Ramen Thursday

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Join us at Shigezo (http://shigezo-pdx.com/) on Thursday, November 20 to share a delicious ramen dinner with 30 of your closest friends from the Portland startup scene.

The event observes igyoushu kouryukai — the traditional etiquette and protocol of a formal Japanese group business dinner.

A full description of the tradition is below. Please familiarize yourself prior to arriving. That said, don't worry about getting every detail right. The most important thing to do is show up with an open mind — and an empty stomach.

We suggest comfortable yet formal attire. Proper dress signifies self-respect, along with respect to those around you, and is customary for dinners of this kind.

The cost of the meal is $20 per person, including gratuity, and will be collected at the beginning of the evening, prior to entering the tatami room. Please bring cash, as this is greatly preferred by the restaurant.

The meal includes the following:

• A ramen of your choice (vegetarian options available)
• An assortment of shared appetizers prepared for us personally by the executive chef
• Communal sake to be shared throughout the meal
• Green tea

Approximate Schedule:
5:50 - 6:05: Pre-ramen reception by the bar. We request a punctual or early arrival, since ceremonies begin promptly thereafter.
6:05 - 6:15: Seating in the tatami room; ramen orders placed.
6:15 - 6:30: Jiko-Shokai & Opening Ceremonies
6:30 - 7:00: Appetizers
7:00 - 7:30: Ramen!
7:30 - 7:45: Agari, Meishi-Koukankai, Orei
7:45 - 8:00: Dinner concludes

Everyone is welcome, and after we finish dinner, we'll head across the street to Startup Happy Hour @ Barlow (http://www.meetup.com/StartupHappyHour/events/217459462/).

IGYOUSHU KOURYUKAI WALKTHROUGH

Ramen Thursday observes igyoushu kouryukai, the formal tradition of Japanese group business dining. Please read this guide to familiarize yourself with the rituals and protocols involved.

Arrival & Seating

Please arrive punctually, arriving at Shigezo between 5:50 and 6:05. We will greet you at the small bar area at the front of the restaurant, where you are welcome to order a drink. After saying hello and mingling for a bit, please see a server to pre-pay for your meal ($20, cash preferred), then make your way to the formal tatami room to situate yourself.

A set menu will await you inside, outlining a variety of enticing ramen options. Orders will be taken between 6:05 and 6:15.

During the same period of time, you’ll notice several large sake bottles on the table. As you sit down and congregate, begin filling each others’ cups in the manner described in the sake section below. Do not under any circumstances drink the sake yet, tempting as it might be to do so. This will come later.

Here are some important details to keep in mind as you arrive:

• Remove your shoes before entering the tatami room. (Leave on your socks, however.)

• Note that the tables sit low to the ground. Tables on the left and right side of the room have a recessed pit beneath them, allowing one to sit in a manner similar to western dining. If you’re new to traditional Japanese sitting, we recommend choosing a seat in one of these two areas.

• The middle table will not have a pit, thus requiring diners to sit agura, or cross-legged. These spots are ideally suited for people who meditate, do yoga, or have experience living in Japan. If you’re able to comfortably maintain agura over the course of the dinner, we request you take these spots, so that everyone else can be as comfortable as possible.

• There will not be any forks provided; instead, we will use chopsticks and renge, the soup spoon that accompanies a ramen bowl. If you don’t know how to use chopsticks, we request that you do not ask for a fork, but instead, that you learn how to use chopsticks from someone sitting next to you, who will be more than happy to teach you.

Jiko-Shokai: Introductions & Opening Ceremonies

After we’ve settled in, found a spot for ourselves at the table, filled each other's sake cups, and placed our ramen orders, the dinner commences in the traditional opening manner, with jiko-shokai.

The term means “self-introdution,” and in Japan, one gives jiko-shokai on a fairly frequent basis, particularly when a new group of people gather together.

The way the process works is as follows:

• Christian Perry, the host of the dinner, will say a few welcoming words to begin the ceremony, and will offer the first introduction.

• Newcomers will offer introductions next — these include people who have moved to Portland in the past month, along with people attending their first startup event.

• Introductions from everyone else will follow, proceeding in a clockwise order.

Jiko-shokai consists of a simple sequence of facts that one shares about oneself, with a little bit of etiquette thrown in. The introduction is given one person at a time, in a sequence that adheres to the following order:

• A brief greeting — “Hi everyone, nice to be here with you,” etc.

• Your full name.

• Your company and title. Note that there’s a twist here: in an inversion of western business customs, it’s customary to provide one’s company first, followed by one’s title.

• As a startup community, not all of us belong to a company. Here are the procedures to follow if that's the case for you:
- If you're a student, refer to your school instead of your company, followed by your year and major.
- If you're self-employed, share either the city you live in, or the co-working center you work from, followed by your occupation.
- If you're an aspiring entrepreneur, share the city that you live in, and the area in which you hope to focus.

• By way of a small ice-breaker, state the first event you attended in the Portland startup scene, and the amount of time you’ve been involved in the community.

• End with a short closing. In Japanese, this phrase is “yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” and in English, it’s “nice to meet you.” Say one of these two closings while offering a bow.

Once everyone has given jiko-shokai, we will toast our sake cups together in a ritualistic cheer of “kampai!” See the next section for details.

Sake Etiquette

We will have several large bottles of sake to share with the group. Sake etiquette is vital to a traditional Japanese business dinner. Here are the protocols to keep in mind:

• Do not fill your own cup.

• Do not let another person's cup go empty.

• Do not finish your own cup completely — this causes those around you to lose face — but feel free to come close.

• To drink, raise your cup with both hands, the right palm gently placed beneath the cup, and the left hand holding the cup’s side. Keep your cup close to your body as you raise it, and when it reaches your lips, tilt the cup to an appropriate angle while keeping the hand positions intact. To see how this looks in practice, watch this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMMl4RB1-rM).

• When receiving a pour, raise your cup slightly off the table and hold it there steadily — again, using both hands. To signify that the cup is filled to your satisfaction, maintain the grip on the cup with your left hand, and raise your right hand in a slight, brisk, upraised gesture. Should you want your cup to be filled completely, wait until it gets close, and then, rather than lifting your hand, give a small nod of appreciation as the refill concludes.

• Upon arriving in the tatami room, your cup will be empty. Once everyone is comfortably seated, the dinner commences with a ritualistic filling of everyone’s cup, which we will all do for each other. Wait until everyone’s cup is filled, then, following jiko-shokai, begin the drinking with an enthusiastic toast of “kampai!”

• Borrowing a German tradition, when toasting the glass of your dining companion, practice the art of augenkontakt: look them directly in the eye as your cups clink, locking glances for approximately one-half second. German culture states that failure to make augenkontakt will result in seven years of bad sex, so toast accordingly. Note that it is only necessary to toast once; refills can be enjoyed without such formalities.

• If you've had enough to drink, leave your glass mostly full, which non-verbally signifies your contentment. If you are offered a refill anyway, it is best not to say “no” outright, since this can be seen as impolite. Instead, offer a small wave of your hand while making an elusive “aaa-h”-ish verbal sound.

• As the evening proceeds, consider an advanced twist to the process. When a refill looks like it’s on its way to your cup, consider hesitating. The best way to do this is by offering a perfunctory, contemplative “mmm-h”-ish sound, maybe tilting your head to the side as well. While you do this, throw in some subtle nuances to indicate that you don’t want to seem too eager for the refill, but you might be willing to change your mind. As the person doing the pouring, reiterate the offer with a gentle bit of encouragement— “perhaps just a touch more?” or “come now, just a bit extra,” or something like that. As the recipient, respond with a semi-performative act of considering the offer, as though you might actually turn it down, before smiling, perhaps with a slight coy look, and responding with a friendly acquiescence and acceptance.

• Remember, it’s fine to accept a pour even if you’ve had your fill — simply leave the refilled cup in front of you until you decide, or decide not, to return your attention to it. Also remember that you can cut off the pour before the cup fills completely.

• If you prefer not to drink alcohol at all, accept a modest pour during the beginning of the meal (a little more than half full), then leave your cup as is.

• The appropriate time to refill someone’s cup is when it drops to the one-third-to-one-quarter-left mark. There’s no need to ask explicit permission to offer a refill — simply pick up the nearest bottle and go for it. Remember, however, to wait until the recipient accepts the offer, which they will initiate by lifting their cup in the two-handed manner described above. If they’re throwing in the advanced technique, they may require some gentle persuasion, too.

• Whenever sake is involved, avoid the temptation to make an explicit Ask or Offer, and try instead to make the process as subtle, nuanced, non-verbal, and gesture-based as possible, throwing in a bit of back-and-forth playfulness once you get the hang of it.

• Lastly, upon receiving a refill, take a look at your companion’s cup to see if they need a refill as well. At this this point it’s appropriate to reciprocate, again without explicitly offering or asking. Note that this gesture can be deployed strategically: if your cup lingers near-empty for too long, simply offer someone around you a refill, and you’ll find that your own cup will soon rise to the level of theirs.

Appetizers

The dinner begins with a presentation of appetizers curated for us personally by Shigezo’s executive chef, Takashi Higuchi. Here’s how to enjoy them:

• Appetizers arrive shortly after we toast kampai. Wait until all the appetizers arrive before taking any action. Once they’re placed, serve yourself a modest portion, using either the serving utensils provided with the dish, or with the top-end of your personal chopsticks.

• Wait until everyone has served themselves before starting to eat. Once everyone is served, we will together begin the eating by all clapping our hands together twice, then enthusiastically exclaiming “itadakimasu!”, which is pronounced somewhat like “eat a duck I must!”, followed by a bow that everyone does in unison.

• It isn’t necessary to pass plates around one at a time; rather, it’s fine to reach politely with your chopsticks, lifting food from a central serving dish over to your plate.

Ramen

Here’s where it really gets fun.

• You’ll be presented with a choice of ramen options at the start of the meal. There will be both vegetarian and meat-based options. The noodles are made in-house daily, and are based upon a closely-held recipe from Tokyo, where the chefs are originally from.

• One’s ramen is to be enjoyed from the moment it arrives, rather than waiting for everyone to be served.

• The best way to eat ramen is to grab some noodles with your chopsticks, lifting them up above your bowl, and inhaling them with a loud, enthusiastic, slurp-like motion. Breathe in as you slurp, which will prevent the noodles from flailing around and splattering broth on your neighbors.

• When you’re left with only broth, pick up the bowl and drink some. Some people enjoy drinking all the broth, which signifies to the chef that you particularly enjoyed the dish.

• Once you finish the ramen, you’ll have some time to socialize and hang out before the meal winds down. At this point you are free to move around the room and adopt a more informal air. It’s fine to sit anywhere in the room, whether at the table or on the surrounding mats, but please don’t stand or move to other parts of the restaurant.

Agari & Meishi-Koukankai

Once everyone has had their fill of ramen, socialized a bit, and enjoyed sake to their satisfaction, the meal winds down with a sequence of closing ceremonies.

Around 7:30 PM, or a bit after, we will partake in agari, green tea traditionally served at the end of a formal meal. There is no need to wait until everyone has been poured — simply enjoy the tea as it arrives, and continue to enjoy the freedom to move around the room.

During this time we will also offer the opportunity for meishi-koukankai, the traditional exchanging of business cards. Here is how to exchange cards properly:

• Similar to most business receptions, there is no need to give cards to everyone. Rather, if you’ve kindled new relationships over the course of the dinner, and want to offer your card, use this time to initiate the exchange.

• To give someone a card, hold it with both hands, with the card facing up and in the direction of the recipient.

• To receive a card, hold it with two hands as well on the opposite end. At this point both parties bow to each other.

• When you receive a card, continue holding onto it with both hands. Take a moment to read through the card completely, then thank the person who gave it to you.

Please refrain from initiating the exchange at earlier points of the meal, since this symbolizes the ending of a social interaction, and may convey the wrong idea.

Orei & Owari

The dinner will end in the following manner:

• As you finish exchanging cards and finishing your tea, return to your original seats.

• Once re-seated, we will welcome the executive chef, Higuchi-san, who will visit us in the tatami room. As is customary, we will present the chef with a small gift in the ritual known as orei, a gesture that expresses thanks and gratitude.

• Following orei, we will formally end the meal (owari) by bowing together and exclaiming the traditional meal-ending phrase, “gochisousama deshita!” which is pronounced a bit like “goats eat, so some are dished out."

• After this, we will cross the street to Barlow for Startup Cocktail Hour.