Translated by D Lee
How To Use Chopsticks And 5 Tips On Good Basics Manners
Written by Ai Yoneda
Introducing lovers of Japanese food to the basics of good chopstick manners.
Chopsticks are the main eating utensil in Japan. In 2013, Japanese cuisine was entered on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list and became even better recognized worldwide. Even for those who have never been to Japan, have you ever used chopsticks or seen chopsticks being used at your local Japanese restaurant?
Like table manners at a French restaurant, there's also various etiquette rules associated with the use of chopsticks. But without a Japanese friend to explain, that sort of knowledge is hard to come by.
If you're a lover of Japanese food who wants to know the bare minimum, we'd like to introduce you to the basics of good chopstick manners.
Are you sure you're holding the chopsticks correctly?
First, check if you're gripping the chopsticks correctly.
The Right Way
Hold the top stick between your thumb, index, and middle fingers. Place the bottom stick at the base of your thumb and rested on your ring finger.
The Wrong Way #1 - "Nigiribashi"
Don't grip it like this.
Called nigiribashi or "fisted chopsticks" because your hand's curled tight into a fist. It's an easy habit to fall into if not used to using chopsticks, but not a correct way to hold them.
The Wrong Way #2 - "Kurosubashi"
Or "crossed chopsticks," a grip where the chopsticks intersect in a cross at the middle. It seems correct because you can still pick up food with it, but the downside is that smaller objects become harder to grasp.
So, how do you get yourself to use chopsticks correctly?
The Right Way Step-by-Step
Here, we'll explain the step-by-step process of how to hold chopsticks the right way.
Step 1: Hold it like a pen
First, take one stick and hold it like a pen or pencil. Place it so that the front end is longer.
Step 2: Insert the second stick
Next, take the second stick and slip it between the first stick and the base of your thumb. This is the basic grip.
Step 3: Done!
You're now holding the chopsticks correctly.
The top stick is held in place using your index and middle fingers while the bottom stick is set at the base of your thumb and ring finger. The bottom stick remains still while moving the top stick only to grasp objects.
It might feel awkward in the beginning, but keep at it and you should get used to it in no time. Before then, no doubt you'll need to insert the second chopstick from the back as in the picture but when you're used to it, you'll be able to handle the chopsticks correctly, one-handed, and intuitively.
Placing your hands too close to the tip (the tapered end) of the chopsticks means that the distance between your hand and the food is shorter too. This might result in you accidentally touching the food, which gives an impression of uncleanliness.
Know Your Chopstick Manners
From here, we'd like to introduce good manners when using chopsticks so that you won't leave unpleasant or improper impressions on your dining companions. The following tips are points based on general good manners when using chopsticks.
"Sashibashi" - Stabbing Chopsticks
"Sashibashi" is what we call using chopsticks like a spear to stab through food. It's very tempting to unwittingly resort to this method especially with round shaped, hard to grasp foods such as taro potatoes.
In Japan however, using chopsticks to stab food is viewed as unsightly and not classy. There's also times when stabbing something too hard may result in the object slipping off the plate and there's some who consider food fallen onto the table as unsanitary.
"Yosebashi" - Pulling Chopsticks
"Yosebashi" is the act of using chopsticks to pull a dish towards yourself. It might seem like a convenient thing to do, but in the spirit of thankfulness for the food, please use your hands to draw dishes towards you.
"Watashibashi" - Bridging Chopsticks
"Watashibashi" is putting your chopsticks horizontally across a plate or dish and can mean that you're done eating. Doing this in the middle of a meal can be taken by those around you to mean that you think the food tastes horrible.
By the way, many restaurants provide a chopstick rest (where you can place your chopsticks down).
Article: Done in 30 Seconds! Eat in Style with Hand-Crafted Chopstick Rests (Japanese)
To put down your chopsticks, lean the tips of the chopsticks on the dish like this.
"Neburibashi" - Licking Chopsticks
"Neburi" is the word used in the Kansai area for licking. Neburibashi means to lick chopsticks when it's not being used to pick up food or if there are food bits attached to it.
"Hashiwatashi" - Chopstick Passing
"Hashiwatashi" is passing food with your chopsticks to someone else's chopsticks. In Japan, the remains of the deceased are collected in a similar manner using specialized chopsticks after the body has been cremated. Please avoid mimicking this funeral custom at the dinner table.
When passing food to someone else, please place it towards the edge of the plate then have the person pick it up from the plate themselves
Have these tips been helpful? There's the saying "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" and by following the manners and customs of the area or country you're visiting, you'll be able to enjoy being in the environment even more.
Chopsticks are hard to master at the start, even for the Japanese, but with a little conscious effort, you and those around you can have a great time experiencing Japanese cuisine!
You can purchase chopsticks from this site:Apple Wood Round Chopsticks & Chopstick Rest (Set of 2)