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Good Etiquette When Using Chopsticks

Yusuf started working at a Japanese company this spring. Today, at the invitation of some work colleagues including his friend Mitsue, he finds himself hiking. In that the group is looking forward to lunch, a groundsheet has been laid out and everyone is sitting down and preparing to eat.

Good Etiquette When Using Chopsticks

Mitsue

Please help yourself everyone, don’t be shy. Today, to give Yusuf the opportunity to enjoy the experience of a Japanese-style picnic lunch, we have all pitched in and tried our hand at cooking.

Yusuf

That’s wonderful! The color of everything looks just so appetizing! I wonder what I should try first……

Mitsue

Yusuf, holding your chopsticks still over dishes of food while deciding what to eat is referred to in Japanese as mayoibashi (literally “confused chopsticks”). It is considered a breach of good etiquette.

Yusuf

I see, please accept my apologies. I wasn’t aware of such conventions. Are there many other rules of etiquette when using chopsticks?

Mitsue

Let me see. There is kiraibashi (literally “hateful chopsticks” or “hateful manners”). There are a number of ways in which chopsticks can be used that should nevertheless be avoided. For example, tsukibashi (literally “skewering chopsticks”) and sashibashi (literally “stabbing chopsticks”), these methods are when chopsticks are used in a manner similar to a fork to skewer rather than pick up food. Licking chopsticks is called neburibashi and is also a social faux pas. Passing food from one set of chopsticks to another is called awasebashi or hashiwatashi (literally “passing by chopsticks”) and it is a practice that should be particularly avoided.

Yusuf

Wow, what should I do? Perhaps I have acted in such a manner previously without being conscious of things.

Mitsue

I wouldn’t really worry; you’ll be fine if you pick up these mannerisms one-by-one. Let’s face it, even among Japanese people there are very few who have fully mastered all the facets of chopstick etiquette.

Yusuf has become aware that one of his colleagues is not using disposable chopsticks. The person in question seems to have brought along their own set.

Yusuf

Well look at that, it seems that Kato-san is using a pair of chopsticks bought from home.

Mitsue

Yes, Kato-san always carries a set of “my chopsticks.” In consideration of the environment, Kato-san tries to avoid using disposable chopsticks and instead carries a set from home.

Yusuf

I see. I agree that using disposable chopsticks is a waste. Perhaps I’ll also start carrying “my chopsticks” with me. Actually, recently I heard that you can get chopsticks made with your own name engraved in them.

Mitsue

Really, that sounds wonderful! Please show them to me the next time we have lunch together. By the way, do you think that today will give an opportunity to refresh your spirits? In that I thought you might be experiencing a lot of stress in working in a new and unaccustomed environment, I decided to invite you along today on this hike with everyone.

Yusuf

Thank you very much indeed! With fresh air and delicious food, I reckon I’ll be able to fully refresh myself. I’ll do my best from tomorrow!