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Five Rules Chopstick Beginners Need To Keep In Mind

Travelers Today       By    JC Santos

Updated: Mar 20, 2017 05:19 AM EDT

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Chopsticks do not have a steep learning curve to use when eating in Japanese restaurants. But once learned, do not think this is all there is to eat with chopsticks -- proper table manners could mean embarrassment or success for diners.
(Photo: CiCi Li/YouTube Screenshot/

Almost anyone who has entered a Japanese restaurant for the first time was most probably puzzled with using wooden utensils called chopsticks. Awkward beginnings become memorable but with consistent dining in Japanese restaurants, chopstick usage becomes part of one's natural abilities -- but there are other things one must learn and remember to respect the Japanese dining culture.

One is when eating with chopsticks, one must never stab their food. Not only does it appear one is "cheating" the system of Japanese dining -- it also destroys the appearance of the dish itself. It can be embarrassing to eat in Japan's public restaurants this way, so learn to pick up food without stabbing or skewering them. 

According to Gurunavi, inexperienced eaters tend to dig their chopsticks into their rice bowl with the ends of the chopsticks pointing upwards. Japanese tradition offers bowls with chopsticks appearing like incense to honor the dead. When done in a public restaurant, this is considered poor table manners -- chopsticks must be placed on the lips of one's bowl rather than digging them into the rice.

Proper chopstick and Japanese table manners call for using another bowl or at least a plate when passing food from one person to the other. The reason for it is because during cremation ceremonies in Japanese tradition, family members pass around an urn of their passing relative's ashes using special chopsticks. As it is a reminder of such, it would be best to pass food through another plate or bowl and not directly through chopsticks.

When choosing food, have a decision before hovering one's chopsticks over bowls of food or a hotpot. Hovering without making a choice makes it appear that the person is judging the food. According to Washoku Explorer, it just "gives a feeling of vulgarity."

Lastly, using one's chopsticks to search for specific dish ingredients is insulting to the chef who created the dish. In Japan, dishes are considered perfect arrangements diners must appreciate. To break this arrangement to eat specific ingredients is looked down upon.

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chopsticks, eating, dining, food, japanese restaurants, japanese fine dining, fine dining in japan, japan fine dining, food japan
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