How To Use Chopsticks The Right Way? | Chopsticks Etiquette in Japan

Want to learn how to use chopsticks the right way? Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to use chopsticks and chopsticks etiquette in Japan. 

Chopsticks, those slender, elegant sticks used for centuries in Japan, are more than just eating utensils; they are an embodiment of culture and tradition. 

Mastering their use is not only a practical skill but also a sign of respect for Japanese customs. 

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or simply enjoy Japanese cuisine, learning proper chopstick etiquette will enhance your dining experience and demonstrate your understanding of Japanese culture.

How To Use Chopsticks

How To Use Chopsticks The Right Way? 

How To Hold The Chopstick Properly? Step-by-step Guide: 

  1. Positioning the bottom chopstick: Place the bottom chopstick in the crook between your thumb and the base of your index finger, holding it firmly in place.
  2. Resting the top chopstick: Rest the top chopstick on the tip of your middle finger, balancing it near the base.
  3. Using the thumb, index finger, and middle finger: Use your thumb and index finger to open and close the top chopstick while keeping the bottom chopstick stationary. Imagine holding a pencil.
  4. Practice opening and closing the chopsticks: Gently practice opening and closing the chopsticks to get a feel for the motion. Start by picking up small objects like rice or beans to refine your control.
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holding chopsticks reference,

Using the Chopsticks

Now that you can hold the chopsticks, let’s learn how to use them effectively:

How To Pick up food Using chopsticks?

  • Avoid piercing food: Never pierce food with your chopsticks. This is considered bad table manners in Japan.
  • Using the top chopstick to move food: Use the top chopstick to gently pinch food and transfer it to your bowl or plate.
  • Picking up small pieces of food: For smaller pieces like rice or sesame seeds, use both chopsticks to scoop and transfer them.

Dos and don’ts On using Chopsticks

  • Don’t rub the chopsticks together: This is considered rude and implies that the chopsticks are dirty or of poor quality.
  • Don’t point with the chopsticks: Pointing with chopsticks is considered aggressive and disrespectful.
  • Don’t use chopsticks to spear food: Spearing food is considered uncouth in Japanese dining etiquette.
  • Don’t pass food directly from chopstick to chopstick: This practice, known as “hashiwatashi,” is considered taboo and associated with funeral rituals.
  • Don’t leave your chopsticks standing upright in your rice bowl: This is similar to the practice of incense offered at funerals and is considered disrespectful.

How To Transfer Food Using Chopsticks?

  • Use chopsticks to carefully transfer food from a shared dish to another person’s plate.
  • When sharing food, always use the “clean” end of your chopsticks.

How To Rest the Chopsticks When You’re Not Holding/Using Them?

Guide to Using Chopsticks In Japan

There are two ways to rest your chopsticks:

  • Place them horizontally on the chopstick rest provided.
  • Lay them across the rim of your rice bowl.

Chopsticks Etiquette in Japan in Different Situations

Chopsticks Etiquette When Dining Out In Japan

  • Use the provided chopsticks or ask for a new pair if they are dirty.
  • Place your order using polite language.
  • Avoid talking loudly or making disruptive noises while eating.

Chopsticks Etiquette When Sharing Food 

  • Share food generously and politely.
  • Offer the “clean” end of your chopsticks when sharing food.
  • Avoid double-dipping your chopsticks in shared dishes.

Using Chopsticks in Japan: FAQs

How To Place Chopsticks After Eating?

When you’ve finished your meal, place your chopsticks together horizontally on the chopstick rest provided. If no rest is available, lay them flat across the rim of your bowl or on the table next to your plate. Never leave them sticking upright in your rice bowl, as this is considered bad etiquette.

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Why is it important to learn proper chopstick etiquette in Japan?

It’s a sign of respect for Japanese culture and shows you’re considerate of the people around you. It also enhances your dining experience by allowing you to handle food more easily and gracefully.

How long does it take to learn how to use chopsticks correctly?

It depends on your individual learning style and practice. With dedication, most people can master the basics within a few weeks or months.

What are some common mistakes people make when using chopsticks?

Rubbing the chopsticks together, pointing with them, spearing food, passing food directly between chopsticks, and leaving them standing upright in the rice bowl are all considered bad etiquette.

How do I hold the chopsticks correctly?

Place the bottom chopstick in the crook between your thumb and the base of your index finger. Rest the top chopstick on the tip of your middle finger and use your thumb and index finger to open and close it.

How do I pick up small pieces of food with chopsticks?

Use both chopsticks to gently scoop the food and transfer it to your bowl or plate.

Can I use chopsticks to cut food?

In most situations, it’s best to avoid cutting food with your chopsticks. It’s considered impolite and can damage the chopsticks. Use your knife and fork or ask for assistance if necessary.

What are some things I should avoid doing when sharing food with chopsticks?

Don’t double-dip your chopsticks in shared dishes, use the “clean” end of your chopsticks to transfer food, and avoid talking while food is in your mouth.

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How do I request new chopsticks in a restaurant?

You can politely say “Sumimasen, o-hashi o kaete kudasai,” which means “Excuse me, could I please have new chopsticks?”

What should I do if I accidentally make a mistake with chopsticks?

Don’t worry! Everyone makes mistakes. Simply apologize and continue your meal with grace and respect.


Learning and practicing proper chopstick etiquette is a gesture of respect for Japanese culture. It takes time and dedication, but the effort will be rewarded by a deeper appreciation for Japanese cuisine and customs. 

Remember, the key is to be patient, practice consistently, and always be mindful of cultural nuances. 

With a little effort, you’ll be using chopsticks like a pro in no time, enhancing your dining experience and demonstrating your cultural awareness.

Also Read:

  1. What Japanese Say Before Eating
  2. We reviewed some must-have Japanese kitchen goods
  3. Step-by-step instructions to cooking Japanese rice cooker in a rice cooker

Written by Ava Sato

Hiya! I'm the main author of Japan Truly. I love everything Japan and love testing out Japanese products, be it skincare and makeup or gadgets! You'll find reviews of some of the best selling Japanese products (tried and tested) right here!

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