A Beginner's Guide to Using Chopsticks

by Danny Taing

Learning to use chopsticks may be daunting at first, but it’s actually easier than you think! With a little practice, you’ll soon be digging into all kinds of dishes, and maybe even cooking meals with them! Chopsticks, or hashi (箸) in Japanese, are an integral part of the food and culture, with certain dos and (don’ts) for how to use them. However, there’s no need to be intimidated! Here’s a little hashi how-to!

Studio Ghibli Chopsticks

Studio Ghibli Chopsticks

How to Hold and Use Chopsticks

1) Take one of your chopsticks and rest it between your index finger and thumb.

2) The second chopstick is held in a way that many people hold a pencil: Use your thumb, index, and middle finger to grip it. You can place your middle finger under the second chopstick for additional stability.

3) Keep the bottom chopstick stationary. Think of the bottom chopstick as your anchor or base.

4) Move only the top chopstick up and down to “open” and “close” the chopsticks. This is how you can grab pieces of food.

5) Practice! A little goes a long way. Soon enough, you’ll be scooping rice and slurping ramen with ease!

An additional tip we have includes approaching food with chopsticks with the intention of scooping it up, instead of grabbing or gripping. For instance, eating rice may seem difficult, but not if you dip your chopsticks under some rice in your bowl and lift it upward.

Chopsticks Etiquette

There are also a couple of rules to keep in mind when using chopsticks, along with some major no-nos!

1) Never stick your chopsticks vertically into your food. This is considered bad luck, since it looks just like incense being offered to the dead.

2) Don’t stab food with your chopsticks.

3) Don’t lick your chopsticks.

4) Don’t point at people with your chopsticks. This is seen as the equivalent of rudely pointing with your finger at someone.

5) Don’t pass food directly from one pair of chopsticks to another.

wooden chopsticks

The Evolution of Chopsticks and Modern Kitchenware

The history of chopsticks is surprisingly interesting: Did you know the first chopsticks were primarily used for cooking, not eating? The first chopsticks were invented in China, where they were used to boil and cook food from a safe distance. Sometime around 712 CE, you can find the earliest records of chopsticks usage in Japan.

In 1878, disposable chopsticks were invented in Japan. Modern-day disposable chopsticks are made of wood and are inserted into a paper sleeve. They are generally shorter than standard chopsticks for portability.

Nowadays, you can find chopsticks made of bamboo, wood, or plastic. There are even fancy ones with lacquer designs! Some chopsticks also have ridges cut into the tapered end to help grip food easier. You can see this for yourself in our Studio Ghibli-themed chopsticks set!

As on-the-go meals in bento boxes grew in Japan, so did the availability of portable chopsticks and other kitchenware. Bento are excellent for compartmentalizing and packing balanced lunches, but they’re also a nice way to store your favorite Japanese snacks!

Totoro Bento Set

Totoro Bento Set

Tuck away treats in a Totoro bento set, which contains three containers (two medium, one small). In the movie My Neighbor Totoro, Satsuki prepares bento meals for her little sister Mei and father, including umeboshi pickled plum on top of rice. Try for yourself the unique, sour flavor of umeboshi with a plum and seaweed flavored rice cracker!

In Spirited Away, Chihiro enjoys a steamed red bean bun after a hard day of work. These anpan red bean bun snacks will fit perfectly into a bento box. Onigiri, the iconic Japanese rice ball, is a bento box staple you also see in Spirited Away and other Ghibli movies. Add a couple of these delicious onigiri-shaped crackers to a bento. Simple but delicious, this crunchy senbei rice cracker is reminiscent of a hot bowl of white rice.

Finally, how about some chocolate-covered azuki red beans? Beans are great for chopsticks practice and, if you’re sharing with friends, it’s an entertaining contest to see who can pick up the most!

It’s kind of crazy how much two sticks put together can do, including cooking, sharing meals with good company, and enjoying delicious Japanese snacks. Grab yourself a Japanese snack box subscription of savory and sweet goodies, plus some adorable kitchenware to match!

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