How To Use Chopsticks Properly In Japan

December 19, 2022

When it comes to eating in Japan, knowing how to use chopsticks is a necessity. These are used by Japanese people to eat rice, meat, noodles, salad, and much more! Additionally, Japan is renowned for its complex code of etiquette, which includes guidelines for using chopsticks properly.

Chopsticks are used frequently in other nations as well, most notably in China and Korea, but there are some specific Japanese rules that you should be aware of. In this blog, we'll discuss the things that you should not do with your chopsticks during mealtime in Japan! Learning these tips will help you be received as a much more respectful person by Japanese people who will definitely appreciate your efforts.

1. (Yosebashi) Do not pull plates or bowls around using chopsticks

Chopsticks pulling plate (Yosebashi)
Chopsticks pulling plate (Yosebashi)

Using your chopsticks to pull plates or bowls around is called “yosebashi”. It is a breach of Japanese etiquette during mealtime so it’s something that you should avoid. In Japan, it is considered rude to move plates or bowls with your chopsticks. In addition, since the dishes will slide over the table, doing this may result in unpleasant noises. Furthermore, it can lead to the spilling and splattering of liquids like soup. Just use your hands to move dishes or bowls rather than using chopsticks.

2. (Neburibashi) Do not lick the tip of the chopsticks

Person licking chopsticks (Neburibashi)
Person licking chopsticks (Neburibashi)

Licking the tip of your chopsticks is called “neburibashi”. It doesn’t follow Japanese etiquette during mealtime so you should avoid doing it. It is deemed offensive to lick or suck the chopsticks to remove any remaining food particles. In addition to that, it would also make you appear a bit foolish.

3. (Sashibashi) Do not pick up food by stabbing it

Chopsticks stabbing food (Sashibashi)
Chopsticks stabbing food (Sashibashi)

Stabbing your food with your chopsticks to pick it up is called “sashibashi”. You should refrain from doing that since it would give the impression that you lack manners. You might want to stab or poke your food using your chopsticks to see if it's cooked through. However, it also sends the idea that you don't trust the chef to properly prepare your food, which is why it is deemed disrespectful.

4. (Furiagebashi) Do not point at anything or anyone with chopsticks

Pointing at someone using chopsticks (Furiagebashi)
Pointing at someone using chopsticks (Furiagebashi)

Raising the tips of your chopsticks higher than the back of your hand or pointing at anything or anyone with your chopsticks is called “furiagebashi”. Using your chopsticks to point at anything or someone is regarded as extremely rude. Make sure to avoid doing this because it is the same as pointing a finger at someone. Speaking while waving your chopsticks in the air is also viewed as disrespectful. So, before you start telling a story with a lot of hand gestures, remember to put down your chopsticks first.

5. (Hotokebashi) Do not stick chopsticks up in rice

Chopsticks standing up in rice (Hotokebashi)
Chopsticks standing up in rice (Hotokebashi)

Sticking your chopsticks into rice is another common mistake. It is called “hotokebashi”. This will make a lot of Japanese people cringe. According to Japanese culture, chopsticks should only be placed vertically into rice during funerals. Therefore, you should refrain from doing it. If there are chopstick holders available, try to use them. If there aren’t any, place your chopsticks on your dish or plate uncrossed.

6. (Hashi-watashi) Do not pass food to another person from chopsticks to chopsticks

Food being passed by chopsticks (Hashi-watashi)
Food being passed by chopsticks (Hashi-watashi)

It may appear easy and convenient to transfer food directly from your chopsticks to another person's chopsticks when you want to share meals. The act of passing food from one person to another with chopsticks is known as "hashi-watashi." This activity is particularly taboo when it comes to eating because it resembles the ceremonial sharing of bones with chopsticks that occurs in Japan after a loved one has been cremated. During a meal, if you're going to share some food with a dining companion, please do so by first putting the dish on a tiny plate. After that, give them the plate.

Final Words

The aim to make the dining experience pleasant for all those taking part in the meal gave rise to all of the manners mentioned above. Because there are just too many rules or because they are too strict, some people may feel that they are not obligated to follow them. However, as hotokebashi and hashi-watashi are associated with funerals and the deceased, everyone should at the very least avoid using them.

When foreign visitors come to Japan, they may not be aware of numerous Japanese traditions and practices. The Japanese people are generally understanding of this and are willing to forgive since not all people have the same cultural practices. But being more culturally aware of Japan will undoubtedly improve your relationship with the Japanese and your understanding of them!

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Kanami Iwasaki, Japademy Founder

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