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Goin’ Japanesque!

13 Need-to-know Basics of Chopstick Etiquette for Japanese Restaurants

As you probably well know, chopsticks come with their own system of manners. Violating these rules with improper chopstick usage is called “kirai-bashi” (loathsome chopsticks). If you happen to stop at a traditional Japanese restaurant with a lovely atmosphere during your travels, you just might become the fly in the ointment if you don’t know what merits a kirai-bashi. These aren’t fussy points of etiquette that we’re asking you to follow in your everyday life. Please think of these as the minimum points of caution for when you head to a nice restaurant. They’ll serve you well if you remember them.


1. Ogami-bashi (“praying chopsticks”)

This refers to holding your chopsticks as you say “Itadakimasu,” which is a way to express gratitude for the food. When you do this, it’s rude to point the tips of your chopsticks at other people (see #2, “Sashi-bashi”). It’s OK to leave your chopsticks in a resting position.


2. Sashi-bashi (“pointing chopsticks”)

This refers to using your chopsticks to point at people or things. It’s a breach of etiquette.


3. Mayoi-bashi (“hesitant chopsticks”)

This refers to hovering over the food with your chopsticks as you decide what to eat.


4. Yose-bashi (“shifting chopsticks”)

This refers to using chopsticks to move food dishes closer to you. Chopsticks are meant only for moving food to your mouth.


5. Kasane-bashi (“overlapping chopsticks”)

This refers to continually eating only one dish. Traditional Japanese food involves preparing a great number of smaller dishes. Proper etiquette is to eat them in turn.


6. Saguri-bashi (“seeking chopsticks”)

This refers to digging around through a dish to find a certain ingredient. Great pains are taken in preparing and setting Japanese food, so be sure to eat food from the top or the front of the dish, taking care to not ruin its appearance.


7. Sashi-bashi (“stabbing chopsticks”)

This refers to skewering food on your chopsticks. Chopsticks are not forks, so this is an obvious no-no.


8. Namida-bashi (“crying chopsticks”)

This refers to liquids dripping from your chopsticks’ tips or from food you’re carrying with them. Be especially careful with soy sauce. Set out your hand to prevent dripping.


9. Neburi-bashi (“licking chopsticks”)

This refers to licking something picked up with chopsticks. It can also refer to licking empty chopsticks or holding them in your mouth.


10. Utsushi-bashi (“transferring chopsticks”)

This refers to passing food directly from one set of chopsticks to another.


11. Watashi-bashi (“bridging chopsticks”)

This refers to resting chopsticks on top of a bowl. Though it may not seem bad at first, it actually is. Set your chopsticks on top of a chopstick rest. When one isn’t provided, set them on the packet they came in (see #13) or on a small dish.


12. Tate-bashi (“standing chopsticks”)

This refers to sticking chopsticks in rice.


13. Once you’re finished eating…

Return your chopsticks to their packet. It’s a good idea to bend the end of the chopsticks packet to mark that you’re finished using them. If there isn’t a chopstick packet, lean them on the lip of a container.

Related: 12 Things, Manners Lessons that are Sure to be Useful in Japan

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