Don’t Leave Your Chopsticks Stuck In the Rice – Japanese Table Manners

April 20, 2011 Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

I have a (sort of ) bad habit.

I can't help checking how people eat…

Friends, people at the table, in the restaurant or even when I just pass by food area in a shopping centre, I check how they eat without thinking.

One day I went for a lunch with a friend and she chewed so noisily that I couldn't concentrated on the conversation. Or on the holiday, we went for a dinner and one of the boys I just met was eating as if he didn't want to eat. I was worried that maybe he didn't want to come to that restaurant. But no, actually that was his way of eating. How depressing. 

Oh, don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean I eat elegantly and perfectly. I love crunchy food and one day I was told that I was eating carrots as if they were stumps. I was a little embarrassed.

For example, I'm not good at eating with a good conversation. I tend to concentrate on eating and skip the conversation. This I guess comes from my childhood. When I was little, I ate very little and if I spoke while I was eating, I are air and couldn't finish my plate. So my parents didn't let me talk at the table, then now I can't do it. Oh, of course, I'm listening, don't you worry.


As there is a table manner in western world, there is one in Japan. Especially the manner over chopsticks are numerous. This time I like to introduce the most major ones which actually I didn't know the names. All the names end with "bashi" o "hashi" and these mean chopsticks.




1. Nigiri bashi (握り箸): Grab the chopsticks together.









2. Yose bashi (寄せ箸) : Bring the plate or the bowl towards you with the chopsticks. 









3. Sashi bashi (刺し箸): Stick chopsticks into the food to pick









4. Watashi bashi (渡し箸) : Leave chopstick over the bowl or the plate like a bridge








5. Saguri bashi (探り箸) : Stick the chopsticks in the food and look what's in.








6. Mayoi bashi (迷い箸) : Move chopsticks over the plate undecidedly







7. Kara bashi (空箸) : Pick the food once then leave it.

I think it's better with video









8. Utsuri bashi (移り箸) : Similar to 6. mayoi bahi, move chopsticks plate to plate undecidedly 










9. Mogi bashi (もぎ箸) : Take the food stuck to the chopsticks with hand or the mouth. Most of the time with the mouth and this is something almost everyone does. If not, how can you pick it then?








10. Namidabashi (涙箸) : Pick the food with dripping the sauce.









11. Yoko bashi (横箸) : Use chopsticks like spoon









12. Kami bashi (噛み箸) : Bite chopsticks









utsushibashi13. Utsushi bashi (移し箸) / Watashi bashi (渡し箸) : Pass the food chopstick to chopstick. 

This comes from what we do at crematorium when someone dies. After cremating, all the family member and the friends pick the bones of the remain with chopsticks, and pass the piece of bone just like this.

This is a quite sinister thing to do in Japan however, our neighbour in Korea, people do this frequently to share the food. This is one of big no-noes to me. 





14. Neburi bashi (舐り箸) : Lick the chopsticks.

But you don't lick your knife, do you? Oh some people do it though… It's little elegant, isn't it?







15. Mochi bashi (持ち箸) : Hold chopsticks and the bowl in one hand.

This too, I see many people doing it. I didn't know it was a bad manner.







16. Oshikomi bashi (押し込み箸) : Stuff food into the mouth with chopsticks.

I saw a guy doing this in Europe. He kept pushing food with his piece of bread into his mouth which was closed.








17. Tate bashi (立て箸) / Hotoke bashi (仏箸) : Stick chopsticks in the middle of the rice. 

This is as well as 13. Utsushi bashi, comes from Japanese funeral. When someone dies, the family prepare a bowl of rice and leaves chopsticks stuck in the middle of it. 

Also I've heard that this is a symbol of tumb when burial was common in Japan. They buried the dead and stuck a grave marker.

People often do this in western world and this is the thing freaks me the most. However in China, this means nothing and they actually serve rice with chopsticks stuck in the middle…


These are the basic manners and there are more. Using chopsticks as a hair comb is one of those. There are better ways to carry your cutlery.

Anyway, if you don't do these, you'll be quite respected at the lunch table with Japanese people. Oh, but you know, make sure you make noises when you eat noodle with them.

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