- #1 Holding Properly. Firstly, you should know how to hold chopsticks correctly, practice and hold them not in the middle but around 2/3 from the tip to allow for greater control when picking up food. You can try picking up round food, a grain of rice and hardest of all picking up a piece of soft tofu without it breaking and falling everywhere. Once you can do these you have mastered the chopsticks!
- #2 Chopstick Holder. Once you have finished eating, or if you are just taking a break from eating, don’t put your chopsticks flat down on the table as this is considered unhygienic and bad practice, instead, many places provide a chopstick holder (hashi-oki) which raises the tip of the chopstick from the table. Failing this you can make your own out of the paper wrapper that comes with your disposable chopsticks or place them together on top of your bowl with the tip facing left.
- #3 Communal Chopsticks. When eating together from a communal plate use the slightly longer chopsticks provided to grab food for yourself as this is considered good manners and is sanitary. If communal chopsticks aren’t provided use the opposite end of your chopsticks to pick up food from the shared plate.
- #4 Pickup Rice. Japanese rice is round and sticky which allows you to pick it up with your chopsticks, hold the bowl and eat the rice by picking it up in morsels using the bowl to catch any that drops. Putting the bowl up to your mouth and scooping it in with your chopsticks is considered bad table manners.
- #5 Drinking Soup like this is OK. Putting a bowl of soup to your mouth and sipping from it while using your chopsticks to stir and move the food into your mouth is perfectly fine. Even if you make a few slurping sounds this is also considered normal while drinking soup.
The Do Not’s
- #1 Sticking Chopsticks Upright in Rice is Very Bad. This one is a big no-no and is considered highly offensive as this is what is done during funerals as an offering to the deceased. Don’t stick your chopsticks in a bowl of rice or noodles even if its not vertical and also do not cross the chopsticks atop of your bowl as this symbolizes death.
- #2 Pass Food from Chopstick to Chopstick. This is another big taboo and no-no as this action resembles a funeral ritual where bones of the deceased are passed from person to person into an urn with a pair of chopsticks. If someone is passing you food, they should place it onto your plate, never take with your own chopsticks.
- #3 Use as a toy. As with a knife and fork, playing around with your chopsticks and pointing with them is considered very bad manners. They are there for eating with.
- #4 Stab at your food. Understandably, if you are not the best chopstick user some foods are quite difficult to pick up and get to your mouth before you drop them but stabbing or spearing your food is considered rude and poor etiquette. Practice makes perfect.
- #5 Stir or Search for Food. Do not use chopsticks to either stir or search for food from a communal plate. Using your chopsticks to search for food or hovering around dishes is considered greedy. Also, don’t use your chopsticks to pull a bowl closer to you as this is also considered rude, just use your hands to move a bowl or plate closer to you.
Don’t let this list make you nervous or put you off using chopsticks, they are mainly just common sense and similar rules that apply to the use of knives and forks that you may be used to. The Do Nots #1 and #2 are the biggest points to remember and the rest will just come natural with time and practice.