Rude Abroad but Fine in Japan – The Top Reasons Why Japanese People Slurp their Noodles

Most Japanese people slurp their noodles as a matter of course, however many visitors to Japan may be puzzled as to why people would each in such a noisy manner. This article will cover the reasons why the Japanese slurp their noodles, as well as give some tips to help you slurp your noodles yourself!

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About the "Noodle Harassment" Controversy in Japan

In the fall of 2016, there was a bit of a controversy surrounding "noodle harrassment" ("nu-hara" for short) that was brought about by a Twitter user who claimed that Japanese citizens noisily slurping noodles is such a cause of discomfort for foreign guests that it is a type of harassment. Soon, social network services as well as television media were involved in a huge debate between those who believe that slurping noodles is normal and those who believe that Japanese should take more care not to cause discomfort to foreigners while eating. Of course, making too much noise while eating is seen as lacking in manners even in Japan. However, noodles are the one exception to this, and many people enjoy slurping and making some noise while eating them. Here are a few reasons why people in Japan like to slurp their noodles.

Noodle Slurping Reason #1: To Enjoy the Flavor of the Noodles

There are primarily two reasons why Japanese people slurp their noodles. The first is that slurping actually enhances the flavor of the food.
Slurping the noodles allows one to take noodles and air into their mouth at the same time, which works to further bring out the flavor of the noodles.
For example, consider a wine tasting in which the wine is swirled around in the glass in order to give it more contact with the air and increase the fragrance, which is enjoyed by sniffing with the nose.
Noodles are slightly different, in that their fragrance is enjoyed by eating rather than sniffing. Thus, the air that you intake while slurping the noodles is vitally important!

Noodle Slurping Reason #2: To Eat Quickly

Noodles gradually lose their springy texture over time, with their peak springiness being right after being boiled. Because of this, Japanese people have developed the habit of eating their noodles as quickly as possible before they start to soften in the soup. It is thought that slurping noodles came about because of this desire, which makes this the 2nd reason why people in Japan like to slurp their noodles.
Furthermore, when soba (buckwheat noodles) was first invented, it was eaten as a sort of "fast food" sold at street stalls, and noodles in general have been thought of as a food that is meant to be eaten quickly ever since. That idea is reflected in modern society, as you can see many tachi-gui (stand and eat) soba and udon (thick noodles) restaurants on train platforms to this day. The reason why you find shops selling soba and udon but not other foods is because they are seen as meals that can be eaten very quickly before catching a train. Japanese people probably slurp their noodles because of their intuition to eat noodle dishes quickly, an idea that has been around since olden times.

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Try Slurping Some Noodles for Yourself!

There are probably many tourists from abroad who have never tried to eat noodles by slurping them. Since you've come all this way, why not give it a try while you're in Japan?
With that, here is a guide for first-timers on how to properly slurp noodles.
First, let's make the proper mouth shape in order to slurp the noodles. Purse your lips as if you are drinking through a straw, and then inhale some air.
Then, once you have mastered that, practice inhaling some air and water at the same time. Purse your lips into the right shape and then try to suck up some water. If it makes the proper slurping sound then you are doing it correctly!
Finally, try slurping some real noodles. For soba, while it is considered more tasteful to slurp the entirety of the noodles without biting into them halfway through, do not push yourself to hard.
If you find out that you don't like slurping noodles after trying it out, don't worry. You don't have to slurp noodles if you don't want to, but you should try at least once!

Enjoy Noodles However You Want

Despite the "noodle harassment" controversy mentioned at the beginning of this article, most Japanese people slurp their noodles at it is understood as the most delicious way to enjoy them. On the other hand, there are still some that do not slurp their noodles. How each person chooses to eat their noodles is up to them, and there's nothing wrong with enjoying your noodles the way you prefer. In order for that freedom of choice to continue, it is important for foreigners to understand the reasons why Japanese people slurp their noodles, which have been explained in this article.

Bonus: Fun Ways to Slurp Noodles

As a bonus, please enjoy this video, created by a Youtuber named SUSURU, that showcases some interesting ways to slurp noodles. Surely you will want to visit Japan to go on a slurping spree after seeing some of the scenes in this video!

This article has explained some of the reasons why Japanese people slurp their noodles. There are many different kinds of noodle-based dishes in Japanese cuisine, and you can learn a lot about Japan just through slurping!


The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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