Japanese Chopstick Etiquette

Chopsticks are still a novelty to many of us in the States, so it’s easy for us to inadvertently use them in a way that the Japanese would find inappropriate. In case you’re ever dining in the company of friends from overseas at our Issaquah Japanese restaurant, keep the following rules in mind when it’s time to break out your sticks:


  • Don’t Toy With Your Sticks: Don’t point with your sticks, don’t use them to push dishes around the table, and don’t put them into your teeth to imitate a walrus.

  • Don’t Wear Chopsticks in Your Hair: It is a common misconception in the US that chopsticks are sometimes worn as hairpieces.  Actually, people who appear to be wearing chopsticks in their hair are wearing an accessory called the kanzashi.  The two are similar in appearance, but are not interchangeable.

  • Do Not Rub Your Sticks Together: Rubbing chopsticks together can be seen as an insult to your host.  This is something you do with a cheaply-made pair of sticks when you need to brush away the splinters after you break them apart, so you could be telling your host that they’re cheap.

  • Always Use the Sticks as a Unit: A set of chopsticks should always be used in tandem.  Don’t ever use one without the other, or use a mismatched pair of sticks.  In particular, never use a stick to skewer a piece of food, kebob-style.