Eating sushi with chopsticks requires a little technique, some persistence and lots of practice. Once you have mastered the technique, you will notice that the chopsticks become a natural extension of your thumb en index finger you can use to grab the sushi. If you want to look like a real pro with your chopsticks, it’s important to be aware of the cultural do’s and don’ts. At Yamazato Restaurant, we know that not every guest is familiar with all Japanese eating customs, so don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Here are some guidelines to help you adjust to Japanese table manners.
For picking up the sushi, you can use both chopsticks (hashi) and your fingers. When dipping the sushi in the soy sauce, always lightly dip the fish into the sauce – not the rice. The complete sushi goes into your mouth, so don’t bite the sushi in half and put it back on the plate. Put the sushi in your mouth with the fish touching your tongue first. The ginger is to clean your palate and it should therefore be eaten in between the pieces of sushi. Use the blunt end of the chopsticks when taking food from a shared plate. Place the narrow, round end of the chopsticks on the small ceramic holder (hashi-oki) when you are not using them.
It is considered rude to rub your chopsticks together. Think of it like someone polishing their spoon with a napkin before eating; it implies that the chopsticks are not clean. Most non-Japanese people are used to dipping the sushi in the soy sauce with the rice part. As the rice will get saturated and could crumble into the sauce, you should always dip the fish part of the sushi in the sauce. Nor are you supposed to stir the wasabi into the soy sauce and turn it into a soup. The sushi chef has already added the right amount of wasabi to the sushi, so if you still want to add some more, put it directly onto the sushi.
Cultural habits to bear in mind
There are also some Japanese customs that might be useful to bear in mind when using chopsticks:
- Never use your chopsticks to take something from someone else’s chopsticks. This way of passing food is related to Japanese funerary customs.
- Don’t touch food unnecessarily with chopsticks when you are not eating it.
- Don’t point at someone with chopsticks.
- Don’t draw a plate or bowl towards you with a chopstick.
- Don’t scoop up food by using chopsticks like a spoon.
- Don’t spear food with your chopsticks.
- Don’t pick up a plate or bowl while holding chopsticks.
- Always lay your chopsticks horizontally, not vertically, next to your plate.
- Laying chopsticks across a plate or a bowl implies you have finished eating.