Eating with chopsticks is an essential part of Japanese culture and Japanese cuisine. While other utensils are used and available, mastering the use of chopsticks is a key part of eating in Japan. Whether a beginner or a novice chopstick user, there are a few things to keep in mind when using chopsticks in Japan. Here are a few helpful tips for understanding Japanese chopstick etiquette.
Respect the Chopsticks in Japan
Chopsticks in Japanese are called 箸 Hashi and they are used for all meals. Although it is acceptable to ask for a fork, it is always important to respect chopsticks as part of Japanese culture. For those who do not know how to use chopsticks, trying to learn is also a sign of respect.
Proper Form – How To Hold Chopsticks
While it may appear easy, it actually can take a while to master the art of holding and using chopsticks for eating. It is important to practice and be patient. There are also several ways to hold chopsticks, so it can take some time to find what is comfortable for you. It is also good to take social cues and observe how others around you, or others at the table are holding their chopsticks.
Do Not Rub Chopsticks Together
While many believe it is appropriate to rub chopsticks together to eliminate splinters, it is actually a rude gesture and seen as an insult. By rubbing chopsticks together, it implied that they are cheap. Even if you are eating in an inexpensive eatery, do not rub the chopsticks together.
Understand Sharing Manners
When dining in Japan, many dishes are shared. It is very important when sharing to first place food on your own dish or bowl before consuming it. It is considered rude to eat directly from a shared plate. When eating with chopsticks, remember there is also chopstick etiquette when you are not using them. For example, it is considered rude or impolite to place chopsticks on the table. Instead, it is best to rest chopsticks on a holder, which is most often provided by a restaurant. Alternatively, place the chopsticks horizontally, over the rice bowl. One important distinction, known as Watashi-Bashi, is that it is considered rude to leave chopsticks over a bowl that still has food in it. Additionally, chopsticks that are not being used must always be laid parallel, as crossed chopsticks are symbolic of funeral ceremonies.
It Is Impolite To Lick or Dig Using Chopsticks
Chopsticks in Japanese cuisine should not be used for digging or picking at food. It is a sign of greed and is very impolite to selectively pick food when sharing. Additionally, when finished with chopsticks, they must not be kept inside the mouth. It is considered offensive to lick, bite, suck, or play with chopsticks when they are not being used to eat.
Chopsticks for Soup
Chopsticks are used for all dining, even soup which can take some finesse to eat properly. If the soup has noodles, the chopsticks can be used to bring the noodles toward your mouth from the bowl. Soups are also served with a spoon which is intended for the broth. Using both the spoon together with the chopsticks will ensure ease when eating soups. It is also acceptable to slurp the broth and noodles when eating with chopsticks.
Dine With the Locals on a Japanese Food Tour
As made clear from this article, the Japanese take their food culture very seriously. Unsurprisingly, this translates into the quality of their food, which is some of the best in the world. To make sure your trip to Japan includes a taste of truly authentic Japanese cuisine, we highly recommend joining one of our Japan food and drink tours. Led by expert foodies, our tours take you to the locally-favored spots, off-the-beaten-track. You’ll be taken to only the best food and drink outlets in Tokyo, Kyoto, and more. Within days, you’ll be a chopstick expert!