In this post I wanted to take another look at Japanese cultural rules. In the first post in this “Damn” series I looked at removing your shoes when entering a Japanese home. In this post I want to talk about chopstick etiquette in Japan.
Whether traveling to or living in Japan, the majority of your meals will be eaten using chopsticks. There are many rules you must follow when using chopsticks.
I’ll talk about some of the major ones so you don’t offend, upset, horrify or traumatize your soon to be hosts or friends here in Japan.
MUST NOT EVER NEVER EVER NEVER do things with chopsticks:
Don’t stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. This is a definite NO NO! Bowls of rice are offered to the spirits of dead people this way. It’s also the way a bowl of rice is placed at a Buddhist altar as an offering.
Don’t spear your food with a single (or both) chopstick. When I first started learning to use chopsticks I was guilty of this. I would get frustrated with not being able to pick up food with two chopsticks so I gave up and speared things like pieces of meat. I was a bad person. I have since reformed!
Don’t pass food to another person chopstick to chopstick. This is again connected to a death ritual. When a person dies in Japan and their body is cremated, their bones are passed from chopstick to chopstick as part of a Buddhist ritual.
Don’t use unmatched chopsticks.
Don’t suck on your chopsticks.
Don’t shovel food directly from your bowl into your mouth using chopsticks. Little kids do this all the time. People with really gross table manners too.
Don’t take food from a communal plate using your chopsticks. It’s considered unhygienic. Use the serving spoon/fork/chopsticks that came with the dish. If there aren’t, turn your chopsticks around and use the fat unused end to pick up the food (more than one person in Japan has been impressed that I know to do this…sort of made me feel like a proud child).
Don’t use your chopsticks as drum sticks…very rude.
Don’t point at people of things with your chopsticks. It’s considered very VERY rude!
Those are just a few rules surrounding the use of chopsticks in Japan. The “don’ts” if you will! The “do’s” can come in another post. I also used the word “don’t” 12 times in this post. That’s pretty good I think!
Follow these rules for a smoother transition into life in Japan.
Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.
Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev
“don’t”….that’s 13 times 😉