How to Avoid Embarrassment at the Table: 10 Japanese Chopstick Taboos to Avoid!

  • HOW TO
  • So, you may have finally learned how to pick up food using a pair of chopsticks. The next step is to avoid any chopstick taboos which could potentially embarrass you. Are you unaware of these 10 chopsticks taboos which you may have unknowingly committed before?

    1. Saguri-bashi (探り箸)

    Do not stick your chopsticks into food to explore and selectively pick out what you want. This is considered impolite and choosey.

    2. Sashi-bashi (刺し箸)

    Do not pick up food by stabbing the chopsticks into it. Even though some food items (especially round ones) may be difficult to pick up using the proper method of chopsticks, stabbing into food should not be done.

    3. Mayoi-bashi (迷い箸)

    Mayoi-bashi is when you hover your chopsticks on several dishes as you cannot make up your mind on which food item to pick. It gives off the image of a greedy person. You should make your choice of which food to pick up first before picking up your chopsticks.

    4. Neburi-bashi (ねぶり箸)

    Do not lick the tips of your chopsticks. It seems like a gross thing to do especially when you use the chopsticks to pick up dishes from shared plates.

    5. Yose-bashi (寄せ箸)

    Yose-bashi is the act of pulling a plate close to you by using your chopsticks. Instead of doing that to reach out for dishes which are a little far away, you should use your hands to reach for the plate.

    6. Namida-bashi (涙箸)

    It is a big no-no to drip liquid or sauce from your chopsticks. It is not only bad if it drips onto other food, but also dirties the table.

    7. Tataki-bashi (叩き箸)

    Do not attempt to tap on plates or cups using your chopsticks to create noise. Whether it is to get someone’s attention or for the purpose of creating music, it is unacceptable behavior at the table.

    8. Watashi-bashi (わたし箸)

    You should not rest your chopsticks by placing them across the top of a bowl. While it may be alright to do so in casual settings, it may be improper during formal situations. Ideally, you should rest your chopsticks on the chopstick rest (hashi-oki) but if it is unavailable, you can rest your chopsticks on the chopstick paper holder (hashi bukuro) which initially enveloped the chopsticks.

    9. Hashi-watashi (はし渡し)

    It is a taboo to pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks as it is similar to an act done during cremation. When a person dies and is cremated, the family and friends of the deceased pick up and pass the bones using chopsticks.

    10. Kami-bashi (かみ箸)

    The chopsticks may have remnants of delicious taste due to the wood material which can absorb some sauce but please refrain from biting your chopsticks. Chopsticks are not food!

    These are some of the taboos associated with the use of chopsticks. Do not commit these taboos and you will be respected by the Japanese people you are eating with and be free of any embarrassment. You can be less strict with some of the rules if you are eating with close friends and family, though!