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Rules for Proper Chopstick Use

A lot of people use their chopsticks thinking that it is merely cultural for some nations. In Japan, however, it is something you must take seriously. Every position, or movement you may make using your chopsticks could be disrespectful or offensive to the person you are dining with. While it may be fine to commit mistakes for a newbie, it is always nice to learn a thing or two about the proper use of chopsticks so as to rightly honor Japanese customs.

Luckily for you, here are a few tips to help you get you acquainted with the proper chopstick use.

  1. Proper grasp of your chopsticks.

Learning the correct way of holding your chopsticks can eventually aid you in using them with ease. So before you dig in, make sure that you are holding your chopsticks near their ends. Be sure that the upper chopstick is held in between the index finger and thumb. The lower chopstick should be positioned on your ring finger while resting on the concave space between the thumb and index finger.

You can learn to use them more quickly if you practice every once in a while, like when you’re eating at home. Remember, practice is key.

2. Kindly accept your chopsticks.

After taking your chopsticks apart, refrain from removing the wooden strings or rough edges by rubbing the chopsticks together as it signifies that you think that the chopsticks are cheap.

3. Choosing dishes.

When thinking of which dishes to eat, prevent yourself from pointing or hovering at the dishes as you would appear to be greedy to the people you are dining with. Always make sure that when getting your food you get them from the top of the dish. If you want to choose a good portion or part of the dish, always choose from the top and never burry your chopsticks through the dish to pick your food.

Also, remember that when you eventually choose the dishes you’d like, take the food from the dish and bring it to your own plate before eating.

4. When you’re not using them

Never use your chopsticks for anything other than handling your food. If you are talking to other people, avoid holding or making gestures with your chopsticks. If you are provided with a chopstick holder, place your chopsticks there when you’re not using them, but if you are not given one, you can simply place them horizontally on your bowl.

Be sure that your chopsticks are parallel horizontally in your bowl when resting them, and not crossed together or placed vertically on the rice in the bowl. Both acts remind the Japanese of funeral ceremonies or offering food to the spirit of the dead.

5. Sharing food

If you want to share your food with other people at the table, do not do so by passing them from person to person by chopstick. Aside from unsanitary reasons, it reminds the Japanese of funeral ceremonies where the cremated bones are passed to transfer to the urn.

Sharing your food to others can easily be done by requesting them to pass their plate to you. By using another clean pair of chopsticks, put the food on their plate.

6. Eating the food

Using chopsticks require a lot of practice and finesse. So do not let food drip from them, and refrain from sucking them.

Always use your chopsticks as a pair and never individually. Do not use them as a skewer but at the same time, avoid using your chopsticks to hold large pieces food to bite off of. There are still cases when biting from a piece of food is acceptable, like eating tempura, but it’s also good to take time and learn to apply the right pressure when cutting your food with your chopsticks.

When having soup, prevent yourself from swirling your chopsticks in them, as it is as if you are cleaning them.

When using chopsticks, always remember that they are not just simple eating utensils - they also embody a cultural symbol for the Japanese. Consider these guides as important tools not only to respect their culture, but also to enrich your dining experience.