Have you ever found yourself at a Japanese restaurant, with chopsticks, too embarrassed to ask for knives and forks? Like the Japanese, many other Asian ethnicities have mastered the art of holding chopsticks ever since they were kids. But should you be feeling embarrassed and less capable if you cannot use them right?
While chopsticks may feel a little too difficult to grasp than knives, forks, and spoons, but that doesn’t mean you can never get the hand of its usage. Once you learn how to properly hold chopsticks, you’ll even find it more convenient to use them for every meal.
If you have problems holding your sushi with chopsticks at first, as with many other things in life, always remember the saying, “practice makes perfect.”
Read ahead to find out how you can possibly hold and use chopsticks. We’re confident that by the end of the article, you will be able to hold, not only sushi but all other types of food with this table tool.
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Practice, Practice, and Practice Holding Chopsticks
- Hold the chopstick like a pencil
That’s right! Practice placing the top chopstick in your dominant hand, holding the narrow, pointed end facing downwards while the wide end is facing upwards. Remember to grip the chopsticks from the top one-third of its way. Rest it against your middle finger. Also, press the tip of your thumb against it for support.
- Hold the bottom chopstick supporting your ring finger
The bottom chopstick must point towards the same direction as the upper one, aligning the tips of both the sticks evenly. Place this chopstick between the small space of your thumb and index finger, but this time, the chopstick should lean more towards your thumb than your index finger.
Once you have done so, now it’s time for your ring finger to play its role. Position your ring finger in such a way that the first chopstick can rest against it.
- Open it using your middle finger
Once you’ve learned to grip the chopsticks properly like pen and you’ve positioned them right, make sure your thumb stays still at all times. To open and close the chopsticks move your middle and index fingers. And voilà, just like that, you’ve mastered the art of handling chopsticks with grace!
Pick Your Chopsticks Correctly
- Break the sticks if needed
Have you come across wooden chopsticks (also known as waribashi)? First of all, take them out of their wrapper and break them apart. Most commonly, rub the sticks against each other to get rid of the stray splinters. However, avoid doing so if you are not around polite company, who might consider this practice to be a chopstick taboo.
- Use your left hand to line up the chopsticks
If you’re using your right hand to hold the chopsticks, don’t be ashamed to use your left hand to line them up correctly. Make sure that your chopsticks are horizontal and your thumbs are over the chopsticks, too.
- Move your fingers
While keeping the chopsticks steady with your left hand, move your fingers of the hand of which you are holding the chopsticks to bring them into the correct position. You must wedge the bottom chopstick comfortably in between your index and thumb finger and rest other sides against your ring finger. Place the chopsticks in such a way so that its tips are tightly closed together while the blunt tops are a bit spread apart.
Choose the Right Kind of Chopsticks
- Know its lengths
The most essential part about holding chopsticks know what size would fit into your hands. Yes, this is absolutely true that chopsticks come in different sizes and there’s an enormous difference between male adult’s hands and children’s hands.
The standard chopsticks that you will find at a Japanese restaurant are 23cm long, usually meant for adult male’s hands. Women are recommended to hold chopsticks that are no more than 21cm long. And for kids, it depends on how old they are.
Kids aged between 1 – 3 years can ideally use chopsticks that are about 13cm long. At 4 years old, kids need chopsticks that are 15cm long. The pattern follows as the child ages, and by the time they reach 12 – 13 years, they are able to use chopsticks that are 20cm long.
Chopstick Taboos and Etiquettes
- Place your chopsticks down once you are done using them
The tip of the chopsticks should point towards your left. Never lay them over your dish or your plate once you are finished. This is a taboo referred to as Watashi-bashi. And not to forget, never stick your chopsticks vertically directly into a bowl or dish. This is considered as offensive and is known as Tate-bashi.
- Never spear your food using chopsticks
Chopsticks are strictly used to grab food, and thus you must not poke your food using them as you would do using a fork. This taboo is called sashi-bashi or Tsuki-bashi.
- Never move dishes using chopsticks
The practice of yose-bashi is strictly frowned upon! Dishes are meant to be passed on by hands, not by chopsticks.
- Never pass on food from your chopsticks to others chopsticks
This is typically done at funerals and takes note of the bones of the cremated body. So it’s safe to say that doing so with food will cause anyone to lose their appetite at a dinner table.
So, the next time you visit Japan or any other restaurant near you that involves eating with chopsticks, we are sure you will be able to use them properly if you have read our guide on how to properly hold chopsticks. Besides, the loving Japanese locals don’t judge foreigners on their chopstick holding skills, so you don’t have to worry yourself to death.
If you don’t know how to use chopsticks properly, that’s okay! Just make sure you don’t overrule the etiquettes.