What do Itadakimasu (いただきます) and Gochisousamadesu (ごちそうさまです) Mean?
Eating in Japan: Using Itadakimasu and Gochisousamadesu
Ever wondered about the meaning of the most important Japanese expressions for meal?
Clapping hands together. “Itadakimasu!”
This is an aspect of the Japanese culture which is well-known and loved by many. Simply ask any of our students for the reason of coming to Japan, one can easily get the answer “Because I love the Japanese culture”. And one beautiful aspect of culture is certainly the consideration Japanese people have for their meals.
What does Itadakimasu mean? (いただきます)
Generations after generations, they are taught to clap their hands together and say “Itadakimasu!” before savouring the delicious-looking food in front of their eyes. “Itadakimasu” can be translated into “I humbly receive”. Children learn the expression from a very young age at school and no one can even think of starting a meal while others have not received yet their share. Somehow roughly translated by “Let’s eat!” in the Western culture, itadakimasu has its origin rooted in Japanese ancient history.
Itadakimasu is a very polite and respectful form of “moraimasu” (to receive) or “tabemasu” (to eat). The kanji of itadakimasu 頂 has several meanings, among which “the top of the head” and “to receive”. The expression relates to the traditional way of showing gratitude by elevating above one’s head the gift received. Through times, itadakimasu became the expression showing the appreciation for the food received. Before starting their meal family would repeat this phrase. The custom, still important and taught, has seen its deep meaning fading away.
What does Gochisousamadesu mean? (ごちそうさまです)
After filling their stomachs, Japanese people thank those who prepared, cooked and served the food by saying “Gochisousamadesu!” (ご馳走様です). In cases where the meal is treated by someone else, they would say “Gochisousamadesu!” to the person who treated them the meal. Take a good look at the Kanji of ご馳走様です, we are going back in time to find out the origin of this word!
Long long time ago, for the sake of providing a good meal for its guests, the host would travel long distances by horse to search for fresh and quality ingredients. In return for the enjoyable meal and putting so much effort in searching high and low for the best ingredients, the guests said to the host “ご馳走様です” (go-chi-sou-sama-de-su).
The Kanji of “horse” (馬) is reflected in “chi” (馳) because back in the old days where cars were not yet invented, people travelled by horses. The following Kanji “sō” (走) basically means “run” which expresses the travelling required to find good ingredients.
In modern days, Japanese people mostly write “Gochisousamadesu” in hiragana, instead of Kanji. When a question that goes “What is gochisou?” is posed to a Japanese, he/she would answer “a good meal”. When Japanese people truly enjoyed the meal and loved to express their heartfelt thanks, they would use “Gochisousamadeshita!”.
Clapping hands together again. “Gochisousamadeshita!”
(…pakupaku, pakupaku…) (onomatopoeia for “eating”)
– Gochisousamadeshita! It tasted good!