Japan, Don't Worry About Noodle Harassment!

[Image via GirlsChannel]

When I first moved to Japan at the turn of the century, I was told that noodle lovers need not fret about making slurping sounds while eating. Among some, that attitude is changing. There is now concern over "noodle harassment."

Or in Japanese, "nuuhara" (ヌーハラ、which is short for "nuudoru harasumento"). The word came to a wide audience last fall when Japanese morning show Tokudane! (via Matome Naver) did a noodle harassment segment.

[Image via Matome Naver]

Co-host Rei Kikukawa had to explain what the heck "nuuhara" meant to the Japanese viewing public.

And what did visitors think of Japanese noodle eating habits?

[Image via Matome Naver]

Those Swedish folks visiting Japan for the first time thought the noodle slurping sounded like a pig.

[Image via Matome Naver]

These visitors from the U.S. thought the same.

[Image via Matome Naver]

This New Zealander visiting Japan for the first time said it made her feel like not sitting in the seat next to a slurper.

[Image via Matome Naver]

This young man from the U.K. said if his friends slurped like that, he might tell them to shut up. [The Japanese subtitles have incorrect English.]

[Image via GirlsChannel]

Here, on another show, reasons why (some?!) foreigners don't like slurping include the previously mentioned pig noises as well as other complaints, including noodle slurping sounds like a toilet flushing.

OK. Sometimes television, especially morning television, in Japan can be a bit overblown. Yet, long after the segment aired, people continued to talk about nuuhara.

Much of the reaction in Japan was people feeling like they should eat noodles however they liked in their own country. I agree!

[Image via Matome Naver]

But as Excite News pointed out, there's concern about how this will look during the Tokyo Olympics if visitors are getting annoyed at restaurants across the city.

Slurping noodles is not unique to Japan (here, Anthony Bourdain is teaching President Obama how to slurp noodles in Hanoi.) Plus, not every Japanese person slurps. Some cannot, while there are those who do think it's bad manners.

Of course, not all foreigners are against noodle slurping! Hiroshima Toyo Carp first baseman Brad Eldred says that he slurps on purpose because he knows it pisses off other foreign players.

Most Japanese noodle aficionados, however, do slurp to varying degrees of slurpiness. Why? There are several reasons, with one being that noodles are hot, so slurping them helps cool them. Another reason includes that noodles are a working person's food, so manners can be checked at the door.

[Image via Matome Naver]

But the best reason I've heard is that by slurping, the noodles and their broth taste better, because you as slurp, you are opening up your nasal passages and inhaling all the soup's delicious scents. If you were to just bite off noodle pieces, you'd miss all those aromas and flavours.

So, for goodness' sake, if you are eating noodles, whether that's ramen, udon, or soba, please slurp. If anyone gets annoyed while you are doing that, pay them no mind because they're missing the point entirely.


Comments

    What it comes down to is culture clash. In western countries, we're taught it is extremely bad manners to slurp, chew with our mouth open, etc. We have this drilled into us from a very young age and are taught to associate those sounds with unpleasant things, until it becomes a subconscious association which has the potential to make a person physically uncomfortable. Most eastern cultures aren't hung up on that, they don't have that indoctrination. Rather, they are taught it either doesn't matter, or as in noodle eating, it is the correct way to do it. Neither side is necessarily correct, it's just cultural differences, and requires understanding and tolerance to avoid unpleasantness for all concerned

      False. Both eating with your mouth open, and slurping, are a great way to throw your germs everywhere with the food and liquids you're spraying about.

      Don't do it. It's wrong.

      If other countries find it acceptable, great. It's still dirty.

      Last edited 08/02/17 12:57 am

        Slurping is only going to flick liquids from the noodles, not from your mouth. Also you'd have to be chewing and talking for food to come out of the mouth, just eating with it open isn't going to spray.

        Nonsense. Eating with your mouth open doesn't spread any more germs than breathing does, and as @pointzeroone said slurping happens before the food gets to your mouth so it's not going to spread germs either.

        I'm guessing you were taught that by someone to justify you not doing it. Long story short, they are wrong, as the other two gentlemen commenting have pointed out.

        The long version is: Slurping is the noise caused by suction as you inhale being interrupted by liquid/semi-liquid food substances. All of the motion involved is into the mouth, except for that being caused by momentum of the food, which, assuming they actually flick the food around, will only be food particles being distributed, nothing of the bodily fluids containing germs. And chewing with the mouth open does not result in any greater distribution of germs than breathing, as the particulate mist from the food as it is broken up is interrupted due to humans chewing with their molars, not their incisors or canines. Therefore, the only food matter being distributed would be that departing your mouth along with your breath. It will not contain any more germs than the individuals breath would ordinarily, aside from that contained within the food itself. So as you can see, whilst both of these potentially result in food particles being distributed more than they would in western cultures eating habits, there are no additional germs involved in slurping and chewing with your mouth open than not.

        This. It's disgusting. The people who go overseas and then slurp like a pig giving birth, drawing the concerned looks of everyone in the room, in some misguided belief that it's a cultural norm give the rest of us foreigners a bad image. I find the practice is akin to someone from say, singapore, coming here to australia and then spitting at your feet on the sidewalk in the mistaken belief that because it's not illegal here it's an acceptable thing to do.

          Japanese hold the noodles between their chopsticks as they slurp to prevent the broth/liquid from spraying onto everyone in their vicinity. The primary reason Japanese slurp their noodles is because they believe you should be focused on enjoying the noodles and not sitting on a stick tense as a new trapeze artist. Japanese would consider you dirty for the standard western culture of not showering before you bath or go to the pool/onsen. It's best not to get into a superiority complex and to instead just look at a culture without the constrains of foreign standards.

    Personally I can't fucking stand it... but hey that's just me.

      Im a pretty placid guy but i really hate the sound of eating it bugs the hell out of me I barely manage to listen to me eat without getting angry

    To slurp, or not to slurp: that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to slurp
    The noodles and aromas of outrageous flavour,
    Or to take arms against a sea of slurpers

    Japan gives a license to slurp noodles in public, and people complain about it?

    I hate people.

    I'm all for cultural awareness and multi-culturism as well - but - my one objection is slurping. I love eating noodles but in Sydney it's impossible to do without someone sitting next to me and slurping and chewing like a pig. So slurp in Japan if it's ok but in Australia it is not ok to slurp and it is not ok to eat with your mouth open like a pig so save that for your home and not out in public. Otherwise I don't care what you do :)

    I'm in Australia, and if I'm eating ramen (or udon, or hiyashi chukka etc etc) I'm slurping the hell out of it. Not only does it make the noodles and broth taste better, but it can also be considered a compliment to the chef and ultimately, if you don't like it, then why are you in a ramen shop in the first place? I suggest anyone who is anti slurping sit down and watch Tampopo.

    Yea! When you're in my country follow my rules, and when I'm in yours...I'll accept your barbaric ways. But damn sure I'm gonna let you know about it before hand. Just like I know you do the same to me....

    Isn't the world a wonderful place...
    (Personally, I've never even paid attention to how people eat around me. As long as they're enjoying their meal just as I'm enjoying mine)

      I acknowledge that there is much cruelty to animals in Australia. I do not eat them and I campaign about the cruelty.

      However, to call us barbarians when you cook and eat living, moving animals? What about your whale massacres? What about crush videos? What a hypocrite!

    I love slurping ramen nowdays although I was raised not to. My wife is japanese and I love when we go to eat Ramen in melbourne with other Japanese because I can slurp all I want. It does make it taste better. I'm slightly frustrated when I head out with non japanese and I have to eat my noodles in silence out of politeness. It feels wrong, like eating dumplings or chinese food with a fork. It's unnatural. Slurping is the way soupy noodles are meant to be enjoyed.And for those of you that get angry, it's because you are broken and have misophonia http://m.slashdot.org/story/322085

    Why are we all so damned determined to make everyone the same?
    Dont do this, do do that, everyone act, behave, live like everyone else so we can all be good little robots.
    FFS, how dull and boring this world would be if we all became one bland, global culture

    If people dont like the way the Japanese eat in their own country, DONT GO!

    I was just in Tokyo for 5 weeks, and you better believe I slurped every last damn noodle I ate, it helps cool the noodles, makes it taste better, and shows the chef that I genuinely enjoy what they have served me

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