Chopsticks Taboos in Japanese Culture

Chopstick taboos in Japanese culture basically stem from the belief that the use of the chopsticks or their position is linked to death, therefore, can cause bad luck, because such use or position resembles or at least calls to mind their use in Japanese rituals and ceremonies at funerals. It helps to remember that chopsticks in Japan were initially used for Japanese ceremonies and religious rituals and that they only showed up in the dining tables for normal eating in the 10th century. Other chopstick taboos are also regarded as ways to avoid handling the chopsticks in ways that they appear to harm or offend anyone around the dining table.

10 things NOT to do with the Chopsticks

  • to look for specific contents in a soup broth with your chopsticks
  • to wander and touch food items in a community plate with your chopsticks
  • to pick up food by stabbing it with your chopsticks
  • to lick or suck the tips of your chopsticks
  • to move plates or bowls around in a table
  • to stand chopsticks up in a bowl of rice on a table
  • to put a bowl close to your mouth and shovel food into your mouth with chopsticks
  • to hold a pair of chopsticks together with a fist; this make it seem as though you are attacking someone
  • to pass food to another person from chopsticks to another pair of chopsticks
  • to drip sauce from food items while picking the item up with your chopsticks, or simply dripping sauce directly from your chopsticks

  • Remember these chopstick taboos in the Japanese culture and meld them with your knowledge on how to use chopsticks and general chopsticks etiquette in the Asian culture to let everyone – including yourself – savor both great food and good luck at every dining.