Using chopsticks, the Japanese way: A blog

I CANNOT RECALL THE EXACT POINT IN TIME when I got so smitten by anything Japanese. Perhaps, my ‘love affair’ with this Asian country started when my brother was granted a scholarship by the Japanese government in the 90’s.

My enthusiasm concerning Japan made me watch various Japan television series and follow Japanese channels in the cable. I even studied Nihongo (Hiragana, Katakana and a bit of Kanji) though I was not able to pursue it. However, the special thing about Japan that struck me the most is its cuisine. Japanese foods have a distinct taste, in addition to being  relatively healthy (eating raw dishes such as sushi and sashimi). My love for its cuisine required me to learn to use chopsticks—the small tapered sticks used in pairs of equal length as the traditional eating utensils of Japan and many other Asian countries.

Using chopsticks at first is indeed tough.  During my first encounter with Japanese food, I struggled a lot ending up calling the waiters to provide me a set of spoon and fork.  Hence, it would be helpful if we are equipped with some knowledge prior to eating out in a Japanese restaurant.

The following are the information I got from Wikipedia which have helped in learning how to use chopsticks:

“…The pair of sticks is maneuvered in one hand, between the thumb and fingers, and used to pick up pieces of food… The correct way to use it is to rest one stick (the lower) on your ring finger with its thicker end in the crook of your hand. Hold the other (upper) stick between your thumb and index finger. If possible, use your right hand—the left is considered impolite, even for left-handers.

            “Tap the narrow ends on the plate to even them. Move the upper stick to widen the gap. Grasp a bit of food by closing the upper stick upon it. The lower stick remains stationary. Eat food in small bites; work rice into a mass for lifting.”

As to the Japanese etiquettes that one has to consider in dining in Japanese restaurants or homes, Wikipedia informs us of the following:

  • “Food should not be transferred from one's own chopsticks to someone else's chopsticks. Japanese people will always offer their plate to transfer it directly, or pass a person's plate along if the distance is great. Transferring directly with chopsticks is how bones are passed as part of Japanese funeral rites.”
  • “The pointed ends of the chopsticks should be placed on a chopstick rest when the chopsticks are not being used. However, when a chopstick rest is not available as it is often the case in restaurants using waribashi (disposable chopsticks), a person may make a chopstick rest by folding the paper case that contained the chopsticks.”
  • “Reversing chopsticks to use the opposite clean end is commonly used to move food from a communal plate, although it is not considered to be proper manners. Rather, the group should ask for extra chopsticks to transfer food from a communal plate.”
  • “Chopsticks should not be crossed on a table, as this symbolizes death, or vertically stuck in the rice, which is done during a funeral.”
  • “It is rude to rub wooden chopsticks together after breaking them apart, as this communicates to the host that the user thinks the chopsticks are cheap.”
  • “Chopsticks should be placed right-left direction; the tips should be on the left. Placing diagonal, vertical and crossing each stick are not acceptable both in home and restaurant manners.”

So the next time you eat in a Japanese restaurant (or any other Asian cuisine restaurants), try using chopsticks instead of requesting for a spoon and fork. Observing the proper decorum in using chopsticks would make you all the more enjoy the experience of eating the Japanese way.  Shiawase na shokuji! (Happy eating!)

Contributed by:

Nelly Vargas, a homemaker, a mother of two, and a resident of La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines.

How to cite this article:

Nelly Vargas.“Using chopsticks, the Japanese way: A blog” @



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Asian people had used Chopsticks as their utensils since 1200 BC. Question: we all know that only few people knows how to use chopsticks, but of all the utensils in the world why use a pair of tapered sticks instead of just spoon and fork?

Asian people had used Chopsticks as their utensils since 1200 BC. Question: we all know that only few people knows how to use chopsticks, but out of all the utensils in the world why use a pair of tapered sticks (Chopsticks) instead of just spoon and fork for foods or when eating?

This article is all about the use of Chopsticks in most Asian Countries. Question: Philippines is an Asian Country why aren't we using Chopsticks when eating our meals/foods?

This is my answer to the Questions of Cyndee Cahilig. The reason why Most Asian used chopsticks as a utensil is because Confucius believed that forks and knives promoted a sort of violence when eating and that it was best to keep weapons off of the dinner table and promote a gentleness when eating. Filipinos didn't grew accustomed because we are used to "nagkakamay" when eating.

This is to answer the Questions of Cyndee Cahilig. The use of chopsticks reflected chinese pragmatism and frugality in overcoming the difficulties of life. Famine, drought were common in ancient China; therfore food need to be shared between family members; picking only small morsels with chopsticks to accompany bowls of rice. The reason why we filipino don't used chopsticks is because in the past we were conquered by Spaniards and they are from the west who uses spoon and fork.

this is my answer to the question of Cyndee Cahilig. Asians actually use chopsticks and spoon. Generally, for a family meal, all the different dishes (meat, fish, veggy, soup) are placed in the centre of the table and each diner will have a bowl of rice. The meat and veggy will have been chopped up into smaller pieces. So they use chopstick to alternatively pick the dishes they want followed by shovelling rice into their mouths. Westerners generally serve large chunk of meat individually and thus need fork and knife to assist in cutting these into smaller pieces before placing into the mouth Not all Filipino don't know how to use Chopsticks. since some of us are half-chinese or half-japanese. they're bound to know a thing or two on how to use the chopsticks.

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