Japanese Chopstick Etiquette

Written by on October 10th, 2016 // Filed under Blog

It’s no secret that Japan is huge on tradition and etiquette. Even something as simple as the way you use your chopsticks can be a scandalous affair if you don’t do it correctly.

Keep the following in mind the next time you’re dining at your favorite Seattle Japanese restaurant:

  • Be Wary of Insulting the Dead: You may be surprised how many ways a common meal can be similar to a Japanese funeral ritual. If you leave your chopsticks standing up in your rice, you are imitating the way that rice is offered to the deceased. If you pass food from one set of chopsticks to another, you are imitating the way that the bones of the dead are moved during a funeral. Even leaving your sticks crossed on the table or using an unmatched pair can be associated with funerals, and is considered offensive at meal times.
  • Don’t Play With Your Sticks: Don’t point with them, don’t use them to pass bowls around the table, and don’t put on a hilarious walrus act.
  • Do Not Rub Your Sticks Together: People generally rub their sticks together to clear away the splinters on a cheap pair of sticks. This can be seen as an insult to your host.
  • Chopsticks Aren’t Worn in the Hair: Have you ever seen a woman wearing chopstick in her hair? In truth, this is actually an accessory called the kanzashi that only resembles chopsticks, and the two are not to be used interchangeably any more than you should be combing your hair with a fork.
  • Always Keep the Sticks in Pairs: A pair of sticks should always act in tandem. Don’t ever use one independently of the other. In particular, never use a stick to skewer a piece of food.
  • Be Mindful When Eating From Communal Plates: If people are serving themselves from a “family style” dish, there may not be a special utensil set aside for this purpose. In such cases, it’s acceptable to serve yourself with the end of your chopsticks that you don’t eat off of.
  • Put Your Sticks Back Where You Found Them: When you’re done with your meal, replace your sticks as you first found them.