Basic table manners in Japan

  • HOW TO
  • There is, for sure, a set of rules and manners in eating regardless what country a person comes from. Some of these table etiquette rules may be the same in most countries, and some may surprise you because they are the exact opposite.

    It is always advantageous to learn some table manners for a specific country before starting your trip. In this article, I will discuss some basic table manners you should be aware of in Japan.

    Phrases to Say

    Since most of the Japanese are not Christian, they don’t say a prayer before and after meals (like most Christians do). Instead, they say a word to express their gratitude for the food on their table. Before meal, they put their hands together, and say “Itadakimasu”. I’m sure you have heard this word already (somewhere in your study about Japan). In school or in some formal gathering, a leader would say it in full sentence. It goes like this, “Te o awasete, kansha o komete, itadakimasu”, which could be roughly translated to “Put your hands together in gratitude, let’s gracefully receive this food.” After a meal, again, while putting their hands together, they say “Gochisosamadeshita”.

    How to Use Chopsticks

    If you are not a fan of the Chinese food back home, using chopsticks for the first time may be hard but the more you practice, the better you get. And believe me, when Japanese see foreigners who can use chopsticks properly, they always admire them. Start by holding the chopsticks. Rest one stick between your forefinger and middle finger and rest one stick on your ring finger while pressing both sticks with your thumb. Pinch the food between the upper and lower tips of the chopstick. You can now enjoy your food the Japanese way. However, there are certain things that are considered rude when using chopsticks. They are the following:

    • Yosebashi – Don’t pull the dishes with chopsticks.
    • Namebashi – Don’t lick the tip of the chopsticks.
    • Sashibashi – Don’t spear food with chopsticks.
    • Hashiutsushi – Don’t take food from another person’s chopsticks.
    • Mayoibashi – Don’t dither to decide what to take next.
    • Saguribashi – Don’t examine the food in the dish.

    And, never stick chopsticks vertically into a bowl of food because this is only done when offering food to the dead.