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Using Chopsticks Properly

How much do you know about chopsticks’ etiquette in Japan? Enjoy Japanese food/Washoku with these tips from a Japanese foodie.


Before starting your journey, you will surely search for tips on gourmet food you should try, and locations of nice beaches and shopping malls. But don’t forget to learn about your destination’s etiquette rules! It’s a nice gesture as a traveler and a good way to respect their culture.

Today, DINKtravelers would like to share some basic tips for using chopsticks for your next trip to Japan. Let’s begin!

  • Learning how to use chopsticks correctly might be difficult if it’s your first time. Don’t worry! Even the Japanese take lots of time to get used to them. A good strategy is to buy training chopsticks as a souvenir and practice as much as you can.
  • Don’t eat directly from a dish that’s served in the center (Jika bashi).
Take food from the shared dishes and place it on your own plate or bowl before eating it. Also, when serving yourself, use the serving tools that are provided instead of your own chopsticks or else the other diners might feel uncomfortable.
  • Don’t put your chopsticks on top of a plate or a bowl (Watashi bashi)
but on your chopsticks holder. Otherwise it means that you’re done with your food or that you didn’t like it. If you’re at a fancy restaurant, they’ll provide you with a small beautiful holder next to your plate, but if you’re using disposable chopsticks, use the chopsticks’ wrapper to make one for yourself.
  • Don’t stick your chopsticks in your rice bowl (Hotoke bashi, Tate bashi).
According to Buddhist rites, when someone passes away, they lay down the person on a futon (Japanese style bed). Then, they serve rice in a bowl and stick the chopsticks in it placing the bowl on the late person’s bedside. Therefore, it’s considered a bad omen.
  • Don’t pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks (Hashi watashi).
This is probably the biggest taboo in Japanese culture because it resembles a custom at Japanese funerals when cremated bones are ceremoniously transferred to the urn. If you want to share food with someone, place it on your plate and then pass it. Also, two people (or more) shouldn’t take food from the same plate at the same time.

There are more things you should know, so if you want to learn more about these etiquette tips, don’t hesitate to contact us!

But before we go, let’s mention some food fun tips to practice in Japan:

In many countries, making a slurping sound is not a good manner. However, it’s acceptable in Japan if you’re eating noodles. This way you can eat noodles and taste the soup at the same time.
When you need a waiter, just yell “Sumimasen!” (Excuse me!), which is perfectly acceptable. But before you do, please look for a small button on your table. If you find one, you don’t need to holler, just press it and the waiter will come to your table.