13 Japanese Chopsticks Taboos You Should Know About

In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about taboos to avoid while using chopsticks!

We know very well that using Japanese chopsticks is quite a challenge at first. However, with a bit of practice, you will soon be a natural!

Japanese chopsticks taboos

A Pair of Chopsticks

Did you know? The size of your hands matters when it comes to finding the perfect pair of chopsticks. On average, men should hold 23 cm (9 in) long chopsticks, while women should hold 21 cm (8.3 in) long ones. Finding the right size makes it easier for you to get used to the grip of the chopsticks and to control it.

Here are 13 Japanese Chopsticks Taboos you should really know about!

1) Tate-bashi 立て箸 or hotoke-bashi 仏箸

Imagine you would like to put down your chopsticks for a minute, so you place them vertically into your rice… offending most Japanese people around at the same time! Placing your chopsticks into the rice such way is reminiscent of Japanese funerals and is said to bring bad luck. When a beloved one passes away, the family prepare a bowl of rice with chopsticks standing vertically straight inside it.

2) Hiroi-bashi 拾い箸 or utsushi-bashi 移し箸

Another funeral related taboo is sharing or passing your food chopsticks to chopsticks. After cremating a body, family and friends will pick the bones of the remain with chopsticks and place them into the urn. Remember to never do such a sinister faux-pas while sharing your meal with your Japanese friends.

3) Mayoi bashi: 迷い箸

When the whole table is filled with delicious looking dishes, you may wonder what to pick first, hence hovering the chopsticks around the dishes. This portrays you as a greedy person!

4) Nigiri-bashi: 握り箸

Children tend to grasp the chopsticks together in their palm, and are easily forgiven for doing so. However, you should know that this action is considered impolite as well as a blatant display of bad manners if you are not a child.

5) Neburi-bashi: 舐り箸 and 6) Kami-bashi: 噛み箸

The sauce of a particular dish still lingers on your chopsticks, and your natural reaction would be to lick the tip of the chopsticks. What you did not know is how it may reflect your personality to be selfish! In the same line of idea, you should never chew on or bite your chopsticks, a taboo called kami-bashi!

7) Saguri-bashi: 探り箸

You are stirring your soup with your chopsticks in order to make the tofu surface and then try to pick it up. This is often frowned upon, as people around you might believe you are playing with the food.

8) Yose-bashi: 寄せ箸

Your favorite dish is more than one arm’s length away from you. In order to reach out to it, you may be enticed to try to pull the dish towards you using the chopsticks. But remember, chopsticks were invented to pick up food… not to pull plates or bowls towards you!

9) Sashi-bashi: 刺し箸

We understand how tricky picking up certain food with your chopsticks can be. Nevertheless, you should not stab your food with your chopsticks, even if it is more convenient. Sticking your chopsticks in food to pick it up is improper.

10) Mochi-bashi: 持ち箸

Here you are, holding your bowl of rice and your chopsticks in the same hand, ignoring that’s a taboo too!

11) Watashi-bashi: 渡し箸

During the meal, crossing your chopsticks and leaving them on the bowl usually means that you are finished. It is considered offensive if you still have food inside the bowl.

12) Namida-bashi: 涙箸

Who does not like to dip food into a delicious sauce? However, keep in mind that you should not carry food dripping from soup or soy sauce with your chopsticks!

13) Odori-bashi: 踊り箸

Do you speak with your hands? If that is the case, put your chopsticks down before telling that funny story you heard today. Moving your chopsticks and waving them around while talking is considered very, very rude.

Chopsticks manners are a matter of practice and awareness. You have covered the 13 most essential Japanese chopsticks taboos to start with. Apply a few simple rules to start with and ask for help if you are feeling confused. Japanese people will always be very happy to teach you their customs!

Do you know of any other acts that are considered Taboo in the Japanese culture? Well, in the meantime, here are some common mistakes that Japanese learners make when it comes to using personal pronouns like “He and She” or even “You“!
Want to find out more about Coto Japanese Academy? Try taking a look at the various Japanese Language Courses we offer!

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo, we offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learner. Coto Japanese Academy prides itself on its community atmosphere and fun lessons that focus on creation of opportunities to speak and learn Japanese. If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo – please visit our contact page here.


Test your Japanese level!

Do a self-test to see which course fits you.

Check your level