Japanese plates and bowls are traditionally paired with certain foods, such as rice and noodle dishes served in bowls, sashimi and grilled fish served on rectangular plates, and an assortment of foods served in a Bento box. The latter is the Japanese version of the lunch box, with hot or cold meats, vegetables, fish and rice, each placed in its own Bento box compartment. It is typical to have several bowls and dishes sitting in the center of the table.
The food is typically shared amongst the guests. Each guest has his own rice bowl, which is also used as an eating bowl. Traditionally, an item is picked from the communal dishes, placed in the rice bowl and then eaten.
Chopsticks are used for most items. Specially made ceramic spoons may be used for miso soup, but it's more common to sip directly from the bowl. Miso soup is also served individually to each guest.
Unlike in the American table set-up, where plates, bowls, cutlery and glasses are matched, Japanese plates and bowls may be any color and shape, as long as they complement the dish. Other serving items seen on a Japanese table include individual small lidded cups, used for serving chawanmushi, a savory custard with bits of fish and chicken. A small grill is sometimes put on the table so guests may cook their own tiny bits of meat, called yakiniku.