Chopstick Etiquette

It’s sad that the urban legend about Eskimos having googleumptillion words for snow isn’t strictly true. But if you’re a word nerd, plenty of other languages have special words that we don’t have that can enrich our lives (and vocabulary). Like “schadenfreude”. There may not be a lot of words for snow, rest assured that if it’s something you should never do with your chopsticks, the Japanese have a special word for it. Observe:

  • hiroibashi (“picking up chopsticks”)
    Never pass food from your chopsticks directly to another person’s chopsticks.
  • kakibashi (“shoveling chopsticks”)
    Never hold a bowl close to your face and rapidly shovel rice into your mouth.
  • kawaribashi (“changing chopsticks”)
    Never put back food you’ve already taken.
  • komibashi (“stuffing chopsticks”)
    Never use your chopsticks to stuff an already full mouth with even more food.
  • kuwaebashi (“holding-in-mouth chopsticks”)
    Never let chopsticks dangle from your mouth or close your mouth around the ends of chopsticks for longer than is absolutely necessary to eat.
  • mayoibashi (“indecisive chopsticks”)
    Never wave chopsticks around in the air above your food, as if wondering what to eat next.
  • namidabashi (“crying chopsticks”)
    Never wave wet chopsticks around so they drip soup all over.
  • neburibashi (“licking chopsticks”)
    Never lick or suck food off the ends of your chopsticks.
  • saguribashi (“searching chopsticks”)
    Never stir your chopsticks around in a dish, looking for a certain thing to eat.
  • sashibashi (“stabbing chopsticks”)
    Never stab food with your chopsticks, like you would with a fork.
  • seseribashi (“picking chopsticks”)
    Never use your chopsticks to pick your teeth.
  • tatakibashi (“beating chopsticks”)
    Never beat your chopsticks on the side of your bowl to demand attention.
  • tontonbashi (“ton-ton chopsticks”)
    Never make the tips of your chopsticks even by hitting them against the table or dishes, which makes a sound like “ton-ton.” Instead make them even by sliding them with your fingers.
  • tsukitatebashi (“piercing chopsticks”)
    Never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice.
  • utsuribashi (“capricious chopsticks”)
    Never pick up one kind of food with your chopsticks only to change your mind and pick up another kind instead.
  • yokobashi (“adjacent chopsticks”)
    Never hold your chopsticks side by side and use them as a spoon.
  • yosebashi (“drawing-near chopsticks”)
    Never pull a bowl or plate closer with your chopsticks.
  • watashibashi (“bridging chopsticks”)
    Never rest your chopsticks across your bowl like a bridge.

Oddly enough, there are no special Japanese words for this sort of thing:


2 thoughts on “Chopstick Etiquette

  1. Andrew says:

    Walrus is “seiuchi”; so maybe seiuchibashi? 🙂

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