How to use Japanese chopsticks

The correct use of Japanese chopsticks can take a bit of practice for those accustomed to using western-style cutlery, whilst a plethora of unspoken etiquette only serves to add to the confusion - much to the amusement of many Japanese hosts and their guests. Here you'll learn how to use Japanese chopsticks like a pro so that you can impress your hosts and avoid those embarrassing mid-meal faux pas.


About Japanese chopsticks

Japanese chopsticks are traditionally made from lacquered wood, usually yew or bamboo. They're shorter than Chinese ones and taper to a finely pointed end for added ease of use. It is common for Japanese sticks to be of shorter length for women, and special training chopsticks are also available for children.


Using Japanese chopsticks

Use of chopsticks

Chopsticks gif By Arz (Own work) [GFDL orCC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Hold the chopsticks as demonstrated above, with the lower chopstick resting between the ring finger, the middle finger and the base of the thumb. The other chopstick should be held like a pencil between the tips of the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger.

When using chopsticks, the lower stick should always remain stationary, leaving the upper one to act as a lever to grip the food and transfer it to the mouth. This action can take a while to get used to, so make sure you get plenty of practice in!


5 tips on Japanese chopstick etiquette

  1. Never cross your chopsticks on the table and don't leave them stuck vertically in your rice, as this is reminiscent of the offerings left at Japanese funerals.
  2. Similarly, don't transfer food from your own chopsticks to somebody else's, as this resembles the way in which bones are passed during Japanese funeral rites. Instead, offer your plate so that the recipient can take the food for themselves.
  3. Place the pointed ends of the chopsticks on a rest when not in use. If there isn't one, as is often the case in restaurants using waribashi (disposable chopsticks), make your own by folding the paper case that originally contained them. Alternatively, place the chopsticks horizontally across your dish with the tips facing left.
  4. In the absence of communal chopsticks (e.g. at someone's home), reverse your chopsticks and use the clean end to serve yourself and others.
  5. In a formal setting, replace disposable chopsticks into their wrapper at the end of the meal.


A more detailed (and refreshingly witty) guide to Japanese chopstick use and etiquette can be found on the Just Hungry blog.

Alternatively, browse our website and buy authentic Japanese chopsticks online, including decorative dining chopsticks, cooking chopsticks, disposable chopsticks, training chopsticks and more.