Many foreign residents in Japan use chopsticks as part of our usual daily routine. However, did you know there are specific etiquette rules when using chopsticks in formal situations? To avoid any unintentional blunders, here’s a basic guide on how to use your chopsticks so beautifully that any compliments you receive on their usage will be genuine.

Are You Holding Your Chopsticks Correctly?

Starting with the basics, are you sure you’re holding your chopsticks right? Even if you can hold them, you may have picked up some bad habits over the years. You may be holding them wrong if the tips of your chopsticks cross over each other. Similarly, the tips should not be too far away from each other when you hold them. Also, if you’re holding your chopsticks so that their whole length is basically covered by your hands, this is also incorrect.

To hold your chopsticks correctly, hold the top chopstick using only your thumb, index and middle fingers. The tips of your chopsticks should touch neatly together. If you want to be able to use chopsticks in formal situations, then you have to get the basics down first. Remember, practice makes perfect!

How to Use Chopsticks Elegantly

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s focus on holding chopsticks with elegance and grace. When you pick up your chopsticks from the chopstick rest, you should lift them with your right hand. Your left hand should be supporting them in the middle.

When putting the chopsticks back on the chopstick rest, hold them in the same way as when picking them up, but release the chopsticks with your left hand first.

If you’re holding a bowl, make sure you’re holding it in your left hand. Hold your chopsticks in place with your left middle finger and then grasp them from above with your right hand before placing them down.

Do You Know How to Separate Waribashi?

When it comes to waribashi — disposable chopsticks — the rules are slightly different. To separate them, slide them under the top of the table and hold them parallel to the ground before you pull them apart. Separating them above the table, or pointing them towards the ground is a total taboo.

Often when disposable chopsticks are provided, there won’t be a chopstick rest. In this case, simply fold the paper case that the chopsticks came in and use it to rest your chopsticks on.

There are many etiquette rules to consider when using chopsticks. For those who use chopsticks regularly, it can be difficult to change bad habits at first. However, you can improve the way your chopstick use looks with just a few simple adjustments. Once you get the hang of those, you can feel confident in any formal situations you find yourself in.

Text/Model: Tomoko Ogura, powered by LeTronc

Tomoko OguraTomoko Ogura, a restaurant consultant and menu creator, has instructed on international dining etiquette at Shokuteru Juku (Bright Dining Cram School) monthly for 17 years. She has never repeated the same topic twice. Her expertise includes everything from the latest food trends, to traditional dining culture, etiquette, healthy eating, and nutrition education. She appears regularly on NHK and other media. She has authored the books The Rules of Eating to Become a Little Bit Happier”, “Creating a Palate For Losing Weight”, “The Most Beautiful Dining Etiquette”, and more.
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