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  Japanese chopstics history and etiquette

Chopsticks were first introduced to Japan about 2,000 years ago.  

The formal etiquette for using chopsticks was in place by the 1600's.  


Using Chopsticks

  • Pick up chopsticks, ohashi, with the right hand.  Rest chopsticks in the left hand while placing them in the proper position in the right hand.
  • Place the chopsticks on the rest, hashi-oki  in between bites. They may also be placed on the side of a dish or saucer if a hashi-oki is not provided.  It is not proper for the chopsticks to touch the tray or table after you have started eating.
  • When finished, lay them across the plate, or rice bowl. Some people put them back in the paper they came in and bend a corner.
  • In a formal situation it is proper to lay the chopsticks down when being served.
  • In more formal, expensive restaurants you may receive lacquer chopsticks that are placed on the hashi-oki.  These are slick and more difficult to use.
  • When taking food from a communal plate, do not use the end of the chopsticks that you put in your mouth.  Reverse the chopsticks and use the unused end to take food.  Always use serving chopsticks if they are available.
  • Most restaurants serve wooden chopsticks that come in paper wrappers and need to be separated before using. Cheap wooden chopsticks often splinter when pulled apart and people are often seen scraping off the splinters.  Be cautious here--scraping the chopsticks might offend your host, indicating that you are being entertained in a cheap restaurant.
Taboo - standing chopsticks virtically

Why is the standing position of the chopsticks considered taboo?

Standing your chopsticks up in the rice bowl resembles the way rice is offered to the dead!

Other Taboos...

Do not pass food to someone using chopsticks. Pass a plate for them to help themselves.

Do not  point with your chopsticks or wave them around as a conversational gesture.

Interesting Expressions
In Japanese, the word for chopsticks is ohashi ("o" is added  to make word polite).   When hashi is part of a compound word, it becomes bashi, drop "o" and change "h" to "b"


rake in or shovel food  with chopsticks

from kaku, meaning to rake


dripping sauce from food or chopsticks

from namida, meaning tears


stabbing something that is difficult to pickup
with chopsticks 

from sasu, meaning to stab, pierce


to stuff food in one's mouth with chopsticks 

from komu, meaning to be packed, crowded


to use chopsticks to pull something close such
as a dish

from yoseru, meaning to bring a thing nearer


to hold, grasp chopsticks in a fist 

from nigiru, meaning to grasp, grip, hold 


to move chopsticks over dishes, without touching them, considering what to select 

from mayou, meaning to hesitate, vacillate, waver 


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