Using Chopsticks in Japan

A plate of steamed dumplings, with a person using chopsticks to pick up one of them.

Here in the United States, forks, spoons, and knives are the most commonly used utensils for eating. But chances are you’ve learned how to use chopsticks too, whether it’s something you picked up eating at your favorite Asian restaurant or a practice you grew up with.

Whether or not you are a seasoned chopsticks user or the person who always asks for a fork at restaurants, it’s important to understand the difference between simply knowing how to use chopsticks and understanding the etiquette behind the practice.

The Japanese are well-known for their rules of etiquette when it comes to using chopsticks. Chopsticks, or hashi, can be made from a variety of materials, such as plastic, steel, jade, and porcelain, but wood and bamboo are the most commonly used. There are also different chopsticks for different purposes, such as saibashi, used specifically for cooking. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for the next time you plan a trip to a Japanese restaurant or to the country itself.

  1. Don’t stick the chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. It is reminiscent of a ceremony performed at funerals and is seen as bad luck when done at the dinner table.
  2. Don’t use chopsticks to point at another person.
  3. Don’t stab your food with chopsticks.
  4. Only place chopsticks across your bowl once you are finished. If you need to set your chopsticks down, see if there is a chopstick rest provided for you to use.
  5. Don’t rub your chopsticks together. While this might be commonly done in other Asian countries, in Japan it is seen as an insult to the restaurant or host—implying that they have provided cheap, low-quality chopsticks.

What other rules of chopsticks etiquette do you follow? Tell us over on Facebook and Twitter.

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