accentuate certain flavors in the noodles. Slurping noodles is akin to wine connoisseurs swirling the wine in the glass to allow it more exposure to the air, which makes its scent stronger. Slurping the noodles has a similar effect, except rather than sniffing it, you taste the fragrance by eating; the air that comes in with the noodles as your slurp helps to expose the scents of the noodle to your senses.
  • It Is A Sign Of Appreciation: What better way is there to let the chef know that you enjoyed the meal other than eating it with eagerness?
  • To Finish the Food Quickly: Noodles are often served as fast foods that are often eaten… Well, fast. The noodles are usually served in hot soup, which would burn your mouth if you eat them too fast the normal way, so slurping is a great way to eat quickly. They often lose their texture and become soggy when they get cold. You have to eat them hot, or they won’t taste so good. Another reason most people eat noodles quickly in Japan is that they are often served in a big city where everyone is rushing. Some people need to catch a train, so they sit down for a quick meal before they go.


To start practicing your noodle slurping, you can check out our ZenPop Ramen pack to order a box of the latest Ramen in Japan. What are you waiting for?


How to slurp Noodles in Japan?


Noodle Slurping


One should always start their ramen meal with tasting a mouthful of the soup. Then it's time to slurp your noodles. In fact, slurping the noodles will make it easier to eat because it is advised to do it while they are still hot.

Make sure to pull in a lot of air as you suck the noodles in so that part of the broth will rise with the noodles and the air will also cool the extremely hot noodles.

Noodle slurping is a tradition not just with ramen but also with soba and udon. Slurping enables you to fully appreciate the aroma as you consume, whether it is cold or heated. It is conceptually comparable to a wine tasting, when both taste and scent are critical to fully appreciating the wine.

To ensure that you are consuming all of the flavors and fragrances, slurp the noodles rather than biting off individual pieces. Therefore, even while eating soba noodles, which are thinner than ramen or udon noodles, it's crucial to avoid picking up too many noodles.


Other Japanese Etiquette to Take Note of 


Slurping Noodles in Japanese Culture


Japanese dining etiquette has many rules, but let's look more specifically at eating noodles, and start with something obvious:

  • Finish Your Food: In many places, it is considered polite to leave some food late to show your host that you are well-fed and no longer hungry. Some do it to show that they are not gluttonous, but in Japan, it is considered rude to leave food on your plate. When you order food from a Japanese chef, who makes something special for you, leaving without finishing the food just shows that you didn’t enjoy what was made.
  • Do Not Leave Your Table Messy: It is common for some people to leave their plates scattered everywhere after eating at a restaurant. Generally, it is polite to put your dishes away when you’re done eating, which is also important to Japanese people. As soon as you’re done eating, make sure to arrange your plate and utensils in the same position that they were when you were served. Replace the lids on the dishes, and put your chopsticks on the chopsticks rest.
  • Drink Your Soup: When you’re served noodles, it is advisable to eat the solid foods with your chopsticks, and then when you’re done, simply enjoy slurping the soup that your noodle was served in. Quick note: there is an exception made for Ramen broth, as it is usually very salty and can be oily.
  • Eat Quickly: In the big cities, there’s always that rush, that hustle and bustle to get from place to place and do this and that, so not many people have a lot of time to sit down and really enjoy a meal during the day. Japanese folk have made it normal to eat quickly. Once your bowl is served, feel free to go to town on it, and don’t forget to slurp to show your appreciation!


“Noodle Harassment” or Nu-Hara in Japan


Japanese men eating noodles at a restaurant


Noodle harassment, also known as nu-hara (ヌーハラ), was first coined in 2016 as a way for individuals to communicate their dislike for extremely loud slurping noises. Tourists who were not accustomed to the sounds were particularly upset by the sound of slurping.

But ASMR eating, also known as mukbang (eating in front of the camera and online), has gained popularity since 2016. People upload photos of their mouthwatering noodle meals and how they're eaten online. Videos frequently concentrate on the sounds, particularly their slurping. Millions of people have seen these films, demonstrating that many people truly like the sound of slurping noodles.

As mentioned earlier, some people may not find slurping delightful. Some time ago, a debate was sparked on Twitter to be specific, about the nature of slurping noodles. Some believe that slurping noodles was considered rude by foreigners visiting Japan to the point that it is considered a type of ‘harassment.’ Slurping has been around for hundreds of years in Japan so it sparked a heated debate about the advantages and disadvantages of slurping noodles. What do you think? Should people adjust their customs to fit foreigners' wishes or should foreigners respect and endure cultures that may be offensive? 

It is very obvious that slurping elicits different kinds of reactions from different people. Some find it distasteful and annoying, or even downright rude, but be assured that a Japanese Chef would truly appreciate the gesture and take it as a sign that you enjoy his food. Don’t deprive yourself of the experience; slurping might not be for everyone, but you should at least try it once; who knows, it might be that little extra thing that makes your noodles taste just perfect.



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