Japanese Dinner Etiquette

Informant Description/ Context of performance: My friend and I were having dinner with her mom in our living room. We were having a traditional Japanese dish called shabu shabu. We were sitting on the ground around this small table with dinner served family style when my mom’s friend looked at her lovingly annoyed.

Original Script:

Me: Is everything okay, Mrs. Mizuno?

Interviewee: Yes, yes. It’s just she knows she should not sit like that at the dinner table.

Me: Huh?

Interviewee: In Japanese culture, it is very rude to sit with your knees popping about the table. It is a form of disrespect to others you are dining with, so put your knees down!

Conclusion (written by Interviewer): Every culture I know has unique food etiquette. I had never heard this one before, so I found it particularly striking. Apparently having your knee above the table in Japanese culture is disrespectful to the people you are dining with, so maybe it shows laziness or a lack of interest by sitting like that.