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Rules for visiting a family restaurant in Japan

As family restaurants (ファミレス, “fami resu” in Japanese) are relatively cheap, you may want to avoid the peak hour or even whole weekends. Otherwise you may become deaf after sitting next to a table with 10 schoolgirls who never stop talking and laughing. Or a table with 5 loud kids and their parents who can bear them only with a bottle of wine.Family restaurantWhen you enter a family restaurant you need to know at least two words: kinen and kitsuen. Kinen means smoking and kitsuen – non-smoking. It is crucial if you don’t smoke, otherwise all your clothes will become smelly.

Last time I visited Saizeriya near Tokyo Dome, and waiter seated me just next to the smoking area. It took me a few minutes to realize that I can’t stand the smell. So I asked another waitress to change my seat. As I was a bit worried, my knowledge of simple Japanese abandoned me. But when I said something about the smell, she understood what my problem was and took me almost next to the exit. What baffles me about Japanese waiters is that they are very extreme and never do anything half-heartedly. It also takes much time and effort to explain that if you feel too cold next to an open window or air conditioner in summer, you are just asking them to change your seat… They may be very reluctant to do it for whatever reason.

Unless you are obviously a junior high school student, don’t order a free-flow drink bar only. If you do, you will get that nonverbal, but nevertheless clear as a bell, message from the staff: “This is not a coffee shop, it’s a restaurant. Order some actual food, Mr. Stingy!”a free-flow drink barThis problem is also (indirectly) related to smoking. The restroom at a family restaurant may be located in the smoking area, so if you visit it, you will get your clothes and hair smelly. Consider it before choosing a free-flow drink bar.Family restaurantDon’t be fooled by the prices. That fancy salad at family restaurant may be cheap, but it may also be tiny and won’t keep you going for hours. Especially if you marry it with a glass of pink Italian Lambrusco.Family restaurant

Article by Olga Kaneda

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