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Jan 28, 2013 12:09 AM

Photo Etiquette

I know the Japanese are very particular about etiquette, relatively speaking. What's the general feeling in Japan towards photographing food?

I'm usually pretty discreet, using a point-n-shoot with the flash off instead of a DSLR. Obviously trying to be respectful of the chef and wait staff. This flies most everywhere I've been to in the US and Europe.

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  1. I think that it's fair to summarise the food photography threads as that it's controversial in the States. In Japan, I'd expect a greater sense of etiquette to prevail, but the best guide is what the locals are doing. If they're not taking photographs, then you shouldn't either.

    Or do - because remember: you're the most important person there (couldn't resist ...)

    3 Replies
    1. re: mugen

      Hmm. I can't imagine I'm gonna see many locals taking photos of food. I know I don't take photos when I'm in my local joint in NYC. Then again, I'm always shocked to see how many people I see walking around Tokyo with their camera phones out.

      It's true though. We New Yorkers are the center of the universe.

      1. re: rushbikes

        if the locals aren't, then just chill and enjoy the food, rather than worrying about whether you've perfectly memorialised it with photos of it.

        1. re: rushbikes

          Lots of people take photos in restaurants in Japan. Many cameras sold here have had special "food" settings.

          It happens less in very upscale restaurants though. If you're in a fancy place and you're not sure about the etiquette you can always ask the staff.

      2. What Robb S said. Many people do take pictures here, I would say more than in other countries (just look at how many zillions tabelog entries there are, very often accompanies by pictures of the food or interior of the restaurant). At the same time, I know that some of the top sushi places are extremely hostile to pictures being taken, as are some kaiseki places. Always best to ask.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Asomaniac

          Yeah, this kind of jives w my intuition. Thanks for the feedback.

        2. I often see Japanese people photographing food. I know it places like Ryugin and Narisawa the chefs hate it. They are right, you should just enjoy the food in the state it is presented to you without taking time photographing it. Plus who wants to see what Jimmy ate at some restaurant I`m never gonna go to so why is he showing me this?
          Just enjoy the food, you pay the money so its for you to enjoy, not for people you are showing photos to.

          8 Replies
          1. re: NZJoe

            Hah! That's amazing!

            I do think our need to photograph things rather than getting lost in the moment has gotten out of hand, which I see happening frequently at restaurants. But, there is an element that I can relate to. When I look at photos of food, I can usually taste what I'm looking at it, like it's triggering synesthesia. Plus I think food is beautiful and have many friends that are chefs or in the industry that are often excited to see the photos as well. So if there's a meal I think is super tasty or beautiful, I like to snap a few photos. But ultimately, I respect the chef, waitstaff and management's preference.

            1. re: NZJoe

              The chef(s) at Ryugin hate it? I've never had a problem taking pictures there, including pictures of/with Chef Yamamoto.

              I know there are some places that ban photos (at least one of the 3-stars, but I can't remember which--and it was about 6 years ago that he forbade it, so it's possible he now allows it). I think it was Kadowaki.

              1. re: prasantrin

                How would you feel if you created an incredible and amazingly fragile dessert like the Rugin Specialite Pre-dessert: -196ÂșC Candy Strawberry with 99ÂșC Strawberry jam, only to have some very lovely and appreciative person go and take a photo, even for 30 seconds, which would affect the integrity of the dish immensely and then eat it and go, "Oh, not bad"...?

                1. re: NZJoe

                  I would feel that someone involved here is a bit of a pretentious w****r.

                  1. re: Asomaniac

                    So you take photos of paintings in art galleries, arsemaniac? I`m not saying food is art, but a lot of the time, chefs put just as much work and thought into a dish as into a masterpiece. It`s entirely up to the guest to choose to take photos or not, but why not just show some respect for the chef and enjoy the food the way it was intended.

                    1. re: NZJoe

                      Deliberately changing the name of the poster as an attempt at humor is another way of being a w****r. And, it does nothing but make your rebuttal look pathetic.

                      1. re: NZJoe

                        Someone is taking this a little too seriously (a little more seriously than most chefs take it on whose behalf you seem to think you speak).

                        Funnily enough, I don't take pictures at all in restaurants (at least haven't done for a few years), but don't have a fascistic attitude to those who do.

                        Besides, showing respect takes many forms. Taking a picture after having asked if it's OK and received the go-ahead is a sign of respect as you think the food is of such standard that you wish to keep a photographic memento. Taking pictures despite the obvious displeasure of the chef (or without having checked if it's OK) is disrespectful. It's so obviously common sense I can't believe it even merits discussion here, especially such an oddly emotional one.

                    2. re: NZJoe

                      I had the -196C candy apple, took a picture of it, and still loved the dessert. I doubt it even took 30 seconds to take the photo, and afaik, the integrity of the dish was not affected. Of course, it's possible it would have tasted even better had I not taken the picture, but it sure as heck tasted pretty good to me.

                2. The original comment has been removed
                  1. From Kanda's website:


                    We previously prohibited taking photographs inside the restaurant.
                    However, we recognize that many of our guests come to Kanda to celebrate special occasions, or may be visiting us from afar and we understand our guests desire to record such occasions. For this reason we have now decided to allow photography inside the restaurant. However we ask that those who chose to take photos respect other customers.
                    Also, I believe that when you have a physical record of events you are less likely to hold them in your memory. It is my hope that your experience at Kanda remains in your memory rather than as a digital image.